The king of Owo, a village in Nigeria, was traditionally the only person who could wear ivory ornaments. This ivory bracelet may have been worn by the king during Ore, an important ancient festival. The female heads may represent Olokun, the goddess of the sea, and the crocodiles may be sacrificial victims for her. The crocodile's ability to both walk on land and swim in water acts as a metaphor for kingship, as it is believed that kings also live in two realms: the world of ordinary life and the world of the gods and spirits.
Artist Yoruba, African
  • Armlet
Date between 16th and 18th century
Medium ivory
Dimensions Overall: 1 1/4 × 4 5/16 inches (3.2 × 11 cm)
Credit Line Founders Society Purchase, Acquisitions Fund
Accession Number 80.42
Department Africa, Oceania & Indigenous Americas
On View African: Fit for a King, Level 1 (see map)
Muller-Van Iterbeek (Brussels, Belgium);
Frederic Rolin [F. Rolin and Co.] (Brussels, Belgium);
1980-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Art d'Afrique dans les Collections Belges. Musee Royal de l'Afrique Centrale. Tevuren, Belgium, 1963, no. 663.

African Ivories. Exh. cat., F. Rolin & Co. New York, 1978, no. 52.

Vogel, S.M. "African Ivoris, F. Rolin and Co.," African Arts, vol. 12, no. 1 (November 1978): p. 97.

Bulletin of the DIA 59, no. 4 (1981): p. 124 (ill.).

Brincard, M., ed. Beauty by Design. The African-American Institute, New York, Center for the Fine Arts, Miami, Florida, September 19, 1984 - March 17, 1985, C30 (ill.).

African Masterworks In The Detroit Institute of Arts. Washington and London: The Detroit Institute of Arts and Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995, cat. no. 31.