Francis Ikegobo Essay

Submitted By jeffreytorres1993
Words: 526
Pages: 3

A region oft overlooked in the annals of history due to regional instability and until relatively recently popular prejudice is the continent of Africa. Africa has come to be agreed upon as the birthplace of Homo Sapiens and arguably the most ethnically diverse continent on the planet. There is a popular misconception held that Africans never made it past hunter gathering societies yet artifacts such as the Ikegobo clearly show the truth is otherwise. The political and spiritual achievements of the West African kingdom of Benin can be seen quite clearly in the Ikegobo (Hand Alter).
The first element of Benin society that may be extrapolated from this 18th century bronze casting (Ikegobo, “Hand Alter” ) is the political system by which Benin society was run. Using composition, size, and action the artist places the center of emphasis directly on one figure, the Oba or king. He wields two power objects and is the largest figure in the frieze, all others are meant to compliment him. He wears an ornate headdress likely made with coral (which was available due to European trade) and all other figures appear to either attend to or guard him submitting to his authority. The Oba is so revered he is represented twice in both central positions in the cylindrical artifact. The centrality of the Oba in the Hand Alter is analogous to the king’s centrality in Benin’s government and society. He was likely viewed with near godlike reverence and his word seen as absolute. It may be surmised that this Ikegobo was commissioned by a king due to the bronze used to create it. Bronze was directly regulated by the king and was viewed in Benin society as a rare and regal metal reserved for artworks giving praise to the king. Unlike other figures in the frieze, the oba has a head and torso of nearly the same proportions; this of course is not a realistic depiction but a symbolic distortion used to show the attributes Benin