Palace and Attendants




Queen Mothers

   Beginnings: The Legend of Idia


   Commemorative altars

Ritual: Gelede


Gender Roles




African Art Homepage Each queen mother in Benin has her own palace, specially built for her.  She also has many court attendants, men and women called ibierugha, that serve her.  They build their dwellings nearby her palace so as to be in close proximity.  The young female attendants are actually women who are given by their families to be cared for and raised by the queen mother.  They are later given in marriage to either the Oba or to important chiefs or political leaders to form alliances or strengthen political ties.  These women generally are depicted as naked, wearing nothing but a coral beaded belt and jewelry and a certain hairstyle that mark them as virgins eligible for marriage.  This position is, in a way, a rather powerful one, because these women are educated and refined from living under the queenís care, often marry powerful men, and even have the chance to become queen mother.  This ivory statue is of a female attendant to the queen mother.  She is wearing coral necklaces, bracelets, anklets, and waistband. (1)

Standing Female Figure, 18th century
Nigeria; Edo peoples, court of Benin
Ivory, metal; H. 13 in. (33.02 cm)
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1972 (1978.412.302)