The Ancient West African City of Benin, A.D. 1300-1897

July 26, 1995 – May 31, 2004

National Museum of African Art
950 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC

Sublevel 1 Floor Plan

This reinstallation of 24 objects features the royal court of Benin (located in present-day Nigeria) as it existed before British colonial rule. Objects include several examples of the cast-copper alloy oba, beloved by Benin people to be a living god whose physical and spiritual good health ensured the well-being of the land. Other objects include images of kings and attendants in the form of cast-metal heads, figures, and architectural plaques; cast-copper alloy altar bell and a pendant of a European and horse; and an ivory spoon with bird. These objects reveal a culture that, although changed over time, continues today. In addition, a panel provides a basic description of the lost-wax casting process.