Peoples & Societies


Benin city in present-day Nigeria was the capital of the Benin kingdom, which was established around 900 C.E. and flourished until the end of the 17th century. The name of its capital city has caused some to refer to the kingdom and the art produced there as Benin. The people of this kingdom, however, called their land, language, and themselves Edo. Portuguese explorers arrived in the Benin kingdom at the end of the 15th century to find a vast kingdom ruled by a divine king. Copper alloy (brass or bronze) and ivory were the prestigious materials for art commissioned by the king for his regalia, palace, and shrines. The city-state was destroyed during the British Punitive Expedition of 1897.

Adapted from

Roslyn A. Walker, The Arts of Africa at the Dallas Museum of Art (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), 301.

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