Benin Empire (everyday objects - Keys, Lamps, etc)

Jan 2018
39
Yopaw
#11
I'm really interested in the keys technology. I found this illustration on EgyptSearch that show how it works :



I might use it for a personal project, but I need the source, do one of you know where this illustration is from?

EDIT : I downloaded "Royal Art of Benin The Perls collection"

"Cat. no. 115 is a key, based on a European model..." p.231

But it's strange to me because the process doesn't look European at all, can someone explain it to me?
 
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Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,514
Benin City, Nigeria
#13
I'm really interested in the keys technology. I found this illustration on EgyptSearch that show how it works :



I might use it for a personal project, but I need the source, do one of you know where this illustration is from?

EDIT : I downloaded "Royal Art of Benin The Perls collection"

"Cat. no. 115 is a key, based on a European model..." p.231

But it's strange to me because the process doesn't look European at all, can someone explain it to me?
I haven't seen anything to suggest that particular item you've referred to is based on a European model. Some of the art books on Benin are a bit biased. There are certain things in such art books that I have noticed as having a bit of bias, but it would take me too long to compile and analyze all the somewhat biased statements I've come across in various books so I've put that off for now. Not that that particular book is especially biased against the people/culture, but as one reads multiple books on the art one will eventually run into such statements.

Since the art is mostly outside of Africa it is mostly going to be analyzed and studied by non-Africans.
 

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,514
Benin City, Nigeria
#14
I'm really interested in the keys technology. I found this illustration on EgyptSearch that show how it works :



I might use it for a personal project, but I need the source, do one of you know where this illustration is from?

EDIT : I downloaded "Royal Art of Benin The Perls collection"

"Cat. no. 115 is a key, based on a European model..." p.231

But it's strange to me because the process doesn't look European at all, can someone explain it to me?
That particular image is from the Frobenius Institute's image archive:



Here is the same image, but without the watermark removed:



As NathVVV stated, the original source of the drawing is H. Ling Roth's 1903 book. The writing at the top right of the image indicates that it is derived from the drawing in Roth's book. There are a few other images in the Frobenius Institute's image archive that are just redrawings of images from Roth's book.
 

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,514
Benin City, Nigeria
#15
It's from the p.189 of "Great Benin: Its Customs, Art and Horrors"

Interesting that after pretty much all of the better architecture that was remaining was destroyed only recently in the invasion, some "scholars" (H. Ling Roth) or "experts" (Cyril Punch) then started trying to define what the architecture was or was not yet did not even ask any of the people of the Benin kingdom to provide any information about the architecture or ask them to try to draw or sculpt any representative models based on recent memory and tradition. Unbelievably stupid.

The "turrets" or "pyramids" were not gables, and of course Cyril Punch (quoted in the above image) could have asked around for descriptions, and asked people to make drawings or models, but he either couldn't be bothered to make the effort or was not bright enough to realize that that would have been the sensible thing to do if one is going to contribute to a book which discusses the architecture. The section on architecture in this book (Great Benin) is almost worthless.

It speaks to how little effort was made to preserve or gather any information about the architecture (despite some praise for specific buildings even by the invaders) by the British officials and also the earliest (pre-1950s) "scholars" and "experts", that the most important photographs of ruins of the architecture (which were published in a 1919 book by Felix von Luschan) were actually a few photos taken by a German businessman who just happened to be in the area (southern Nigeria) at the time for business reasons and decided to look around a bit in Benin after the British conquest.

The other major negative aspect is that the book is largely a mixture of useful information and slander, denunciation, and ignorant speculation, with the slander occupying a particularly prominent place. Namely, the "horrors". The "horrors" were mostly executions of criminals or of people commiting treason or acts against the state, and some other "horrors" were just common burial grounds for poorer people that had emerged after decades of civil war within the kingdom.

Unfortunately as a resource H. Ling Roth's book is mediocre at best. It could have been much more useful as a source of information if he or any of his collaborators were much more competent or were less antagonistic toward the subject they were writing about, but unfortunately they were not.
 
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Jul 2013
85
Canada
#16
Interesting that after pretty much all of the better architecture that was remaining was destroyed only recently in the invasion, some "scholars" (H. Ling Roth) or "experts" (Cyril Punch) then started trying to define what the architecture was or was not yet did not even ask any of the people of the Benin kingdom to provide any information about the architecture or ask them to try to draw or sculpt any representative models based on recent memory and tradition. Unbelievably stupid.

The "turrets" or "pyramids" were not gables, and of course Cyril Punch (quoted in the above image) could have asked around for descriptions, and asked people to make drawings or models, but he either couldn't be bothered to make the effort or was not bright enough to realize that that would have been the sensible thing to do if one is going to contribute to a book which discusses the architecture. The section on architecture in this book (Great Benin) is almost worthless.

It speaks to how little effort was made to preserve or gather any information about the architecture (despite some praise for specific buildings even by the invaders) by the British officials and also the earliest (pre-1950s) "scholars" and "experts", that the most important photographs of ruins of the architecture (which were published in a 1919 book by Felix von Luschan) were actually a few photos taken by a German businessman who just happened to be in the area (southern Nigeria) at the time for business reasons and decided to look around a bit in Benin after the British conquest.

