Ceremonial Sword and Sheath Udamalore
Iron, wood, glass beads, leather, bronze coils, bronze bells, British West Africa 1/10 penny coins
This ceremonial sword and sheath (udamalore) recalls the arts of Owo, an important and ancient Yoruba town. The udamalore was worn by Owo chiefs on the left hip, hung over a belt. A voluminous wrapped skirt, tall miter-shaped hat, brass and ivory pendants and armlets, and a fan-shaped iron sword (of Benin origin) held in the right hand completed the ceremonial attire.
The udamalore is lavishly decorated with brilliantly colored glass beads that are embroidered into symbolic and abstract designs. Imported from Europe, the beads were a sign of wealth and status among the Yoruba. The motifs – human and zoomorphic figures – refer to the protective role of the ancestors, the chief's inalienable powers and privileges, and the mystical forces that protect and strengthen the wearer of such lavish costume ornaments ("Ceremonial Sword and Sheath (Udamalore)," Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2021).
This piece has numerous talismans attached to the back side, including woven leather amulets, brass coils, strands of glass beads, and 14 British West Africa 1/10 penny coins dating from 1930 to 1945.
As pictured (not including stand) 14" (36cm) tall; 19.75" (50cm) wide