|Type of Object||
Bronze Leopard Statue
|Country of Origin||
African Benin Bronze Leopard 6″ – Nigeria
About the Benin People
The people living in the Benin kingdom are a mixture of many cultures. Originally, the Edo people, who inhabited the area, became displeased with their ruler and invited an Ife prince to rule instead. The son of the Ife prince became the first Oba (king) of Benin, but local chiefs still had ultimate control to make decisions. In the late 13th century, Oba Ewedo would be the first king to assert his power and display absolute authority.
In the 15th century, the kingdom of Benin was expanded to a large empire under the rule of Ewuare the Great. He ordered giant walls and moats to be constructed to surround his palace. These walls, later unearthed, were estimated that it would have taken a workforce of 1000, working 7 days a week, 10-hour days, about 5 dry seasons to complete. A huge, fanatical task.
The Benin empire continued until the late 1800’s, when the British invaded, captured and burned Benin City, known as the British Expedition.
In 1897, an army of British soldiers raided Benin City in retaliation of a previous battle in which all but 2 men had perished. They burned homes, religious buildings and palaces. The city’s walls, estimated to be four times longer in total than the Great Wall of China, was left in ruins. Once the British secured the city, they began looting. Over 2500 religious artifacts and pieces of art were sent to England. They began auctioning off the artwork to cover the war expenses, some spreading to European museums while others have been lost forever.
Read more about the Benin here.
About the Leopard Statue
Leopards are among the most frequently depicted animals in Benin art and was solely owned by the Oba. The leopard became the royal symbol of authority and strength. In older times, the Oba would have leopards captured and have them roam and guard the palace. Military officials were often given brass pendants portraying leopard heads to offer protection during battle. These would be given by the Oba and would also served as a symbol of their high status in the royal guard.
Having been made using the “lost wax” method, where the wax is lost during the process, each item is different and therefore you can conclude that you would never find the same one twice.
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