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Examples can be found in the National Museum of African Art in Washington DC, Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Museum of the Five Ccontinents, the former Museum Fur Volkerkunde in Munich, the Museum Pitt Rivers in Oxford, Etnografiska Museet in Stockholm and the Museum of African Art Belgrade

The Cockerel  is a recurring subject amongst the Benin Bronzes. The skill used to produce these artefacts were exceptional and unique for their time.

The roosters that appear on the royal ancestral altars refer to the crown prince of Benin, the Edaiken of Uselu. He occupies a domain outside the capital itself (separated from his biological mother, who, as long as she is still alive, stays in the palace harem). And, if the Iyoba, his grandmother, is alive, he lives in another palace, in a separate domain in Uselu. The Crown Prince will reside in Uselu until the time has come for him to begin annual rituals for his father, before ascending the throne in the city of Benin. Like the young rooster, the Edaiken wins over the others as crown prince, and he acts in the name of the Oba during his lifetime. As a result, the cock in precious bronze naturally illustrates his pride and self-confidence. The use of this long-lived metal was traditionally reserved for the royal family. For family altars, the chiefs of the Oba were entitled to carved wood fowl and ancestral wooden heads. The bronze cocks like this adorn only the ancestral altars of the Oba and his mother.

Reference : Collectif (2007). Bénin cinq siècles d'art royal. Editions snoeck, 398-399 pp.

Edo okpa bronze cockrell Authentic African Tribal Art Gallery (

Photograph: Chris Loades/AFP via Getty Images

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