MAf 34549

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Bronze plaque (ama)

Africa, Nigeria, former Kingdom of Benin



Hans Meyer (colonial geographer, publisher) purchased the bronze from the British ethnographic dealer William Downing Webster from 1898 onwards

Loaned by Meyer between 1900–1919, from 1929 permanent loan by Elisabeth Meyer, purchased from Meyer's heirs in 2001

MAf 34549

The chiefs of the Oba, the King, of Benin were divided in hierarchically ordered cadres – the Eghaevbonore and the Eghaevbonogbe. The Eghaevbonore were the administrators of the outlying districts outside of the Ogbe and oversaw the numerous districts, towns and villages. Amongst the Eghaevbonore members were the Iyase, the prime minister, the seven king makers, the army generals, and wealthy traders. The Eghaevbonogbe served within the Ogbe and the palace particularly. They tended to i.e the royal wardrobe, the beads and sceptres, the Oba’s wives, and the court’s farms. The Crown Prince and the Iyoba, the mother of the Oba, were also members of the Eghaevbonore.

This is a bronze plaque, called “ama” in Edo language. This plaque documents a war scene: it shows Benin warriors, whose leaders belonged to the Eghaevbonore cadre, in their war regalia. The plaque depicts the famous Benin war generals were Iyase, Ezomo, Edogun, Imaran and other prominent warriors from the outlying districts or provinces of the Kingdom of Benin.

There were once more than 850 reliefs that sheathed the columns of the Oba’s, the King’s, audience court in Benin City. They were probably commissioned by Oba Esigie (r. 1517–c. 1550), after repelling an attempted invasion and winning a war against the adjacent Kingdom of Idah. The plaques depict the generals in the battlefront with the Idah warriors. Amongst the numerous plaques that record the Idah war, there are also some that depict religious rites, processions, battles, the payment of taxes, trade with Europeans, and other regular activities of the court.

Enotie Paul Ogbebor