Proclamation Staff, Isevbere Igho


This brass proclamation staff, isevbere igho, in the form of a double gong was purchased in 1898 from Henry Ling Roth, who may have acquired it from his brother Dr Felix Roth. Dr Felix Roth was surgeon to the Advance Guard with the British forces that attacked and looted Benin in February 1897. Dr Roth could have taken the staff as part of the unofficial loot from the Benin palace complex that was shared out among the British officers who took part in the military attack on Benin in February 1897. In 1981 Chief Obamwonyi of Ogbelaka told the American art historian Paula Girshick Ben-Amos that this staff would have been kept on the palace altar to the Edo national gods (Ebo n’Edo) (Ben-Amos 1999: 77). During the Emobo ceremony that completes Igue, the festival of renewal held at the end of every year, a palace official carrying an isevbere igho staff accompanies the Oba in procession in order to purify Benin City and the palace. Ben-Amos, Paula Girshick (1999), Art, Innovation, and Politics in Eighteenth-Century Benin, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.