Iyoba and Oba Heads


The story of Idia


Power of the Queen Mother


-The Palace

-Iyoba and Oba heads


-Royal Kente cloth

-Gold Stools




African Art Home



                  To honor past Queen Mothers the Benin people constructed altars adored with many pieces of art.  One of the most important pieces on the altar is an Iyoba Heads.  There were heads made from brass which is bronze and copper combined.  The Benin heads are made from a process known as  Lost Wax bronzing.    Originally brass heads of the King were casted and called Oba heads after the fifth king of the Benin people Oba Ogula in the early 15th Century.    In the early 17th century the next king Oba Esigie constructed an Iyoba altar to honor his mother.  Thus the Iyoba heads began to become a permanent fixture on any alter dedicated to Queen Mothers. (2)


             The Oba heads incorporated many features of the Benin people with specific features which distinguished royalty.   These features included the coral necklace that encloses most of the neck and the strands of beading covering the ears. The hole at the top of the head would traditionally hold an elephant tusk with royals symbols carved into the ivory.  There are also many Oba heads that included scarification patterns which indicated a high status within the kingdom.  This Oba head has a scarification pattern located over each eye. (2)



The Iyoba heads  incorporated distinct feature of the Queen Mother.  The head shows a long cone crown made from coral beads in reference to a hairstyle adorned by high ranking women in West African cultures as well as a crown worn by the Queen Mother.  In Benin cultures the wearing of crown was only allowed by the King, Queen and warrior chief.  This Iyoba head has scarification patterns located on her forehead (2)