Relief | ama

Relief plate, 16. - 17. Jahrhundert

About the object

This bronze high relief shows a noble dignitary holding a bird-shaped (ibis) staff in his left hand and a twig in his right. Using the lost-wax casting process, it was made as a commemoration of a victory won by the Benin army. In 1897, British troops destroyed the capital, Benin City, in what is now Nigeria, and looted several bronzes, which subsequently found their way into the collections of European museums via the open market.
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The bronze relief was made using the lost-wax casting method; it has been scrupulously cleaned, smoothed and polished. It depicts a noble dignitary in the three-quarter relief, recognisable by the hat with osprey feathers and coral necklace. Commemorating a victory of the Benin army under King Esigie, the figure is striking a bird-shaped idiophone (it is the unlucky anhianmwen'oro bird of prophesy) during the Ugie Oro ceremony. The background has been incised with foliate patterns or motifs referred to as ebe-ame or the »river-leaf« design: an aquatic plant related to the water deity Olokun. Made during the period stretching from the 16th to the beginning of the 18th century to commemorate high-ranking people, religious ceremonies or wars, the plates adorned the pillars of the Royal Palace in Benin. In 1897, the British launched its punitive Benin Expedition, which resulted in the destruction of the capital, Benin City, in what is now Nigeria, and the theft of more than a thousand works of art, which are among the most important from the African continent.

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