Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Hand-Held Clapper with Oba

18th–19th century
Nigeria, Court of Benin
Edo peoples
H. 13 3/4 x W. 2 1/8 in. (34.9 x 5.4 cm)
Bone/Ivory-Musical Instruments
Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls, 1991
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 352
Hand-held clappers commemorate an important event in Benin history, the victory of Oba Esigie over the Igala kingdom in the early sixteenth century. On the way to battle, Esigie and his army met the "bird of prophecy," which predicted disaster for Benin. Rather than submit to this fate, Esigie ordered the bird killed and went on to defeat his enemy. Ivory clappers depict the king and the queen mother; the latter is said to have used her vast spiritual powers to help her son prevail. Such instruments are played by chiefs at an annual palace festival celebrating Esigie's triumph.
Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls, New York, until 1991

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