Court of Benin, Edo, Nigeria. typically modelled with an ibis standing above a cylindrical handle, 32.3cm (12 3/4ins) high (custom stand)
Provenance: Jack Whitehead Barbara Lancaster Private collection UK.
Handheld clappers are among a vast and varied category of 'self-sounding' musical instruments, known collectively as idiophones, that produce sound without the addition of a stretched membrane or a vibrating string or reed. The most common form of clapper in the Benin corpus consists of a cylindrical shaft surmounted by the figure of a long-beaked bird (possibly an ibis) with outstretched wings, such as this example. They are sounded by striking the beak with a metal rod.
Idiophones with finials like this, are employed during Ugie Oro court festivals and the birds are referred to as the "bird of prophecy" (ahianmwen-oro) and sometimes the "messenger of god" (odibosa). Beginning with the reign of King Esigie in the sixteenth century, the sounding of clappers depicting the bird of prophecy at Ugie Oro court ceremonies was regarded as a sign that the kings of Benin were endowed with the power to alter history." (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, nd. Web 2013)