Benin: A Kingdom in Bronze

African Presence ImageThe 2013 African Presence Art Exhibition presents a collection from the Ebohon Cultural Center from Benin City, Nigeria, West Africa. The Ebohon Center is among the largest private museums in West Africa and holds a collection of more than 7,000 artworks and related historical documents dating back to the 18th century.

Benin: A Kingdom of Bronze will be on display in the Second Floor Gallery of the Alvin Sherman Library until February 26. The exhibition is FREE and open to the public, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Benin: a Kingdom in Bronze represents five centuries of Royal Court Art. The collection to be presented amounts to approximately 80 artworks in brass, wood and terra cotta all articulating the idea of origin within the historical context of the formation of the African Diaspora.

The richness of African cultures and their portability in the Americas leave no doubt about the value of a heritage still at time waiting to be fully apprehended. Years ago, as the Harlem Renaissance unfolded, the great African American scholar Alain Locke in "The Legacy of the Ancestral Art," argued that a "more stylized art does not exist but the African," Locke continued: "As it is, African art has influenced modern art most considerably." Thus, by extension, if this art was already influencing Euro-American modernists like Picasso, he entreated African Americans to pursue these classics which were their own legacies, since we are the direct beneficiaries of such a powerful artistic tradition.

For the exhibition, the gallery will be transformed into a reproduction of the Oba (Monarch Palace) giving a historical sense of social organization of African peoples before the advent of the event known as The Middle Passage or the transatlantic journey of non-return. In addition to the artworks, photos, explanatory wall-texts and label captions will provide additional information about African peoples before and during The Middle Passage.