The Art of Benin Essay

Document Type:Essay

Subject Area:Arts

Document 1

It is believed that people killed the envoys from Britain who tried to expand their trade in the 19th century. In response, the British government, sent their soldiers into Benin who in turn captured the Benin king as well as destroying his palace. The soldiers also took away quantities of regalia and sculptures as well crafts that were made from wood, brass and also ivory. People from Benin have contributed a lot to the field of architecture. They made very different types of art that were fascinating and have since attracted many people from different places of the world who are interested to explore the field of art, this compiles several simple pots, tools as well as carved masks that were used during ceremonies.

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In addition, crafts made from coral were also believed to possess certain magical powers from the god of the sea Olokun. Only the chiefs were permitted to wear necklaces, anklets, bracelets made from coral. After the British soldiers fought back the king of Benin City, several plaques from the certain guilds were taken to Europe in which many of the plaques were bought and restored in the British Museum. The British government by 1897 had removed most of the plaques as well as other objects during the punitive expedition whereby at least two hundred pieces of the crafts were taken by the British soldiers. European discoverers were amazed that Africans, who were believed to be so savage and primitive, could expose such knowledge of art, which in turn has aided and has articulated the modern field of art and culture.

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The sculpture of a leopard in the British museum symbolizes that the king of Benin City was master of the tropical forest that covered a large area of the Benin City. It is also believed that the king of Benin City used keep leopards which were used to be paraded on different fundamental occasions. One of the sculptures in the British museum represented the king’s hunter who was used by the king for the purpose of capturing the live leopards (Wood, pp 240). So the plaques of different animals found in the British Museum were not just for the purpose of decoration but for other various purposes. In addition, the sculptures of crocodiles meant the king’s authority to severely punish those who were wrongdoers.

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Before the British conquest of Benin, there was little known about the African culture and its knowledge in the field of artwork. The perceptions of Africa were termed as primitive as well as uncivilized which made the British soldiers to first treat the artefacts as war booty. Research indicates that the artwork of Benin has pioneered the knowledge of art and has changed the paradigms of art practice (Wood, pp. Cultural materials of the artwork of Benin have been assembled at different museums in the world and have then been used to articulate the field of art. Therefore, people should withdraw the perception that African artwork is primitive and instead focus on learning from knowledge derived from it. The collections in the new layout seem to more modify especially the metal sculpture of the tree of life that has attracted many people.

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