Relief Carved Table Top



Wooden table top carved with a relief tableau showing Oba Ozolua the conqueror (c.1480-1517) with his long iron chain mail coat and war helmet, with its hanging panels. His wounded arm is partly covered with a miniature shield associated with his magical invincibility. The tableau probably shows narrative elements in the story of how Ozolua was killed by his treacherous warrior companion Elaisolobi, who turned against him because his soldiers were thoroughly tired of war. This table top is decorated with relief carving somewhat in the style of the secular agba stools made by the Oba’s sword bearers (emada, sing. omada), who were taught to carve in their spare time in the palace. Ernest Cyril Chane Smith probably acquired this table top between 1928 and 1950 in Lagos, where many carvers from Benin set up workshops. A burgeoning art market developed in Lagos during this period that catered largely to Europeans (see Ben Amos 1971 'Social change in the organisation of woodcarving in Benin City, Nigeria', PhD dissertation, Indiana University). E C C Smith served as a manager at Elder Dempster & Co. facilities in West Africa, including at Lagos.