Rattle Staff; Ukhurhe



Rattle staffs are made for ancestral altars. Like bells, such rattles may be used to draw the attention of ancestral spirits or announce their presence. According to Paula Ben-Amos ('The Art of Benin', 1980), a historian of Edo arts, rattle staffs topped with a closed hand showing an upraised thumb were reserved for the altars of title-holders. It is a gesture of 'gathering up riches' also associated with altars of personal empowerment dedicated to the Hand. While rattle staffs are sacred ceremonial items made for ancestral altars, Wellcome Collection records suggest that this staff was made as part of the model of an Edo royal altar created for a display in the Nigerian Pavillion at the 1924-1925 British Empire Exhibition at Wembley. The rattle staff was presented to World Museum by the trustees of the Wellcome Collection in 1951 via the British Museum.