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The Benin Bronze

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Compiled by Osamede Osunde (28-07-2015)

The ancient Benin kingdom now in present day Nigeria is one of Africa richest areas in art. Art treasures are found in various parts of the kingdom. Works of arts has been with the Binis from the earliest time of civilization. Specialized professional guilds or societies were set up to promote the highest ideals in the various arts. These guilds were accorded royal patronage. To this day some of these guilds like those of wood carvers and bronze casters are still operating at Igbesanmwan and Igun Street in Benin City.

Art as a form of communication has been greatly explored especially for recording memorable events in the life of the various communities Effigies of Obas, heroes and heroines were molded for posterity. Different media such as bronze/brass mud {terracotta} ebony wood and ivory feature in these works of art. Works of art were also use in the decoration of the royal palace.

Benin City was the powerhouse and seat of government of the ancient Benin Empire one of the most powerful Empire in continental Africa during the 15th, 16th.It authority and influence spreading to the coast of Benin republic, the Niger delta, the north west of Niger River and Onisha in the east.

Exactly when ,who and how brass casting techniques was introduced into the ancient Benin kingdom is hard to established but statistical data derived from the folktales, song, parables or proverbs attest to the fact that bronze casting had been in practices in Benin kingdom since Ogiso period and the indigenous artists in the ancient City of Benin evolved a peculiar house style in brass casting and created the largest brass industry in the Africa continent.

Historical record showed that 31 Ogisos reined in ancient Benin kingdom during the Ogiso period.{31st} Ogiso Owodo reign ended the Ogiso period in 1100A.D without a royal successor. However his great grandson {1st} Oba Eweka I ascended the throne in 1200 A.D

as the first Oba in continuation of Ogiso Owodo monarchy lineage under the Obaship period that has so far produces 38 Obas, the current monarch Oba Erediauwa is one of the most educated and revered monarch.

When Benin Empire was invaded by the British forces in 1897 they were amazed to find large quantities of cast brass objects they at first denied they were made by the Binis artists. But the metallurgical, Binis socio-cultural values and identities which the objects process and represents were too pronounced to suppress or ignore, they were finally classified as Benin bronze but contrary to their real component brass, despite the studies, indicating the objects, being largely of brass.

The British forces looted thousands of valuable brass, ivory and wooden objects from the palaces of the Oba, his chiefs, ancestral shrines and other secret places. The ones they couldn't carry they burned or destroy.

Despite the setback Benin soon regain the leadership in the production of artwork acquiring more modern sophistication making the Benin brass among one of the world most favoured and renowned artwork. Most Benin valuable arts are still be held captive in Europe and America museums The Nigeria government and in recent years the Benin monarch spear-headed renewed efforts to repatriate the Idia ivory mask which was the official symbol of the second world black and Africa festival of arts and culture [FESTAC] among the most famous ones from the British museum but their captivators wouldn't listen. Benin artifacts are among the most exquisite and coveted in the world's history.

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