The Yoruba people live primarily in present-day Nigeria, Benin and Togo. Yoruba beadwork goes back as far as the first century AD, and despite 500 years of invasions and colonial pressures, Yoruba beadwork still thrives. Beaded Yoruba crowns, footstools, pouches and other artifacts do not just signify high social status. Beads are considered sacred to the Yoruba, and only people powerful enough to span the boundary between the secular and the divine are allowed to wear them.
The crown (or ade) is the most important object in royal Yoruba regalia, and the right to wear one is limited to a small number of kings (obas) descended from royal families. The beaded veil that hangs down from the headdress is said to be the most important part of the crown. By covering the king's face, the veil downplays the king's identity as an individual and boosts his role as leader. The veil is also said to protect onlookers from the king's powerful gaze.
Images commonly found on Yoruba crowns are typically interpreted in the following way:
Birds are said to represent female power, in its nurturing (motherly) and destructive (witch-like) aspects. It is commonly accepted that the oba (king) cannot rule without the cooperation and support of the women in his village. Thus, it is also commonly accepted that women's power can either strengthen or weaken a king's reign!
Human faces often represent (and thus honor) Oduduwa, the first Yoruba king. As such, the face serves as a reminder of the royal line, royal ancestors and the tradition of the monarchy. A human face might alternately represent Olokun, patron god of bead artists and reminder of the divine nature of beads (thus also the importance of the person who wears the beaded object).
The color red is often associated with Shango (Sango), god of thunder.
The color white is also associated with Shango (Sango). Sometimes, it is alternately associated with Obatala, remembered for being a merciful, patient and ethical king.
Interlacing patterns suggest the interconnectedness of all life and the balance needed to sustain life. On a crown, such patterns can furthermore refer to the connection between the current king (oba) to previous kings through the hereditary line.
Yoruba Beaded Crown (Ade)
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18-20" x 8-10" Yoruba crown (ade) with multicolor beaded veil (11-18" long). Adorned with birds, faces, dolls and various patterns. Outside of crown is completely covered in assorted colors of seed beads. Handmade: pattern and colors will vary.