The Royal Art of Benin

Anyone who lived in the West African kingdom of Benin during its existence from the 12th or 13th century until its conquest by the British in 1897 was left in no doubt about one thing: the power of the king of Benin. In this lesson, students will learn how royal power was communicated in a society without written records—through brass plaques. Craftspeople from Benin created these works of art to speak to the people about the powers of their divine king.

Guiding Questions

How did the king of Benin use works of art to project an image of power, authority, and divinity to the people of Benin?

Learning Objectives

Identify Benin as a kingdom in West Africa.

Locate on a map the modern-day country of Nigeria, site of the kingdom of Benin.

Describe the power of the king of Benin.

Show how the king communicated his authority through the use of brass plaques.