Head of an ‘Oba’ from the Edo of Benin

This brass head from Benin, West Africa, dates from the mid-to late 16th century. When each Oba (or King) died he had a shrine made in his memory. Brass heads like this were placed on the shrine, alongside ivory tusks, and other metal and wooden objects. All the objects in the oba’s palace in Benin were looted and removed by a British naval-expedition in 1898; the king was sent into exile and the British took over. Benin artefacts (collectively called the Benin Bronzes) are now displayed in museums around the world.

Issues: There is an ongoing debate in museums about whether the Benin artefacts should be returned to present-day Nigeria – a process called repatriation.

© Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives

Accession reference: Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives, EA7821

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