Rattle Staff (ukhuhre)

Rattle Staff (ukhuhre)


Wood, paint, cowrie shells, and plant fiber

Overall: 149.5 x 7.5 x 8 cm (58 7/8 x 2 15/16 x 3 1/8 in.)

Gift of Phyllis Sloane in memory of Rose White 1998.85


Rattle staffs (ukhuhrẹ) are instruments of memory and sound. Though this staff represented a single elite man, it evokes the individuals in his lineage. Inspired by bamboo, it is divided into segments that link three carved men dressed in coral-beaded finery. Benin courtiers still carry these staffs during celebrations and rituals. By banging the staff on the ground, a rattling sound emanates from its open center, where a wooden cylinder rolls freely. The noise alerts ancestral spirits to prayers offered on their behalf. When not in use, they are stored on ancestral altars.

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