Masquerade Element: Leopard Head (Omama)
- 17th–19th century
- Yoruba peoples, Owo group
- Ivory, wood or coconut shell
- H. 6 x W. 2 1/2 x D. 1 1/8 in. (15.2 x 6.4 x 2.8 cm)
- Credit Line:
- Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls, 1991
- Accession Number:
The influence of Benin royal art is particularly apparent in Owo, a Yoruba kingdom that came under Benin control in the fifteenth century and again in the eighteenth. Located on the eastern edge of Yorubaland, Owo is almost equidistant from Benin and Ife, the Yoruba cultural and religious center from which the reigning dynasty in Benin traces its origin. Although some Owo artworks resemble the highly naturalistic brass and terracotta sculptures of Ife, the regalia of Owo's kings and chiefs is most like that of their counterparts in Benin.
Owo is renowned for its ivory carving, and many of the ivory ornaments and cups made for Owo's rulers are similar in form or imagery to objects from Benin. The highest-ranking chiefs of Owo used ivory costume elements to demonstrate their exalted status. An interest in pattern and texture is seen in the many ivory ornaments such as this one attached to the Owo rulers' opulent ceremonial costumes. They portray animal heads and human figures and are often inlaid with dark wood or coconut shell to emphasize their boldly incised designs.