Altar Group (Aseberia) with Oba Akenzua I and Attendants

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Benin Kingdom, Nigeria

Altar Group (Aseberia) with Oba Akenzua I and Attendants, 18th century

H. 63 cm (25 1/4 in.)
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ethnologisches Museum, III C 8164

Altar groups were an innovation of the 17th century, and their style—bulky, hierarchical, and crowded with imagery—is indicative of the complicated political intrigues of the day. This altar group honoring Oba Akenzua I is modeled on a similar one for Oba Ewuakpe, his father. Akenzua stands at center wearing the oba’s emblematic stone bead (ivie egbo), coral crown, high collar, necklaces, and ankle rings. In his right hand, he holds a staff depicting an oba standing atop an elephant. This commemorates Akenzua’s victory over Iyase n’Ode, who tried to overthrow him.