Once the Queen Mother, or the Iyoba, of the Edo People from the Court of Benin in modern day Nigeria, gave birth to the King, or Oba’s, first son, she did not have any more children. She devoted the remainder of her life to raising the future king. The Iyoba was the most powerful female in an African kingdom.
This is one of two identical masks that the Oba Esigie commissioned to honor his mother Iyoba Idia. He may have worn it during rites to commemorate her, although today these masks also are worn for ceremonies of spiritual purification.