The other major negative aspect is that the book is largely a mixture of useful information and slander, denunciation, and ignorant speculation, with the slander occupying a particularly prominent place. Namely, the "horrors". The "horrors" were mostly executions of criminals or of people commiting treason or acts against the state, and some other "horrors" were just common burial grounds for poorer people that had emerged after decades of civil war within the kingdom.

Unfortunately as a resource H. Ling Roth's book is mediocre at best. It could have been much more useful as a source of information if he or any of his collaborators were much more competent or were less antagonistic toward the subject they were writing about, but unfortunately they were not.
That's a very accurate review of the book. I have it too, and I thought pretty much the same as you when I read it.

The most valuable part of the book is the high volume of pictures that give us an idea of what ancient Benin was like. Especially pictures of their material culture. Besides their famous artwork of course, their household objects were so sophisticated and beautifully made.

P.S. The edoworld.net website you posted earlier is an extremely helpful resource on ancient Benin. Written, I presume, by their descendants, which is nice for a change, instead of written by outsiders. I found it a short while ago and I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more.
http://www.edoworld.net/Benin_Kingdom_1.html
 
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Jan 2018
39
Yopaw
#17
The other major negative aspect is that the book is largely a mixture of useful information and slander, denunciation, and ignorant speculation, with the slander occupying a particularly prominent place. Namely, the "horrors". The "horrors" were mostly executions of criminals or of people commiting treason or acts against the state, and some other "horrors" were just common burial grounds for poorer people that had emerged after decades of civil war within the kingdom.
Sorry, but you're trying to minimize the horrors. In Benin, human sacrifices were a daily routine.

The one lasting remembrance of Benin in my mind is its smells. Crucifixions, human sacrifices, and every horror the eye could get accustomed to, to a large extent, but the smells no white man's internal economy could stand. Four times in one day I was practically sick from them, and many more times on the point of being so. Every person who was able, I should say, indulged in a human sacrifice, and those who could not, sacrificed some animal and left the remains in front of his house. After a day or so the whole town seemed one huge pest-house.
Extract from A DIARY OF A SURGEON WITH THE BENIN PUNITIVE EXPEDITION'
By FELIX N. ROTH, M.R.C.S., and L.R.C.P.

Benin City, February 19th.—We are now settled down in the above place. It is a misnomer to call it a city; it is a charnel-house.

In the king's compound, on a raised platform or altar, running the whole breadth of each, beautiful idols were found. All of them were caked over with human blood, and by giving them a slight tap, crusts of blood would, as it were, fly off. Lying about were big bronze heads, dozens in a row, with holes at the top, in which immense carved ivory tusks were fixed. One can form no idea of the impression it made on us.

The whole place reeked of blood. Fresh blood was dripping off the figures and altars (months afterwards, when we broke up these long altars, we found that they contained human bones). Most of the men are in good health, but these awful sights rather shattered their nerves.


The whole road is strewn with dead, crucified and beheaded bodies in all states of decomposition, most of them blown out to double their size by the strong rays of the sun. Ajuma's house (a big chief), near here, was burnt, the natives only firing a few shots at us. The ju-ju houses were also destroyed. We buried our dead to-day. Captain Byrne is better, but there seems very little hope for him. Three hundred yards past the king's compound the broad road which passes through Benin City is covered with bodies, skulls, bones, etc., most of the bodies being headless.
I don't see how you can call this "common burial grounds for poorer people that had emerged after decades of civil war within the kingdom" and "execution of criminals".
 

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,514
Benin City, Nigeria
#18
Sorry, but you're trying to minimize the horrors. In Benin, human sacrifices were a daily routine.
No, they weren't and I'm not minimizing anything. Maybe try reading something other than propaganda. Take for example this claim:

"The one lasting remembrance of Benin in my mind is its smells. Crucifixions, human sacrifices, and every horror the eye could get accustomed to, to a large extent, but the smells no white man's internal economy could stand. Four times in one day I was practically sick from them, and many more times on the point of being so. Every person who was able, I should say, indulged in a human sacrifice, and those who could not, sacrificed some animal and left the remains in front of his house. After a day or so the whole town seemed one huge pest-house."

"Every person who was able" engaged in a human sacrifice, when only the king could allow people to be executed, and when mostly criminals were killed (according to European sources)? Because Felix Roth, who knew absolutely nothing about the place, said so? The whole notion is ridiculous and Felix Roth never saw any sacrifice occur since he was just a medical assistant who arrived in the capital city after the British soldiers had taken it. That he could construct such a detailed fantasy/distortion about the nature of something he never saw being carried out and absolutely could not have seen is an incredible testament to his bias, and also his dishonesty.

As for "sacrificing some animal and leaving the remains in front of his house", it is not plausible even if we go by other accounts even from the 19th century, which do not describe that practice at all, though some of these descriptions do mention animal sacrifices and altars at which these animals were sacrificed. Also, it is strange to read a British account complaining about the smells considering that their capital (London) smelled like literal human excrement at multiple times in the 19th century. The "Great Stink" and multiple similar events in London, where the city of London actually smelled like feces mixed with garbage, are the smells that their "internal economy" could bear? Not to mention all the filth in the Thames and in the slums of the city, and the frequent cholera outbreaks in London caused by the lack of cleanliness. People were literally dying in their capital because of how much of a pigsty the city was.

