For important ceremonial occasions, the oba (ruler) wears large conical beaded crowns with many design elements. Faces on either side of the crown may refer to Olokun, god of the sea and “owner of the beads”; royal ancestors; or the inner, spiritual face of the oba himself. The faces also serve as a reminder that the oba sees and hears all, even what takes place behind his back. Zigzag motifs evoke the circulation of spiritual energy and perhaps the lightning bolts of Shango, god of thunder and lightning.
Even if generally well preserved, objects may suffer some losses over time. Conical crowns usually have a veil of beads that hangs over the oba’s face, separating him from earthly concerns. Crowns may also lack these features intentionally, as rulers wore simpler or more elaborate headwear, depending on the occasion. For example on minor ceremonial occasions, the oba may wear smaller beaded coronets or caps. These take on a dazzling variety of shapes and styles, often inspired by British or Islamic headwear.
tags: pattern, fashion, communication, power, ritual, ceremony, symbolism