first part of the course, we also discussed the Yoruba tribe’s Head of a
King, c. 1200, in respect to art in the service of politics. Befitting
its narrative, the portrait is idealized with its perfect oval shape,
cat-like eyes, straight nose with flared nostrils, fleshy lips, cylindrical
neck and lack of wrinkles or imperfections. The crown was that worn by the
tribal king (oba). The lines running down the face simulate tribal
markings or scarification, raised welts that create a pattern. So, what was
the purpose of such a portrait? Once deceased, the oba’s spirit would
periodically return to the tribe and need a place to stay - in the statue.
When alive, the statue would speak to the current oba or other members
of the royal family and guide them in their political decisionmaking.