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Dimensions: L:13.4in W:4.3in D:19.7in
These bronze leopard sculptures were created by the Edo people of the ancient Kingdom of Benin in southern Nigeria and were placed on royal altars or used as royal water vessels. The leopard is a symbol of regal authority. In the early 14th century, the Benin Kingdom was established in what is now Southern Nigeria. This Kingdom is known for their bronze cast sculptures known as the Benin Bronzes, a group of sculptures dating from the late 13th or early 14th century that include elaborately decorated brass plaques, commemorative heads, animal and human figures, items of royal regalia, and personal ornaments.
About the Tribe
The Edo tribe, also referred to as the Bini people (derived from Benin), can be found in Edo State in the south of Nigeria, although they can also be found spread across the Delta, Ondo and Rivers states. The Edo/Bini-speaking ethnic groups include the Esan, the Afemai, the Isoko, the Urhobo among others. They are the descendants of the people who founded the ancient and mighty Kingdom of Benin which was founded around the year 900, but it reached the height of its power in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries as a result of the conquests of new territories by two kings —Oba Ewuare and his son Oba Ozolua (Oba means “king”). The Obas of Benin amassed great wealth by controlling trade routes reaching from the river Niger in the East to the western border with the kingdom of Dahomey. In Benin City, craft workers were organised into groups known as guilds. There were guilds for wood carvers, ivory carvers, leather workers, blacksmiths and weavers. Most important of all was the brass casters’ guild. They were only allowed to work for the Oba (king). The name Benin was derived from “Ubinu” which was used to describe the capital of the kingdom. But was then mispronounced by the Portuguese as “Bini” and then further to Benin around 1485 when the Portuguese began trade relations with Oba Ewuare who was the traditional ruler at the time.
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