Detail of Oba, Benin plaque, MFA, Boston
How to impress your courtiers: a lesson from the Kingdom of Benin

Benin Plaques

Little was known of the Ife civilization—that is until seventeen cast bronze heads were found by chance.

Ife uncovered

Benin’s brass-casting tradition combined West African smelting techniques with imported brass from Europe.

Benin and the Portuguese

Brass plaque showing the Oba of Benin with attendants, 16th century, 51 x 37 cm, Edo peoples, Benin, Nigeria © Trustees of the British Museum
The Benin bronzes created a stir, completely changing European understanding of African history.

The Kingdom of Benin

Uche Okeke, Owls, From the Oja Suite, 1962, ink on paper © The Estate of Uche Okeke (Newark Museum)
Nigerian independence inspired artists to develop a new national and artistic identity based on “natural synthesis.”

Uche Okeke

Ikenga (Igbo peoples)
These carved wooden figures have human faces but animal attributes, and reflected the achievements of their owners.

Ikenga (Igbo peoples)