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Three types of ceremonial stool are used in the Kingdom of Benin: the barrel like ekete; the round bronze or wood ehre; and the rectangular agba, of which this piece is of a particular fine example. According to oral traditions the agba is the oldest of the three, pre-dating the founding, around 1300, of the current Oranmiyan dynasty. The rectangular form of the agba is rare in sub-Saharan Africa, as is the fact that the stool is pieced together, using mortise and tenon joints, rather than carved from a single piece of wood. This suggests that the agba stool as we know it may be fashioned after a model brought to Benin during the course of the Kingdom’s long history of trade and exchange with Europe.
Agba are used both by the King of Benin, the Oba, and by high ranking chiefs. As ceremonial objects which proclaim royal power, agba for use in the King’s palace were made by members of Igbesanmwan, the Royal guild of wood and ivory carvers. By the mid-nineteenth century agba were also carved by members of Omada, the association of youths who serve the Oba as pages and sword bearers. Members of Omada carved in their spare time and were free to make objects for sale to chiefs and foreign visitors to Benin. Since their work was, on the whole, secular, the decoration of agba carved by Omada is generally freer and more spontaneous than that of stools carved by Igbesanmwan, although their decoration still express the political, military, and magical powers of the divine Kings of Benin. The lively and spontaneous quality of this stool suggests that it was probably made by a talented palace page.

Fine and scarce Agba Stool, Kingdom of Benin, Nigeria late 19th century SOLD

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