King's Beaded Robe (Primary Title)

Unknown (Artist)

early 20th century
glass beads, string, velvet, wool, damask
Africa,Nigeria, Republic of Benin
Overall: 47 3/4 × 75 in. (121.29 × 190.5 cm)

1-The colorful beadwork of a king’s regalia symbolizes his role as unifier of the various òrìsàs (deities) and cults followed by his people. Color selection in Yoruba beadwork reflects either the aesthetic preferences of the king or that of the beadworker. In this robe and other beaded regalia, the king becomes a symbol of the spiritual power, material wealth, and general well-being of his kingdom.

The face on the back of this beaded robe appears often in Yoruba beadwork and may represent either the orisa Oduduwa or the “inner face” of the king. In the Yoruba creation story, Oduduwa (along with other òrìsàs) created the world and humanity following orders from the supreme deity, Olodumare. Oduduwa was also the founder and first king of the Yoruba. Thus, faces like this one serve as reminders of earlier rulers, linking the reigning king with his royal ancestors. The wide, unblinking eyes are a reminder that the eyes of the king are watchful for all his people.

2-This grand Yoruba king’s robe is positioned at NOON in the life-cycle plan of the gallery.

According to the Kongo cosmogram, this stage of life, known as TUKULA, refers to ascendency, maturity, and responsibility.

Kathleen Boone Samuels Memorial Fund and Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Fund
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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