Beaded Staff

Accession Number

Beaded Staff


Artist Nationality
Yoruba (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
20th century

Medium & Support
wood with beads

14 15/16 in x 1 in x 1 in (37.9 cm x 2.5 cm x 2.5 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Margaret H. and Albert J. Coudron

Subject matter
This beaded staff, called opa ileke in the Yoruba language, may have formed part of the regalia of an oba, a sacred Yoruba king.  Beadwork was a sign of wealth and status, reserved for royals and religious leaders. Seed beads were introduced in the 19th century by European traders; the many colors allowed craftsmen to create patterns that showed the authority of the oba. Certain combinations of colors also referenced various orisas, or gods, through the 'hot' or 'cool' properties of different colors. 

References Cited:
Doris, David. 2004. Masterworks of African Art: Yoruba Images and Aesthetics. Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Museum of Art.  
Drewal, Henry John. 1989. Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought. New York: Center for African Art.
Drewal, Henry John and John Mason. 1998. Beads Body and Soul: Art and Light in the Yorùbá Universe. Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History. 
Pemberton, John. 2008. African Beaded Art: Power and Adornment. Northampton: Smith College Museum of Art.

Physical Description
Wooden staff covered with multi-colored beadwork in repeating triangular patterns. 

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type

Collection Area

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form. Keywords
ceremonial costume
costume accessories
kings (people)
symbols of office or status

& Author Notes

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