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Oba’s Beaded Crown


Artwork Details

Oba’s Beaded Crown
20th century
cloth, wire, and multi-colored beadwork
12 3/16 in x 8 11/16 in x 8 11/16 in (30.96 cm x 22.07 cm x 22.07 cm)
Gift of Dr. James and Vivian Curtis


Subject Matter:

A crown such as this one, called ade in the Yoruba language, would have formed part of the beaded regalia of an oba, a sacred king that could trace his ancestry to Oduduwa, the founder and first oba of Yoruba peoples. Although it may not be a great crown with a veil of beads (adenla), as it does not have the conical shape or the frontal face motif, the fringe of beads may still have helped mask the identity of the oba. While wearing the ade, an oba's power was heightened, so the veil of beads protected those looking upon him from a piercing, god-like gaze. Birds were also a common feature in an oba’s beaded regalia, which referred to okin, known as the “king of birds” as well as the mystical power of women, known as awon iya wa, “our mothers.”

Drewal, Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought, 1989
Pemberton, African Beaded Art: Power and Adornment, 2008

Physical Description:

Cylindrical headdress with diamond-shaped multi-colored beadwork over a cloth base. The bottom rim has a pattern of red and blue triangles outlined on the edge with red. A fringe of blue beads hangs all the way around the bottom edge. There are two beadwork birds attached to the front of the headdress. 

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