Beaded crown

Beaded items are made for high-ranking persons such as kings, Ifa priests and chief bead-makers.

Oba's beaded crown from Abeokuta Oba's beaded crown from Abeokuta

In West Africa there may be as many as 20 million people who consider themselves Yoruba and who speak the same language.  The language is spoken by people living in parts of Nigeria, Ghana, Togo and the Ivory Coast. Yoruba is not a country but an identity based on pre-existing city-states and communities. The Yoruba accept the city of Ife as being sacred and the foundation to their religion. The Oni or King of Life is recognised as the ritual figure-head, but there were also a number of Oba or Yoruba Kings of the various states who held political power and ritual authority.

The name Yoruba was originally a Hausa name for Ọyọ, the largest and most important of the Yoruba city-states that existed between the 16th and 18th centuries.  Its strategic position, and military and political strength allowed it to expand.  Its wealth increased by the Trans-Saharan trade in salt, leather, horses, kola nuts, ivory, cloth, iron work and slaves. At its zenith the territory covered 150,000 square kilometres.  The Ọyọ kingdom declined at the end of the 18th century due to constitutional upheaval and revolt.  Following the General Act of the Berlin Conference of 1884, which regulated the European colonisation of Africa, the land of the Yoruba-speaking people was artificially divided up by the European powers.

Beaded items are made for high-ranking persons such as kings, Ifa priests and chief bead-makers.  Most beads, like the ones used on this crown, are of glass and were imported from Europe.

There are two types of beaded crowns. The formal crown, adenla, is worn on state occasions. It is a tall conical structure, decorated with attached beaded birds. The orikogbofo is a less formal crown, worn by Obas on informal occasions and celebrations.  It was developed mainly by the most important crown makers, the Adesina family of Ẹfọn Alaye. Although it still retains the veil of the formal crown, this crown may be an example of the less formal style.  The Oba owned other important beaded regalia including boots and slippers, fans, flywhisks, staffs, footrests and complete robes.