Royal Armrest


This file appears in: Oba's Palace, Benin City, Nigeria
Royal Armrest
©Trustees of the British Museum, Af1954,23.403
Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

This sheet brass cylinder, nearly three feet tall, was used as an armrest for the Oba when he sat in state. The metal was imported from Britain through the trader Cyril Punch; it was commercially used elsewhere to sheathe boats. Repousee work on the surface includes abstract representations of leopards, Portuguese heads, interlaces, and other geometric patterns.

The monarch still uses an armrest like this during particular ceremonies when he is seated on the armless throne. The weight of his state bracelets and garments is considerable, but aside from this practical use, the current example (made of red fabric-covered leather) also contains medicines to supernaturally strengthen and protect the king.

Both versions are based on the prototype of the ekpokin, a cylindrical box made from two hide tubes that interlock, reinforcing each other. The top and bottom can be made of hide or wood. The throne itself may have a similar shape; since it is covered with white cloth it is difficult to discern. The old quartz thrones of the Yoruba state of Ile-Ife are similarly based on the bark box.


This file appears in: Oba's Palace, Benin City, Nigeria