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African Art
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery

Igbile Headdress

late 19th–early 20th century

Wood, brass, pigment, and iron nails

24 × 7 1/2 × 7 1/2 in. (60.96 × 19.05 × 19.05 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
This rare headdress could possibly be one of a group of comparable pieces discovered in 1897 by British colonial soldiers close to Ughoton, the port town of the Benin Kingdom. A similar piece at the British Museum, in London, was recorded as having been found in the bush among approximately twenty similar works that were reportedly worn by Benin warriors. The headpieces belonged to a river-spirit cult called Igbile and were probably paraded in the hope of repelling the British troops with supernatural aid. In style they are closely related to works of the neighboring coastal Ijo.
Guinea Coast, Nigeria
On view
19th–20th century

Charles B. Benenson Collection, Greenwich, Conn; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


“Acquisitions, July 1, 2005–June 30, 2006,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2006): 222.

Frederick John Lamp, Amanda Maples, and Laura M. Smalligan, Accumulating Histories: African Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2012), 297, ill.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.