This online gallery explores the rare West African works of Art donated to the MFA by Robert Owen Lehman in 2012.
This lesson explores rare Western African works of Art donated to the MFA by Robert Owen Lehman in 2012. Located in present-day southern Nigeria, the history of the Edo peoples of the Benin Kingdom goes back to the late 12th century. Much of the art in this gallery was created for the Benin royal court, often to commemorate the oba, ruler of the Benin kingdom. Most of the pieces are made of copper alloy and crafted using the lost-wax casting technique. Viewing the different objects in this gallery, one can learn about the artistic, cultural, social and political history of the Benin kingdom and how art was used to celebrate cultural traditions and commemorate the royal court.
In exploring this lesson, students will:
- Consider the common images and themes utilized in the bronze sculptures of the Benin Kingdom
- Discover how the bronze sculptures depict the history of the Benin Kingdom
This discovery will require students to:
- Look closely and make observations about the sculptures
- Form opinions grounded in visual evidence from their observations of the sculptures
Using this Resource:
- Social studies teachers and students will be interested in the religions, history, politics, economics, values, and family structures of the Benin Kingdom that are depicted in this online gallery.
- Visual arts teachers and students will be interested in the lost wax-casting technique that was used in the creation of the bronzes in this online gallery.
For sample related classroom activities, download the PDFs available under Related Resources.
The objects in this lesson are just a beginning. We encourage you to explore the Museum's online collection through this web source -- or even better, to visit the Museum and walk through the physical galleries -- to look for other objects that will provide further insights into the Benin Kingdom.