Please forward this error screen to 88. The full complexity of these works can be appreciated only through the awareness and the art of mastery pdf of two complementary cultural perceptions of the art of Benin: the Western appreciation of them primarily as works of art, and their understanding in Benin as historical documents and as mnemonic devices to reconstruct history, or as ritual objects. This original significance is of great import in Benin. The royal arts of the Benin Kingdom of south-central Nigeria affirm the centrality of the oba, or divine king, portraying his divine nature.
While recording the kingdom’s significant historical events and the oba’s involvement with them, they also initiate the oba’s interactions with the supernatural and honor his deified ancestors, forging a continuity that is vital to the kingdom’s well-being. The materials used in Benin’s royal arts—primarily brass, ivory, and coral—are endowed with sacred power. The innate value of these materials within Benin and the time and skill that is invested in working them reflect the earthly and otherworldly influence of the oba and the great wealth of his kingdom. Benin’s royal arts belong to a tradition that favors convention even as it promotes creativity and innovation, especially as a reflection of royal prerogative. Through time, rulers have used the arts to interpret the history of the kingdom and to orient themselves with the past in an effort to support their own initiatives and define their images for posterity.
19th century, Benin art has been in existing since or at least the 13th century. A newly installed oba is responsible for creating an altar dedicated to his father, commissioning the appropriate objects to adorn it and activating it on a regular basis with sacrifices of food or animal blood. While bells and rattle staffs are placed on all ancestral altars, ivory tusks and commemorative brass heads are made specifically for royal altars. Associated with trade, ivory and brass are durable and valuable, and their colors—white like sacred kaolin clay and red like fire and coral beads—relate to royal power.
Before the British conquest, an oba’s courtyard was the focal point for rituals in his honor. British troops reported 18 altars dedicated to previous obas when they took possession of the palace in 1897. Today, all of the royal altars stand together in a single courtyard. The hand is associated with action and productivity, and is considered the source of wealth, status, and success for all those who depend on manual skill and physical strength. Altars of this kind are commissioned in terracotta, wood, or brass, depending on the status of the patron. They were used by the oba during the Emobo ceremony to drive away evil spirits.
Carved with the oba, supported by his military commander and his heir. Private and public ceremonies mark many of the important moments in Benin’s yearly calendar. In the past, an elaborate series of rites were performed throughout the year to secure otherworldly support for the kingdom’s well-being and to celebrate decisive events in its history. Igue includes a sequence of rituals that renew the oba’s supernatural powers and cleanse the kingdom’s unruly spirits.
Ugie Oro, celebrating Oba Esigie’s victory over the Idah Kingdom in the 16th century. Finely carved ivory double gongs are examples of art related to rituals at court. Typically, the central image is the oba in coral regalia supported by the high priests osa and osuan, officials who tend the altars of the kingdom’s two patron gods. These gongs are still carried today by the oba during Emobo, the last of the empowering rites of the Igue festival. The oba gently taps the ivory instrument, creating a rhythmic sound to calm and dismiss unruly spirits from the kingdom. This box, which is now in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum, was used to hold kola nuts presented to visitors in the royal court of Benin. Leopards are one of the most commonly portrayed animals in African art.