Friday, November 13, 2009

The Royal Art of Benin

The Royal Kingdom of Benin was one of the principal historic kingdoms (12th–19th century) of the western African forest region. Founded by the Edo people, it was centred on present-day Benin City in southern Nigeria. A general survey history of the Benin kingdom from the earliest times; the Ogiso Period (c. 900-1170); the second is the period of the New Dynasty of kings or Obas (c. 1200-1897), while the third phase is that of colonial rule and its impact on Benin society (after 1897).

The name Benin can be found on European maps of Africa from the sixteenth century onward; from that time, the kingdom was an important trading partner. Trading relations was first with the Portuguese on the 15th century, then with the British, Dutch and French. the Benin kingdom was vastly expanded, including the founding of the city of Lagos.

In the late 19th century, the Niger coast was dominated by the British, who increasingly became reluctant to accept the trading conditions dictated by Benin, and aimed at talking control themselves. The gradually brought the areas bordering Benin under their administration, removing or exiling unwilling local rulers. Furthermore, they started to add the areas delineated as their sphere of influence at the Berlin Conference of 1885 to their territory. After the British attacked and burned Benin City in 1897, the kingdom was incorporated into British Nigeria.

Bronze pieces from the Benin kingdom are known the world over. Almost all their art was created to honor the king , called Oba, who has reigned, with his ancestors, from the 15th century. Styles have changed over the years. Each is still sculpted by hand, then cast in bronze by the lost wax process. Figures that do not depict the king show members of his court.

Bronze Leopards, a royal icon, were often used as royal water vessels. Water was poured from the mouth over the Oba's hands in cleansing rituals. They were kept on royal altars.

The plaques were mounted on the walls of the Oba's Palace and record the history of the Benin kingdom. Most depict the king or warrior chiefs.

Cast pieces are copper alloys, bronze (copper and tin) or brass (copper and zinc). The alloys are not always pure and pieces historically labelled "bronzes", often are not. Old Benin pieces are rare and limited.

I love the art of Benin and the last picture shows my private collection (wow !!! ...LOL), which I bought in Africa, three months ago. There are two Portuguese Soldiers and a Leopard. I wish I could afford to buy the antique ones...but they cost simply a fortune!!!

1 comment:

taris said...

art of africa ..the ancient civilization of africa was higher than in the present time.
They were a big nation.... but right now many nation of africa had civil war.. and the ancient civilization is fall