This object has been returned to Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), following the transfer of ownership in November 2022.
A carved ivory cuff. Benin City. 16th century. The cuff has intricate brass inlay (mostly missing). The cuff depicts Portuguese traders, identified by long hair and circular caps, with brass inlay eyes. Ivory cuffs were, and continue to be, worn by the Oba on ceremonial occasions.
Edo 'kings' or Obas wore ivory armlets and bracelets at ceremonies. This armlet is decorated with the carved heads of Portuguese traders with long noses, flowing hair and beards, which probably signalled the Oba's access to foreign sources of wealth and power. Like brass and coral, ivory does not decay easily in the tropical environment and so was used in Edo royal regalia to emphasise the permanence and continuity of the ruling dynasty.