Subsequent sales[ edit ] The two largest collections of Benin Bronzes are located in the Ethnological Museum of Berlin and in the British Museum in London, while the third largest collection is located in several museums in Nigeria principally the Nigerian National Museum in Lagos. Often, their return has been considered an icon of the repatriation of the African continent. The artifacts have become an important example in the international debate over restitution, comparable to that of the Elgin Marbles. Inthe museum's curator Hermann Braunholtz declared that, although made individually, of the plaques acquired by the Museum in30 were duplicates; because they were identical representations, he determined that they were superfluous for the museum and were sold.
For example the art of many african tribes and cultures is very different from the classic styles of the european tradition.
Art from these areas usually serves a larger purpose to the people. Either representing religious figures or the leaders of the tribe. The subjects of these works of art are often crafted in an idealized manner as to show their greatness.
One great representation of African art is the plaques of the city state Benin. One specific work of art from the region is the Plaque of the Warrior Chief Flanked by Warriors and Attendants, which was a version of political propaganda. Made using the process of wax casting, which involves creating molds and pouring extremely hot melted metal into the moulds.
This particular plaque told the story of a divine and powerful king, shown with many symbols that conveyed this message to the people. Located in western Africa, centralized in modern day Nigeria, existed the Benin Empire.
A warlike state that legend says was able to summon two hundred thousand troops in a matter of days. A civilization like this requires an extremely powerful leader, one who can take all of the people in a large area and unite them under one banner.
The ruling family the Ogisos were perfect for the job. Ruling with an iron fist and expanding the empire, the rulers were beloved by the people. Much of the history of empire was recorded either through oral tradition or in the civilizations artwork.
Brass was the medium of choice for the kingship, infact the metal was rohibited to anyone but the King himself. As he controlled the process of brass casting and who was allowed to use the medium. Anyone caught without royal permission faced an execution. The Edo people of the Benin Empire associated brass and it properties of resisting corrosion with the permanence and continuity of the royal family and the kingship.
As kings died their heads were often cast in brass and displayed throughout the royal palace.
It was a belief of the Edo people that through having representations of the ancestors the living would be protected by the spirits. The plaque of the Warrior Chief is a perfect example of a leader creating art for the use of propaganda. The work was made in the time period between and a hundred year span that included some of the most productive years for the people of Benin.
The plaque is just a little over a foot wide and long and made of brass. Created using the brass casting technique that was famous in the area, it only could have been commissioned by the Chief himself.
The plaque is full of symbols, most representing the total and godlike power that the king held. Starting with the most obvious which is the hieratic scale. This dominates the work as the warrior chief is show much larger than those surrounding him. The figure is also centered and simply catches ones glance immediately, and that was the goal of the king, all the attention to be drawn to him and his greatness.
As one continues to look over the central figure it is hard to ignore the powerful and deep stare that is on the face of the king. One can even feel weak and helpless due to this glare coming from the king.
Created to represent his power over everyone the kings expression is ment to make an onlooker feel like a mere peasant.
The attire of the king also aides to show the viewer his power, starting with his skirt. Which is held up by a belt made of a leopard head. Paired with his necklace made of leopard teeth, the fearsome power of the king is shown. As the leopard was one of the most powerful beasts in the region and if the king was able to tame one and kill it to use as jewelry, then no one could stop him.
The elaborate coral accessories that he wears across his chest as well as on his wrists shows the viewer his high status. As in the time of this works creation coral jewels were some of the most divine and were usually reserved just for the royal and extremely wealthy.
As the spear was a weapon of choice for the warriors of Benin and by the leader clutching one he exerts his power over the warriors.
In the kings other hand however he grasps the eben sword of Ogun. As he is more than just a mortal, he is the divine king. As one continues to look through the figures in the work they will notice that the two on the extreme left and right, represent warriors. Shown a head smaller than the king they are obviously under his control.
They are dressed in similar attire to the king to show their high status in the kingdom as well as their importance. The warriors also hold a shield and a spear, both symbolizing their loyalty to the chief.The plaque originally hung alongside many others on posts throughout the palace of the Oba.
The order of their placement on these posts would have told the history of the royal lineage of Benin’s Obas, who traced their dynasty all the way back to Oranmiyan, whose son was the first Oba of Benin. The Benin Plaques, A 16th Century Imperial Monument is a detailed analysis of a corpus of nearly bronze plaques that were installed in the court of the Benin kingdom at the moment of its greatest political power and geographic reach.
By examining European accounts, Benin oral histories, and the physical evidence of the extant plaques. Benin: an African kingdom Objects from the Royal Palace Until the late 19th century, one of the major powers in West Africa was the The image of the Oba (king of Benin) appears on many plaques.
To understand these images we need to know about royal regalia and the role. Benin Plaque: The Oba with Europeans - The First Global Economy AD – - A history of the world in objects - by Neil MacGregor. Students will examine brass plaques from the African kingdom of Benin.
Some plaques depict Portuguese traders and soldiers, reflecting the influence of contact with the first Europeans. For the most part, these plaques have not been referenced in this lesson.
The kingdom of Benin. This plaque is one of the relief brass-cast plaques that once used to decorate the palace of the oba (king) in Benin City, the capital of the Benin (Edo) kingdom (in modern southern Nigeria). The palace complex was set up around atrium courtyards.