Top Panel of an Agba Stool



This wooden relief carved panel was at some point adapted to serve as a wall hanging, but it was originally intended to from the top panel of an agba stool. The carved panel shows a tableau of Oba Eweka II, who reigned from 1914 to 1933. Eweka II was placed on the Benin throne by the British colonial government in 1914 after the death in exile of his father Oba Ovonramwen. A large white feather has been added to Eweka II's elaborate beaded crown as a triumphant symbol of leadership. Celebratory drummer and musician are depicted on either side of the tableau. Eweka I was the first Oba of the Oranmiyan dynasty. Oba Ovonramwen's son Aiguobasimwin took the name Eweka II, because his task, like his namesake's, was to restore the kingdom and bring about a new beginning. Rectangular agba stools and other secular furniture was made by the Oba’s sword bearers (emada, sing. omada). They were taught to carve and did so in their spare time at the palace. Their work seems to have been distinct from that of the official wood carvers' guild, the Igbesanmwan. This carved panel was purchased for the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum in 1930 from Stevens’ Auction Rooms Ltd., 38 King Street, Covent Garden, London. The carved panel was given to World Museum via the British Museum in 1949 by Sir Henry Wellcome’s executors, who decided to rationalize the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum collection after Wellcome’s death in 1936.