altar piece (ritual & belief: ritual apparatus); bells

The ownership of this object was transferred to Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) in November 2022.

A bell (Ẹroro). Benin City. Ẹroro are an important part of the spiritual worship of Benin people. They are lined along the front of the ancestral altar and are used to summon the ancestors to join their descendants and partake in the ceremony. The bell has a banded loop handle made from copper alloy. The sides of the bell are decorated with incised patterns, one side with an anthropomorphic head. It is a trapezoid bell. Made by Igun Eronmwon guildmembers (bronze and brass casters).

Brass bells were among the altar pieces placed on the royal altars in the Oba’s palace in the city of Benin. The Oba rings such bells before making offerings at the royal altars in order to get the attention of the spirits of his ancestors. Edo warriors also wore bells during military campaigns in order to invoke protection from the spirit world. Almost all Benin bronze and brass altar pieces in western museums today was taken as loot by British forces during the so-called ‘punitive expedition’ sent to conquer the Edo Kingdom in 1897.

Collection Information

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