It was in the 15th century that the "Art and culture in Benin" reached its peak. This was prompted by the arrival of Portuguese that resulted to trading relations between the Europeans and the Benin. The influence of the Portuguese can be seen from the artwork from that time. Fabrics express the traditional art largely. For instance, in the Southern Benin, woven fabrics are a common sight; though it is in Northern Benin that you find high quality woven items.
This is as result of high-grade thread from Burkina
Faso used in the North. The artwork in
Benin includes a range of religious objects, masks, animal heads, busts,
figurines and other artifacts. These
illustrate cultural events and religious themes. They narrate events and
achievements which occurred then and were central to their livelihoods and
beliefs. Today one of the most common artifacts
is the ivory mask, which is based on Queen Idia. It is commonly known as Festac
mask. Ikegobo is another unique object to Benin Art.
It is a cylindrical votive object used to mark an
individual’s achievements. It was placed on the hand where wealth and success were
believed to originate. These objects were made of wood, brass, clay or
terracotta depending on the hierarchical ranking of the person. The other artistic expression in Benin
includes woodcarving, leather work, pottery and basketry. Benin Art Culture is
mainly a bronze culture; nevertheless, there exists use of other materials such
as Bamboo, Wood, Calabash and Canvas. A
brief description of bronze casting:
1. The artist moulds his work in wax. This provides an
outlet for melted metal.
2. He covers the wax core with powdered clay to cling tightly inside every depression.
3. He then applies heat; this drain wax off the mould.
4. He puts the metal inside a crucible, carefully sealing with clay.
5. Everything is put over open fire flames, the crucible at the bottom.
6. As the metal begins to melt, he turns the mould over with a pair of priers.
7. Melted bronze runs out into the hollow made by the wax.
8. The mould is broken when the metal cools.
9. The rough edges are made even using a chisel.
Benin culture is diverse making it an appealing feature in the country. The population in Benin is made up of over twenty sociocultural segments, each with different history, customs and language. Among the various groups friendship and hospitality is a common value. The Beninese are open minded and welcome strangers in warmth hence it is easy to engage in a conversation resulting in much information gain about "Art and Culture in Benin".
In the south, Fon and the Yoruba are the main sociocultural groups. Fon forms the dominant language though there are a lot of many more dialects such as Gun, Tori, Seto and Ayizo. In the North, the prominent cultural groups are the Dendi, the Bariba and the Betamaribe or Somba. The most significant and largest Bariba event is the Ganni festival held annually and is celebrated at Nikki. The Fulani, also called Pulah, are scattered throughout Northern Benin. Spiritual values are highly valued in Benin. The traditional Animism coexist together with Christianity (Protestant, Catholic and Evangelist) and Islam.
Heritage & Future