Paddles such as these, which are often labeled “Benin River,” seem to have been produced by the Itsekiri. Local carvers probably made them as souvenirs for the traders and colonial officials who visited the region during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Openwork designs render most of them nonfunctional, and none shows signs of use. Many combine intricate geometric patterning with figurative motifs, including reptiles, aquatic creatures, and occasionally human figures.
Source: Anderson, Martha G. and Peek, Philip M. ed. (2002): “Ways of the Rivers: Arts and Environment of the Niger Delta”‚ Los Angeles, UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History. page 135