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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Art, Power Politics, and the Interrelatedness of Social Classes in Pre-Colonial Benin
Author:Agbontaen, Konkunre A.
Periodical:St. Petersburg Journal of African Studies
Geographic terms:Nigeria
Benin polity
History and Exploration
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Architecture and the Arts
Abstract:As early as about AD 900, Benin arts and craftsmen, as well as various professionals in other trades, are believed to have had their products organized, developed, perfected, and marketed under strict rules and royal patronage. There were about 68 guilds created in the ancient Benin kingdom over a long period of time. Twelve of these dealt exclusively with arts and crafts. The guild system ('otu') was one of the basic factors which contributed to the survival of the Benin kingdom till 1897. Amongst others it supplied a variety of services for the Oba of Benin; it provided the self-governing wards or administrative units where relevant socialization processes were maintained; and it recorded important events in art form. Each of the guilds, which consisted mainly of 'commoners', had special functions to perform for the Oba and the palace. There was a functional relationship between them and the association of palace chiefs ('Eghaevbo N'Ogbe'), with its three subgroups ('Iwebo', 'Iweguae' and 'Ibiwe'), whose membership was drawn from the nobility. Each guild was affiliated to one of the palace societies according to the nature of the services it provided. In this way the guilds provided the link between the nobility and commoners and promoted the interrelationship between higher and lower social and political organizations in the precolonial Benin kingdom (present-day Nigeria). Bibliogr.