I don't see how you can call this "common burial grounds for poorer people that had emerged after decades of civil war within the kingdom" and "execution of criminals".
You are confused. I am not speculating at all. The issue of the common burial grounds has been discussed in multiple articles and also in reports by European visitors, and ironically, is actually mentioned at least once in that book by H. Ling Roth, where a visitor makes note of the practice of poorer people's remains sometimes being practically "thrown away into the bush" upon their death; this description is from a time when the state was in a period of decline following a civil war. Earlier accounts do not mention such a practice however.

The altars containing human bones that your quote describes were literally graves/tombs, of nobles. J.F. Landolphe described the tombs-in-walls practice for nobles in the late 18th century, and in fact Landophe's quote about the way nobles were buried in walls of altars in their houses is included in that book by Henry Ling Roth. Some of the British officers that looted these graves actually noted how a lot of the loot that they took from Benin was found in the walls alongside those human bones. It is incredible that, even though his brother's own book (H. Ling Roth's book) contains a quote from Landolphe's memoirs which explains that the graves in the walls with their altars were tombs of important people that had died (not human sacrifices), Felix Roth tried to portray them as "horrors". That is how incredibly extreme the propaganda and bias of the book is - mere graves and tombs become "horrors" in the slant given by Roth and his collaborators, even when material refuting that notion is contained within some of the quotes from the book itself.

And the references to the sacrifices mostly being executions of criminals are from European sources, which I guess you are not aware of. Some of them are quoted here:

https://www.persee.fr/doc/cea_0008-0055_1965_num_5_18_3035

Though there are other mentions of the execution of criminals besides the ones quoted in that article. The state did not kill many actual innocents in human sacrifices at all, and voluntary self-sacrifice sometimes occurred, though there are only a few mentions of these so they were probably much rarer than the execution of criminals and treasonous individuals. Also, European visitors before the late 19th century British invaders often praised Benin's laws, orderliness, its people's sense of justice, and the overall goodness of the people on multiple occasions. This wouldn't have been the case if the picture that the Roths were trying to paint was any sort of reality.

I don't usually like citing the article by Graham, so I avoid doing so when I do not have to, but it is something that is easily accessible to read online, unlike most sources on Benin, so that is why I posted a link to it. The only real issue I have with it is that it contains one incorrect statement: its statement that Olfert Dapper's account of Benin City's buildings was "idealized", while David van Nyendael's was more realistic, when the truth is that van Nyendael, who never saw the best of the capital city's architecture because of the circumstances of his visit (after a civil war that greatly affected the capital city) was actually the one in error, as another slightly later European visitor to Benin (who was actually English - an Englishman that Ludwig Roemer spoke to about Benin) noticed, and which he criticized van Nyendael very strongly for. But despite that significant error, Graham's article is a useful partial corrective to the British propaganda (along with Alan Ryder's book, which addresses the sacrifice claims as well and has a much better discussion of the slave trade, and a few other sources besides these).

Also, being criticized by 19th century British imperialists for "horrors" and "atrocities", is somewhat strange in itself, considering the horrors carried out by that regime. A state which committed multiple genocidal acts (as I've mentioned elsewhere) and human experimentation, and whose soldiers were collecting human skulls as war trophies from around the world. Just pure self delusion on their part.

I don't get why so many of your posts on the forum so far just seem to be various forms of propaganda. Almost all of your posts are along these same lines.
 
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Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,514
Benin City, Nigeria
#19
I see that the first quote is actually from Reginald H. Bacon's book (which I had forgotten about), but he didn't and couldn't have seen any sacrifice either, and my point about the "everyone who was able" nonsense still stands. Bacon's propaganda is sometimes included in editions of the book Heart of Darkness by Conrad, so it gets a pretty wide reach.
 
Jan 2018
39
Yopaw
#20
Thank you. The wikipedia article might need some corrections.

Because Felix Roth, who knew absolutely nothing about the place, said so? The whole notion is ridiculous and Felix Roth never saw any sacrifice occur since he was just a medical assistant who arrived in the capital city after the British soldiers had taken it.
Why not? They could've done human sacrifices during the British occupation, that Felix recorded when he was there as a medical assistant.

And the references to the sacrifices mostly being executions of criminals are from European sources, which I guess you are not aware of. Some of them are quoted here:

https://www.persee.fr/doc/cea_0008-0055_1965_num_5_18_3035
Thank you for this paper.

Also, being criticized by 19th century British imperialists for "horrors" and "atrocities", is somewhat strange in itself, considering the horrors carried out by that regime
Eurocentrism is a problem in history. Mass murderers like the British, Leopold, Vlad the Impaler and the Romans will be considered "civilized" and the natives "savage". When those people were extremely sadic and savage in their behavior, especially the Romans, who are sadic from their mythology to their methods of executions.