Aseberia (Iyoba Altar Tableau)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


Placed at the centre of the Iyoba's (queen mother's) royal ancestor altar, in the palace of the ruling Oba (king), these tableaus (called aseberia or in some cases urhoto) are created by the ruling Oba after the passing of his mother. Used to commemorate his mother and to depict the position in court that she once held i.e. "her responsibility in protecting the health and well-being of her son, the Oba, thereby protecting the security and prosperity of the kingdom".2

After the Iyoba’s death, a large altar (a semi-circular mud platform onto which altar objects are placed) is created upon which the aseberia sits. The altar serves as a point of communication with the deceased Iyoba as well as to celebrate the life and successes of the Iyoba.

For more, see the The Tribal Eye: Kingdom of Bronze video HERE on the Oba of Benin City.

Distinguishing Features

  • Consists of figures standing on rectangular base
  • Iyoba figure (back and central) surrounded by female servants and/or other attendants
  • Iyoba larger and more elaborately dressed than attendants
  • Iyoba wears full ceremonial attire:
    • Teardrop-shaped coral bead crown
    • Usually wears high collar and short sleeve shirt
    • Crossed bandoliers
    • Guilloche patterned wrapper
    • Coral bead cuffs & anklets
  • Female attendants are usually nude bar coral necklaces, waistbands, bracelets & anklets
  • Square opening in centre of aseberia
  • Rectangular base has guilloche pattern
  • Elephant trunks, mudfish, goat heads and ram heads decorate the rectangular base

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