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Benin Art of Ancient Nigeria

By Eno Louis Enobkhare

For once, here is a product from Nigeria that has no negative connotations and we are arguing about who said what and who went where. The article by Appolos, Oziogu is well put together. However, there are flaws here and there which ought to be addressed. First and foremost, the Bini people did not settle at Ife but there was a contact with Ife through the son of the last Ogiso. These topic I will not delve into in this article. We can not dwell in the past forever even though as the late Bob Marley reasoned, “in this great future we can not forget the past” We know that the Bini kingdom produced and still produces master peices no doubt, but can we answer the following questions? Ekpu wrote that Igbo Ukwu had a tradition of bronze casting, what happened to it? Iguaghae is a Benin name, how could he have been sent to his home land? What is the future of Bronze casting? This last question is what all of us should put on the front burner, not who sent who or who started what.

The issue of the burial rite of a Bini Oba is a closely kept secret that Egharevba could not have had access to. We must support postulation with empirical evidence. The mobile phone was invented by Scandinavian, so that people in their mountainous rural areas could communicate with each other. My immediate senior brother’s company in California designs chips for Nokia. All that is now history.Has the whole world embrace it? Bronze casting has been accepted as a world class product, so let us move on from there. It must not go under like it probably did in Igbo Ukwu and Ife. The ancient art of bronze casting is gradually going into extinction in Benin. There are outcry about lack of patronage, lack of raw materials. This is making brothers rise up against one another. We all have a collective role in preventing this catastrophe.

It is not only by writing articles in newspapers and creating controversy that leads us nowhere. My friend Peavey from Erkron, Ohio once said “the only way you can attract a white man’s attraction is by placing a monetary value to a hat you are selling. We can sell Benin bronze works, so how can we protect it’s production? Luckily,these objects are like Italian shoes, it cannot be mass produced. It has to go through the displays wax process for it to be authentic. Igun street where this masters pieces are produced, supervised by a strict guild employs families about 200 of them. It is by and large their only means of lively hood. This is their contribution to the nation’s GDP income what may. They need to be protected, patronised, promoted and subsidised and of course, celebrated. For once, here is a product from Nigeria that has no negative connotations and we are arguing about who said what and who went where.

Nigeria oil is not Ogoni oil and so is bronze casting. In more organised climes, Igun street will be a federal territory. All children from there will be on scholarship and study marketing skill in higher institutions to march their inherited skills. With a Minister of Culture, Mr Edem Duke, who seems to know his onions, we might get some results. The Edo Bronze Festival must be put in the calendar of festivals of Nigeria. This festival makes more sense than some heavily financed festivals that comes and goes without adding any value to our culture and traditions. The last 5 editions of the Bronze festival highlighted our potentials as a sophisticated people being debated on tweeter and face book, which let to the cancellation of an auction of a Benin bronze object by sothebys. “This is neat as Americans, will say.”

All government cultural agencies,private sector and enthusiasts, should please join hands with us to move this world class product forward. The corporate affairs Gtbank for instance, even after the demise of it’s boss, Mr. Tayo Aderinokun, a great outlaw, is still proud to associate with  the sponsorship of the Edo Bronze Festival.

One comment on “Benin Art of Ancient Nigeria

  1. Nice job here Louis. Thanks for the focus on the lost wax technique and regional history. The people of Akwa (now Anambra State) are said to be from Igun Street. As Edo customary history would suggest, they also are metal workers and it is said in our tradition that people from Akwa have “free rein” in Benin, i.e. They are free men, not to be harrassed as strangers

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