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Benin. The Natural World. What‘s Happening?. Geographical Location of Benin (Where is it?) The Natural World of Benin (as seen through Benin Art) Animals of Benin Symbolic Functional Conclusion . Where is Benin?.

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Benin

Benin

The Natural World


What s happening

What‘s Happening?

  • Geographical Location of Benin (Where is it?)

  • The Natural World of Benin (as seen through Benin Art)

  • Animals of Benin

    • Symbolic

    • Functional

  • Conclusion


Where is benin

Where is Benin?

Located almost wholly within what is now Nigeria, the Benin Kingdom at its peak stretched from Lagos in the west, along the coast of Nigeria to the River Niger in the east and area that equates to about a fifth of Nigeria's current geographic area.

Land size~ 810km2

Benin is in southern Nigeria, which is equatorial.

There are jungles, which will explain the presence of many animals, such as leopards


The natural world as seen through art

The Natural World as seen through Art

  • Animalistic art is a very important part of many cultures in the world.

  • In Benin culture, Nature, especially animals, had significant roles in the lives of humans, and was depicted in many forms of Benin Art

  • The people of Benin respected the powers of nature around them, especially the animals, many of which represented the powers of the Gods and the Gods themselves.


Animals in benin as seen through art

Animals in Benin as seen through Art

  • In Benin, many animals are symbols of deities or cults. Some represent the power of the Oba (King). The objects from Benin found in museums today feature images of fish, snakes, leopards, and crocodiles. They are not just on plaques but on bracelets and other objects too.


Animalistic art in benin

Animalistic art in Benin

  • We have divided common animals in Benin into 2 groups, the symbolic and the functional.

  • The animals in the symbolic group are commonly present in many forms of Benin art and are said to have supernatural powers and often represent the Gods, especially Oba.

  • The functional animals have less significance with respect to the Gods, and are used mainly for work.


Benin

ANIMALISTIC ART


Leopard

Leopard

  • Appears most frequently among the animals depicted on many pieces of Benin art such as plaques and breastplates

  • In Benin cosmology, as the King of the forest, the leopard, is a symbol of royal power

  • It was seen as terrifying and ferocious, but also as cunning and intelligent

  • As king of the forest, its reputation was as great as that of the Oba

  • The leopard symbolises complete harmony between two compelling forces- the menacing and the moderating- that Oba has (should have)The Oba was also called Child of the Home Leopard and is described in a song as “Leopard, King of the World” 


However

However…

  • In the seventeenth century the Oba kept tame leopards that he led about in chains when he paraded through the city. This showed his power and domination over the ‘King of the Bush’.

  • Killing the Leopard was one of the Oba’s privileges

  • At one time leopards were sacrificed to ensure the well-being of the kingdom

  • Leopards’ teeth and skin were thought to offer protection in battle


Leopards in art

Leopards in art

  • Leopard Hip Pendant

  • ~ 18th Century

  • Cast brass with copper inlay

  • Leopard hip ornaments were bestowed on the Oba's military chiefs as badges of honor. The symbol provided protection to the wearer, while announcing the Oba's omnipresence. It also gave the wearer the authority to act in the king's name.


Snakes

Snakes

  • Depictions of the snake are visually omnipresent in Benin Art, whether in the form of jewellery for the Oba or as decorative motifs on pots, medicine staffs and ivory tusks.

  • Snakes are links between the powers of the sky (Osanabua) and earth (Oba)

  • The snake is a symbol of the vertical axis connecting earth with the realm of spirits

  • The rainbow is said to be a python, joining the sky and the Earth, a reminder of the ladder on which the Creator God, Osanobua, descended to Earth when he made Benin.


Benin

  • The snake is at home both in the realm of the waters (Olokun) and the Land (Oba), and is thus a symbol of a bridge between them.

  • Together with the crocodile, the snake is most closely related to Olokun, the God of water, to whom he serves as a messenger and playmate

  • The python especially, is a symbol of Olokun. It is said that pythons are sent by Olokun to punish wrongdoing.


Benin

Fish

  • The number of fish depicted on plaques, bases of heads, altars and carved ivory pieces are almost too numerous to count

  • However, despite several variations, they are usually of the same species, catfish or mudfish.

  • The mudfish is a symbol of peace, prosperity, and fertility. Because the mudfish lives close to the riverbank it symbolizes the Oba’s position between mortal men (on the land) and the spirit world of Olokun, god of the water.

  • The Edo greatly values mudfish as the strongest, most robust and tastiest of all fish.


Benin

  • Oba Ohen had mudfish for his legs to cover a deformity when his legs were paralysed at age of 25.


Crocodile

Crocodile

  • Crocodiles were used as a symbol of protection in many pieces of Benin art, especially the equipment of warriors

  • Crocodiles are called the ‘policemen of the waters’ and Olokun sent crocodiles to punish the wicked as the crocodile is feared for its ferocity.

  • As the crocodile can live in both land and water, it was associated with One of the Gods of the water, Olokun, who was identified with water, wealth, beauty and fertility.

  • A crocodile is able to transform himself into a human being

  • Important leaders of Benin appeared as crocodiles in Benin so that they could be born as humans.


Benin

  • The head of the crocodile is the source of wisdom and organizational talent

  • A particularly striking figure of a crocodile with human arms is another symbol of the Olokun and the Oba.


Birds

Birds

  • Birds, especially a kind of ibis, appears on plaques and medicine staffs

  • The figure of a bird perched atop the Oba’s palace is viewed generally as a symbol of the constant fight between good and evil- the confrontation between daylight and the darkness of night

  • The Ibis-like bird serves as a reminder of King Esigie’s victory over the Igala at the beginning of the sixteenth century.


Benin

  • As King Esegie and his warriors were going to battle, they heard the "bird of prophecy," whose cry signals disaster. The king was not afraid and ordered the bird to be killed and his army went on to a great victory.

  • After that, Esigie commissioned his royal metalcasters to create clappers surmounted by the "bird of prophecy." He decreed that his chiefs should sound them at court ceremonies to celebrate the oba's divine nature, which enables him to protect his people


Benin

  • Hand-Held Clapper with Bird of Prophecy (ahianmwen-oro),

  • 9th Century

  • Cast copper alloy

  • Benin clapper is played by striking the bird on its beak with a metal rod.

  • Typically, the bird has a long curved beak in which it grasps a round pellet, perhaps of medicine or magical substances.

  • According to myths, such clappers were first made as a remembrance of King Esegie’s defeat over a powerful enemy.


The cockerel

The Cockerel

  • It was a part of the altars of the Queen Mothers.

  • The Queen Mother had many male privileges and powers, such as her own palace and Personnel, which explains why the Queen Mother had a male symbol

  • Cockerel was supposed to have been a guardian spirit and a kind of spy in the earlier Ogiso dynasty.

  • Large sharp spurs indicate the strength and superiority of the male animal

  • There is a suggestion that the cockerel can be linked with the Oba’s eldest wife Eson.


Conclusion

Conclusion

  • Animals were an important part of Benin culture and were often associated with the powers of the Gods. Because Benin was surrounded by tropical jungles, the common animals represented were leopards, crocodiles, snakes, birds and fish.

  • The people of Benin, as with many old cultures, respected the powers of nature so much that they had a great fear of it. This explains the great significance of animalistic art in Benin.

  • Benin Art has had a great influence on modern animalistic art, and is thus an important part of world heritage, especially in relation to art.


The end

THE END


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