Uhunmwun Ekue (Hip Pendant)


By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


The Oba (King) was at the heart of Benin City rule, supported by a number of warriors and chiefs that helped with the protection and management of the kingdom respectively. To highlight the various roles and ranks held in court, the chiefs and warriors wore official elements in their costumes given to them by the Oba. Uhunmwun ekue brass and ivory pendants are one such costume element, worn at an angle (or horizontally) on the left hip, taking the form of different shapes (including human, ram, crocodile, baboon or leopard heads).

Senior chiefs and titleholders within the kingdom were given human head shaped pendants, worn as a visible sign of their status and ranking within the community.

NOTE: Several southern Nigerian cultures historically produced brass hip pendants with human head pendants being the most commonly produced1.

Distinguishing Features

Common features among all uhunmwun ekue pendants:

  • Made of brass
  • Large loops located at top & bottom of back of ornament

Sub-type variations (Human):

  • Above face is latticework coral bead cap (with cluster of beads on cap)
  • Coral bead headband crosses forehead
  • Three raised or incised scarification marks above each eye (ikharo meaning 'tribal mark of eye' indicating gender or ethnicity)
  • Eyes are large with heavy rims
  • Some inlaid with strip of copper going down from forehead to tip of nose
  • Decorative flange around the lower portion of face
  • Row of small loops below or directly behind flange
  • Some rare examples in the form of a Portuguese head
    • Narrow sharp nose
    • Long, curled locks
    • Beard
    • Three cornered hat with pleated crown

Share this