REPLICA OF THE ST. EDWARD’S CROWN
BY RENE BRUS

 

 

Coronation crown of a Yoruba king

This cone-shaped Yoruba coronation crown Ade Eleiye Merimodinlogun was made in 1976 by James Ade.Adetoyi. Such a coronation crown possesses according to tradition magic powers and is surrounded by much symbolism. A Yoruba ruler will therefore never look inside his crown because otherwise grave disasters will come upon him such as blindness or worse even death. Due to this belief a coronation crown will always be placed on the head of a ruler from behind or sideways to avoid that the Oba will see the inside of his crown. Since also the divine gaze of the Yoruba king is deadly to his subjects, the face of the king is covered during important ceremonies by a beaded veil, the iboju, which is attached to the rim of the crown. In this manner the true identity of the ruler is hidden and therefore his individual personality eliminated and replaced by the divine power of the dynasty. Different kind of symbolical figures can adorn a Yoruba coronation crown such as the okin, the royal bird which by many is regarded as an important messenger between the divine world and earth. The omnipotence of the king is implemented by the depiction of faces on the coronation crown. Scholars have not yet reached an understanding about the origin of this tradition. Some think that such an adornment has only a decorative value while others are convinced that with a face Olokun, the God of the Sea, or Odudduwa (Oduduea/Odua) is meant. Oduduwa is the forefather of all crowned Yoruba rulers, who according to myths placed his first-born son on the throne of Ifé and thus became the first king or Oni of Ifé, while this other 15 sons were to be to rule other Yoruba kingdoms. Tradition also dictates that the coronation crown and other coronation ornaments are kept in the oriopo or ojopo, a special room of the palace.

 

The beads, which decorate crowns of Yoruba rulers, are attached by means of a needle and thread on an unbleached cotton or another piece of cloth that covers a frame, which is made of wickerwork of twigs, carton or canvas. It is no wonder that the thread wears out when a ruler uses his crown often so that beads are falling off resulting that this headgear needs restoration or that a new crown is created using the old beads. The making of a Yoruba crown is surrounded by many traditional proceedings including the use of the oogun ashe which is the powerful medicine that is placed inside the crown with the aim to protect the head of the king by the babalawo, the medicine man. In the Yoruba culture the head, ori, is a very important part of the body because here is located the vital power, the ase. Due to the fact that the crown, in the Yoruba language ade, covers this invisible yet always existing power, it is necessary that all kind of proceedings have to be observed on the moment that this ceremonial headgear is crafted. Crown makers usually work in the palace of the ruler and will always start with an offering to Ogun, the god of Iron, because they use a metal needle. To the god of the sea, Olokun, these craftsmen will usually present some offerings because according to tradition this orisa has presented the first crown to the Yoruba people and generally also to Obalufon, the god who invented beads.

On the 30th of December 1972 His Highness Orhoro I was crowned as the Oroje of Okpe. After the coronation ceremony the face of the ruler was virtually hidden by his crown and the enormous, from agate beads crafted collar.

On the 17th of 1971 Oba Idowu Owoaje Soludero II was crowned as the Moloda van Odogbulu. From that day on when he wears his crown, he will be approached by important palace authorities, who will crawl on the ground and at the same time speaking the words Oba alaashe ekiji orisha, ' the power of the gods is followed by that of the king”

The Ade Eleiye Merimodinlogun
Made by James Ade.Adetoyi in 1976

During the yearly recurring festivals the Yoruba rulers usually wear their most important crown like during Odun Ijeshu, the day whereupon the Oba eats for the first time in the New Year the new yam. During the Odun Olokun celebrations the ruler sacrifice animals and food to the God of the Water and it is than a custom that the whole crown-treasure is put on public display.

May 1976, the in the town Efon Alayi born James
Ade. Adetoyi –of profession “crownmaker” creates
in the inner court of the National Museum of Lagos
on several with thousands beads decorated crowns.

The mostly with thousands of beads decorated crowns and other ornaments belonging to the Nigerian Yoruba rulers are kept, according to age-old traditions, in the Ori Oropo or Ojopo, a special room of the palace and these are guarded mainly by female court dignitaries or sometimes by the first wife of the ruler. The making of the objects is however done by male craftsmen such as the in Efon Alaiye born James Ade. Adetoiji, whose profession is 'crown maker’. The craftsmanship is usually handed down from father to son whereby in particular much attention is given to which motifs and colors are allowed to be used for geometric figures as the entwined salubata or colors are namely designated by tradition since time immemorial. Green, brown, bronze and golden colors are associated with earth, the jungle and healing plants, while blue, silver and gold-yellow are connected with Oshun, the goddess of the life-bringing, healing water. In the kingdom of Oyo the colors yellow and green are associated with the fortune-teller Ifa. When making the regalia or repairing a particular object one will always reckon with the spirits, who are placated by means of offerings.

The Yoruba people in Western Africa make use of beads that are made of different material for the creation of crowns, bracelets, flywhisks, thrones and other ceremonial objects designated for their rulers. The simplest beads are traded by the weight and are known as pound-beads. These glass beads were traded in former days by ships to harbors at the Indian Ocean where the trade winds blow and that is why such beads are referred to as trade-wind beads. Many glass beads were manufactured in former centuries in European countries such as the Netherlands (Holland) and Bohemia and imported to Africa where they were used as means of payment. Except glass beads and beads made of shell, coral, agate and jasper, plastic beads are nowadays also used to adorn regalia as from this modern material one can fairly easy duplicate or imitate special beads. Yet due the usually completely opaque appearance such plastic beads can naturally never compete with the wonderful luster and transparency of glass beads.

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