Udamalore (Ceremonial Sword)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


Predominantly found in Owo in Yorubaland, the udamalore literally means a 'sword of the well-born' referring to the owner coming from a respected family and that its owner is a "leader prepared to meet life's challenges".1 Often passed from an elderly chief (Olowo) or King (Oba) to his son, the udamalore also represents status and power.

It is carried by the Oba and Olowo of Owo during the Igogo festival and worn on the left hip side of the ceremonial skirt (ibolukun). At Ilesha the chief strikes the blade of his sword on the earth three times when he greets Ogun (the god of iron).

Distinguishing Features

  • Made from ivory (in Yorubaland, ivory is treasured for its durability, scarcity and association with the elephant - a symbol of prestige and sovereignty). Also found in wood, brass, iron
  • Sword consists of three sections:
    • Human head handle / pommel set on long neck. Triangular projections sometimes sprout from the top and bottom of the head (may be a reference to Sango)
    • Slightly curved, openwork blade consisting of a section with geometric and interlacing patterns between the pommel and section 3 (below)
    • A section at the tip representing the Olowo in ceremonial wear (ibolukun skirt) holding a state sword (ada) with an udamalore sword tied to his left hip. A bird is shown perched on his left hand and pecks at his crown (the bird refers to the protective spiritual power associated with elderly Yoruba women). The Olowo’s eyes are sometimes augmented with dark wood
  • The udamalore is housed in a glass beaded sheath (ewu)
  • The beaded sheath and accompanying panels (apete) include symbolic imagery:
    • Ram’s heads
    • Monkeys (often depicted as cunning tricksters admired for their wit along with their deceit. The use of the monkey image on this sheath may refer to the owner’s own wit and audacity)
    • Human figures
    • Birds
    • Patterns

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