Sight, sound of Benin sculptures in picture


The historical city of Benin, Edo State, is widely known for its art – Bronze plaques and sculptures. The bronzes, which were looted during the British punitive expedition of 1897, can now be seen in museum collections in Britain, Europe and America, making it about the most popular art culture and tradition in the country.

But that is not what has made the visual art landscape popular. Being a society that has a strong culture, the pulsating beats of art can be felt on the street. The landscape is dotted by art.

Art in ancient and present-day Benin is a way of life, an instrument used in articulating its peoples’ values, vision and voice. Highly conscious of their heritage, the locals in Benin never miss an opportunity to promote and talk about their culture, either through informal conversations over beer and pepper soup or through visual interpretations in the form of art.

The Benin artworks are robust, realistic and reflect the historical journey of the city state —- Being a society whose culture was not diluted by Western or Eastern ways, it was a model of pure traditional African society until the 1897 British punitive expedition led by Captain Harry Gallwey that resulted in the sacking of the entire Benin Empire.

So, as part of activities lined up for this year’s National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST) holding in Benin City, Edo State, a photo show that is living up to the objectives for which the festival was created, including deepening unity among Nigerians, is holding through the period of the festival.

With Images of Some Outdoor Sculptures in Benin, as theme, the exhibition, mounted by the Ministry of Arts, Culture, Tourism and Diaspora Affairs of Edo State in collaboration with National Gallery of Arts, takes visitors through a visual excursion spanning generations.

The exhibition showcases the rich visual art of the Benin people from the precolonial times when the empire was at its peak to the contemporary time, showing works that are executed in diverse media like bronze, brass, wood and concrete.

From John Danford’s bronze of Emotan (1954) to Greg Agnonkhoko’s Heritage, concrete (1993), the history of the kingdom resonated in colourful images. The 35 works told the story of Benin.

Oba Akenzua II, fibre glass, 2000, by Victor Uwaifo finds the oba in his royal stool. There is also the image of oba in session by David Omonhimin, concrete, which is located at the Edo State House of Assembly.

Consul Phillips, fibre glass, a Benin centenary collection , 1997, also reminds a visitor to the bitter history of the kingdom, when there was a punitive expedition.

Chief Obaseki, fibre glass, 1997, by Omodiamwen, which is part of the Benin Centenary Collection also stands striking at the stand. The Benin massacre of 1897 also resonate in Asoro, concrete, 1988, by Belli Kuranga, that is located at the Sakponba junction.

Also is Chief Ologbosere, fibre glass,1997 by Leo Oransanye, which is located in Benin Centenary. Harry Gallwell, fibre glass, 1997, is equally located in Benin Centenary. Leo Oransanye also has Oba Ozolua with his Emuada and (sword bearer), concrete.

Oba Square ‘N’ Ogidigan with Ossan and Osuan, concrete by Leo Oransanye, Oba isigie receiving Alphonso D’ Aviero, concrete, 2009, by Leo Oransanye, and Muen Muen,concrete, by Lawrence Omoregie, in Third Junction. Lawrence Omoregie also has Oba’s daughter, fibre glass, 1997, a part of Centenary collection.
Oba Ovonramwen, brass, is equally on the show, as well as his trial by Victor Uwaifo, titled, Trial of Oba Ovonramwen, fibre glass, 1997.

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