Oba's Slippers

Accession Number

Oba's Slippers


Artist Nationality
Yoruba (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
20th century

Medium & Support
wood, metal, cloth, leather, and multi-colored beadwork

10 13/16 in x 9 13/16 in x 3 1/8 in (27.46 cm x 24.92 cm x 7.94 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Dr. James and Vivian Curtis

Subject matter
These beaded slippers, called bata ileke in the Yoruba language, would have formed part of the regalia of an oba, a sacred king that could trace his ancestry to Oduduwa, the founder and first oba of Yoruba peoples. Although stone beads were locally produced prior to the 15th century, and during the 16th century European glass beads arrived through trade routes, glass seed beads were not used by Yoruba craftsmen until the 19th century. Normally worn only by royalty or religious leaders, the beaded regalia of an oba did not include shoes until the mid-18th century, as prior to the changing social and political scene of that time the oba would not have left the palace, except for the most important events. As the oba had sacred power, his feet could not touch the ground, which allowed for the creation and use of slippers such as these. The British-style crown became a popular motif incorporated into an oba’s beaded regalia toward the beginning of the 20th century, during the period of British colonial control. 


Drewal, H. Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought, 1989
Lawal, B. Visions of Africa: Yoruba, 2012
Pemberton, J. African Beaded Art: Power and Adornment, 2008

Physical Description
Open-back shoes with leather soles attached to a cloth-lining with metal tacks. The beadwork on the upper part of the shoe is blue with a British style crown rendered in gold, silver, red, blue, yellow, and green beads. 

Primary Object Classification
Costume and Costume Accessories

Primary Object Type

Collection Area

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image 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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