The Art of Benin

Front Cover
British Museum Press, 2010 - Art - 144 pages
When the Portuguese made the first European contact with the west African kingdom of Benin in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, the kingdom was experiencing a golden age. Its authority on the Guinea Coast was expanding through military conquests, and during the sixteenth century it became a leading power in the region and a major trade partner for European merchants. Benin remained an influential independent state and a major political and economic power on the coast, though with periods of both decline and prosperity, until its conquest by the British in 1897. The arrival in Europe of the treasures from Benin produced an enormous sensation, causing a re-evaluation of and new appreciation for African art. This sumptuous photographic book showcases a series of specially taken photographs of key pieces in the British Museums collection. It opens with an introduction to the kingdom, court and culture of Benin, which is followed by thematic sections including kingship, ceremony, women, Europeans, and animals. Throughout, stunning photographs of the works are featured alongside close-up details.

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About the author (2010)

Nigel Barley was born south of London in 1947. After taking a degree in modern languages at Cambridge, he gained a doctorate in anthropology at Oxford. Barley originally trained as an anthropologist and worked in West Africa, spending time with the Dowayo people of North Cameroon. He survived to move to the Ethnography Department of the British Museum and it was in this connection that he first travelled to Southeast Asia. After forrays into Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan and Burma, Barley settled on Indonesia as his principal research interest and has worked on both the history and contemporary culture of that area. After escaping from the museum, he is now a writer and broadcaster and divides his time between London and Indonesia

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