Figure of a Hornblower (Ikpakohẹn)
Arts of Africa
ART OF HISTORY
History is about power, and its depiction is a consequential act. These two works—a technically refined casting of precious materials for a powerful monarch, and a group of movable wood figures celebrating a new democratic era—commemorate specific important moments in the political histories of their respective societies.
The Edo figure glorifies the spirit of a deceased king, or oba, who ruled the kingdom of Benin at the height of its power. A motif on the figure's kilt depicting an elephant, whose trunk ends in a human right hand, identifies this work with the reign of the oba Esigie, who ruled from 1504 to 1550.
Johannes Segogela's sculpture addresses the South African transition from the armed liberation struggle against whites-only apartheid rule into the new democratic era, born the following year with the multiracial elections that swept Nelson Mandela to power. The work suggests the need for South Africans to cast their weapons into the furnace.
Copper alloy, iron
24 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 6 in. (62.2 x 21.6 x 15.2 cm) (show scale)
"16" written in black on back of figure
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alastair B. Martin, the Guennol Collection
Until at least 1897, Benin Kingdom; 1897, probably taken from the Royal Palace during the British military raid and occupation of Benin City by an unidentified British agent; between 1897 and 1950, provenance not yet documented; before 1950, acquired by Sydney Burney of London, United Kingdom; by 1950, collection of Sydney Burney and John Hunt of Killmallock, Ireland (owned jointly); April 17, 1950, purchased at Sotheby’s London as “Property of a Gentleman”, Lot 137, by Alastair Bradley Martin of New York, NY; 1950, loaned by Alastair Bradley Martin and Edith Park Martin (Mrs. Alastair Bradley Martin) to the Brooklyn Museum; 1955, gift of Alastair Bradley Martin and Edith Park Martin to the Brooklyn Museum.
Blowing a horn or flute with his right hand, his left arm is truncated. He wears a netted cap with chevron design decorated with a feather. Around his neck are two collars: one of coral, the other of cowrie shells and teeth. He wears a kind of vest decorated with an interlocking design and supported by a strap around his neck. This is attached at the waist to a skirt which is drawn up at the side in a point. A belt is tied in a knot around the waist, and a lower belt with tassels connecting the skirt at the back. The over-skirt has a pattern of human faces, leopard faces, arms, half-moons, and other leaf forms. He wears five bracelets on his right hand. There is an undershirt exposed on the left side which has an interlocking design. The lower border of the outfit has a guilloche pattern.
This item is not on view
Edo. Figure of a Hornblower (Ikpakohẹn), ca. 1504-50. Copper alloy, iron, 24 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 6 in. (62.2 x 21.6 x 15.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alastair B. Martin, the Guennol Collection, 55.87. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 55.87_overall_PS11.jpg)
overall, 55.87_overall_PS11.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2021
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What does the skirt pattern represent?
The pattern on the skirt is a reference a specific to a specific king's reign. You may have read this on the label, but "A motif on the figure's kilt depicting an elephant, whose trunk ends in a human right hand, identifies this work with the reign of the oba Esigie, who ruled from 1504 to 1550."
The pattern on the skirt is a reference to a specific king's reign. The skirt has a pattern of human faces, leopard faces, arms, half-moons, and leaf forms. Leopards are often symbols of powerful individuals like the king memorialized by this work.
You may have read this on the label, but "A motif on the figure's kilt depicting an elephant, whose trunk ends in a human right hand, identifies this work with the reign of the oba Esigie, who ruled from 1504 to 1550."