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4 / Ceremony and Society

Royal Crown (adènlà)
Royal Crown (adènlà)
Artist / Origin Yoruba artist, Nigeria
Region: Africa
Date 20th century
Material Glass beads, fiber, cloth, and thread
Medium: Other
Dimensions 54 1/2 in x 8 x 8 in (including beaded veil)
Location Newark Museum, Newark, NJ
Credit Courtesy of the Newark Museum

expert perspective

Mary Nooter RobertsProfessor of Culture and Performance, University of California, Los Angeles
Babatunde LawalProfessor of Art History, Virginia Commonwealth University
Christa ClarkeSenior Curator of Arts of Africa and the Americas, Newark Museum

Royal Crown (adènlà)

» Yoruba artist, Nigeria

expert perspective

Christa Clarke Christa Clarke Senior Curator of Arts of Africa and the Americas, Newark Museum

The Yoruba of Nigeria have this tradition for many centuries of making these beaded crowns which are the preeminent symbol of kingship. And a king or a chief might have twenty or more crowns depending on when they are worn, depending on their situation.

In the early twentieth century with the British in Nigeria, you begin to see a form of crown that develops in the shape of a British barrister’s wig. So it’s a white crown and it has the kind of curls on the side that were similar to the wigs that you see British judges wearing. And it was actually an interesting way of showing how some of these regional leaders in Nigeria both appropriated symbols of power from the colonial forces and at the same time adapted them.

In a way, obviously the form is evoking this system of power which was imposed on the Yoruba. But at the same time, the color white was also very symbolically meaningful to the Yoruba—it is the color of purity, it is the color of spirituality. And one of the interesting things about the crown in the Newark Museum’s collection is that it still evokes the conical shape of the traditional beaded crown. At the very top of this particular beaded headdress you have these small cone shapes and that’s one of the ways leaders were still able to evoke a traditional form while making a nod to the power of a foreign symbol.” 

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