Art, Performance and Ritual in Benin City

Art, Performance and Ritual in Benin City

CHARLES GORE
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3366/j.ctt1r2ccp
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  • Book Info
    Art, Performance and Ritual in Benin City
    Book Description:

    An ethnography and investigation into performance art in Benin City, Nigeria.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-3318-0
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. vi-vii)
  4. Frontispiece
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-8)

    This study shifts the focus of attention from the world-famous royal art associated with the Edo kingdom, most notably ‘the Benin bronzes’, to the art traditions produced by the local Edo religion which underpins the legitmacy and power of kingship. Up to now researchers have made concerted efforts to study and understand the royal court art. A consequence has been the marginalisation of other art traditions in Benin City and the wider kingdom. This book is a study of the art of urban contemporary shrines and the creative processes by which they are realised, visually and in performance. Fundamental to...

  6. 1 HISTORY, ART HISTORY AND THE EDO KINGDOM
    (pp. 9-30)

    Much of what is known about the history of the Edo kingdom is dependent on European records from the fifteenth century onwards and Edo oral traditions documented in the twentieth century. Art, perceived for the most part as artefacts, was not of interest to European travellers except in terms of trade goods to be exchanged. The one notable exception was ivory carving in the form of decorated salt cellars, spoons and other articles commissioned by the Portuguese from artists in the Edo kingdom and other areas of the Guinea coast, such as Sierra Leone, as well as the central African...

  7. 2 SHRINES AND DEITIES
    (pp. 31-46)

    Having flagged the importance oferinmwin(spirit world) in conceptualising kingship, personhood and agency at the end of the last chapter, we now examine the ways in which shrines feature in configuring this metaphysical domain. Many, but not all, spiritual agencies are identified and defined through the different kinds of shrines. At a more general level this range of shrines maps some of the complex ways in whicherinmwinis delineated. Furthermore, individuals place themselves in particular relationships through the concrete materiality of shrines and their associated artefacts, linking the individual to this metaphysical world; also, by the same means,...

  8. 3 PRIESTS AND SHRINES
    (pp. 47-73)

    Kingship in the Edo kingdom is constituted through the office and person of theObaof Benin through whom a relationship is set up toerinmwin(the spirit world) with theObastanding as a unique figure on behalf of the entire Edo kingdom. However it is not only theObawho finds his authority located and legitimated inerinmwin. This domain of the dead is in fact accessed by a great and varied number of ritual practitioners. It is to one class of these practitioners that I now turn.

    The wordohenis used in the Edo language to...

  9. Colour plates
    (pp. None)
  10. 4 THE LIFE HISTORIES OF SOME OHENS
    (pp. 74-103)

    The previous chapter considered the institutional means by which individuals become full-timeohens, whereas this chapter focuses on the particular trajectories through which individuals realise these aims. Having sketched out some of the institutional organisation of urban contemporary shrines, I explore through biography how these individuals both use and enable the fluidity and flexibility of institutional frameworks. These are creatively developed and adapted by charismaticohens over time and in response to changing personal circumstances and wider social conditions. Individual biographies are described as presented by theseohens in interviews throughout the period of fieldwork and by observer participation in...

  11. 5 ARTISTS AND ARTWORLDS
    (pp. 104-133)

    This chapter explores the biographies of some artists working in the different art worlds of Benin City, highlighting some of the forms of patronage, the processes of commissioning at urban shrines and the possibilities available to artists. As there are different art worlds, salient aspects are described before the presentation of the biographies in order to bring out more clearly some of the social contexts in which these art worlds are situated. Artists’ relationships to the shrines vary along a continuum from active participant to detached producer of a required artwork made in exchange for commercial payment. We shall also...

  12. 6 SONGS FOR THE GODS
    (pp. 134-156)

    Artefacts are central to the practice ofohens. They and the shrine itself are traces of these practices and embody the ideas implicit in them, as do the medicines made to assist clients and devotees. Artefacts are also intrinsic to performance at shrines. There a variety of ways in which they feature in performance that include the dress and ornaments worn byohens and devotees, the use of certain artefacts in enabling the particular identities of devotees, titleholders, and/or theohen(such as a titleholder carrying a paddle to assist Olokun reach the shrine as a form of mimesis) as...

  13. 7 THE PARROT’S TALE
    (pp. 157-178)

    The last chapter considered the role of song as part of the ideas and practices at contemporary urban shrine configurations. The contextual association of songs with artefacts raises the question of interrelationships between the verbal and visual. Both play an important part in the configuration of urban contemporary shrines, where songs and artefacts are interdependent while retaining their own trajectories of ideas and practice (Gore 1998). Song provides verbal associations that offer one approach to understanding these artefacts in shrine configurations and the wider context of ideas and practices of which the artefacts are a part (Gombrich 1960; Picton 1986:...

  14. 8 ART HISTORY AND ARTEFACT
    (pp. 179-202)

    Having considered the present-day role of the popular local religion in the making of artefacts, it is now necessary to consider the more general implications of this subject. Ryder has suggested a useful categorisation of the various kinds of evidence that are useful in trying to understand the roles and trajectories of artefacts in the Edo kingdom. However, these four bodies of evidence pose complex problems in any approach to the construction of a history of the Edo kingdom and of its artefacts. Indeed these problems have framed and articulated approaches to both the pre-colonial Edo kingdom and its situation,...

  15. NOTES
    (pp. 203-213)
  16. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 214-220)
  17. REFERENCES
    (pp. 221-233)
  18. Black and white plates
    (pp. 234-243)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 244-248)