Thursday, 30 July 2020

The Glory of Medieval Benin Portrayed by a Revered Artist

The Court of the Oba of Benin by Ben Enwonwu

The Court of the Oba of Benin was a work created in 1972 by the Nigerian artist Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu (1917-1994).

It depicts an Oba (King) of Benin holding a yellow royal ceremonial sword while being attended to by chiefs who also hold ceremonial swords. The King is wearing a white skull cap while dressed in white folds of cloth rather than the more formal coral bead regalia. The red earthen walls indicate that the ceremony is being held within the royal palace in Benin City.

Ben Enwonwu was born in Onitsha, a city in Igboland with historical and cultural connections to the Edo Kingdom of Benin. He taught at Edo College in Benin City, and was a professor at the University of Ife when he produced this painting.

The oil-on-canvas painting sold for US$137,575 (£106,854) at an auction held by Bonhams in New York in May 2019.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

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