Benin Cross Cultural Encounters

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They are carrying either bronze manilas or bracelets conveying the Portuguese trading with them or even the importance of the Benign warrior. They are placed on a floral motif background possibly a symbol of the Boa’s connection with water and therefore a reminder of his power and rule. The largest of the men, whom stands in the middle, holds a staff in his left hand, ornately decorated at the top and could be depicted at a different scale to show leadership of the three or someone of higher importance amongst them. He is shown to be dressed in slightly more decorative garments.

There are holes on the right and top sides that we also know were used to attach the plaque to pillars. Looking at this plaque we can get a sense of the powerful warrior and the importance of the Portuguese trade in fifteenth and sixteenth century Benign. We know first-handily the quality of Benign art was comparable to that produced around Europe at the same time, but unlike Europe, was tightly controlled. These pieces (plaques) were commissioned by the Bob and displayed at his approval. ‘Metal casters were grouped together in guilds within the royal compound of Benign City. – (Brown 2008 IOWA Cultural Encounters) We also need to consider the two categories of art work produced. Firstly are the objects that were meant to be traded; commodities such as ivory spoons and salt cellars. ‘Spoons of elephant’s teeth with diverse proportions of fowls and beast made upon them. ‘ – (Hodgkin 1975, p. 144) These designs were adapted for European use, specifically for sale on the European market. An example in (Plate 3. 1. 6) shows a Portuguese boy blowing a side blown horn, a symbol of Manuel I of Portugal.

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These objects were often displayed in affluent households as symbols of wealth and trade. Secondly are the objects that were kept to be used or displayed only by the Bob. The use of raw materials was also monitored, mostly Brass, Bronze and Ivory and contrasting with the concept of European art, which was primarily used as propaganda, Benign art was kept mainly within the Boa’s palace, with limited access to outside viewers. This is a reminder that the artists who crafted the Benign bronzes were not free to expression and therefore biased opinions of Portugal encounters with the kingdom of Benign can be argued.

From Treated Paycheck Premier’s written account on Benign (Reading 1. ) the topic of trade is discussed; Peppier mentioning the swapping of brass or copper bracelets for captive neighboring slaves as a common arrangement between the two countries. Presented with the evidence considered in relation to the plaque showing clearly Portuguese traded bracelets, and with the export trade in ivory commodities and other specifically European designed pieces, suggests that these cross-cultural encounters proved beneficial to both parties.

It’s clear that although the Portuguese maintained steady relations with the Bob, and the evidence of genuine impression towards he City of Benign is noted, the attitude of the Portuguese regarding Benign religious practices and ‘primitive living’ does occur in some sources. Peppier describes the city of ‘mud walls covered with palm leaves’, and ‘being constantly at war with its neighbors. ‘ – (Hodgkin 1975 up 120-1) More interestingly, he notes the way the Benign people live their lives as being ‘full of abuses and fetishes and idolatress. This account can be taken as first-hand evidence, written not long after the events it describes to advise fellow mariners. To coincide with Premier’s description of the Benign people, Ray De Pain (Reading 1. ) writes ‘That the King of Portugal sent over to Benign holy and most Catholic advisers for faith to administer a stern rebuke about heresies and great idolatress and fetishes, which they practice in that land. ‘ – (Hodgkin 1975 up 125) Again this could be considered a primary source, as written by a Portuguese historian, his position would of given him access to accurate accounts.

In contrary to the opinions given above, in the early 16th Century, Portuguese Christian soldiers merged with the Africans whereby serving on occasions as missionaries for the Bob. Baptisms were also preformed amongst a few Benign warriors. The high death rate among the missionaries was among the causes of their ultimate failure, neither conversation nor conquest was the primary motive. It was trade. ‘ – (Blake 1942, Doc 29 36) This statement being a secondary source only, needs careful consideration whilst evaluating its context. To fully understand the extent of the Portuguese encounter with Benign, we must consider other sources.

Primary and secondary sources from the British capture of Benign City in the 1 89(Yes is known as a ‘A key cultural encounter – Robin Mackey 2008 IOWA Cultural Encounters) and therefore needs to be understood. We know from written material, for example, given by Captain Galley to the Royal Geographical Society, later published in 1897, that he tells of ‘The whole Benign country is, and has been for hundreds of years, steeped in fetish. ‘ ‘The rule appears to be one of terror. ‘ – (H. L. Galley’s paper ‘Journeys in the Benign Country’ 1892) Another description given of Benign from (R. H. Bacon, Benign.

The City of Blood 1987 up. 87-98) – Tell us of ‘Crucifixions, human sacrifices, and every horror the eye could get accustomed to. ‘ As mention earlier in this assignment, Christianity was apparent but wasn’t f major significance in the Portuguese Benign cross-cultural encounter. This was different in the 1 9th and 20th century encounters between the British and Benign, where ‘Commerce and Christianity were closely linked. ‘ – (Robin Mackey 2008 IOWA Cultural Encounters) We have Galley’s reports to London, Consul- General Macdonald that ‘Trade, commerce and civilization, are paradise by the form of fetish government. Here there is no shortage of British reports on what happened but we still need to consider other sources such as orally recorded accounts of Benign eye witnesses. The transmission of oral tradition in Benign is done through story telling’ – (Layaway 2007 p. 84) Songs, proverbs and visual artifacts all need to be taken into account. Again we have to be careful as these are often a developing interpretation of past events but when used carefully alongside other sources, can still give an overall understanding of past events.

The key significance in studying the later sources of the British capture of Benign is the discovery of the Benign Bronzes. Bacon (1867-1947) mentions of the uncovering of the bronzes. ‘Buried in the dirt of ages, were several hundred unique bronze plaques of really superb casting. ‘ – (R. H. Bacon, Benign. The City of Blood 1987 up. 87-98) This can be used against the Portuguese view of Benign being a ‘primitive’ city of ‘vices’ and therefore we need to reconsider the Portuguese accounts.

He also mentions store houses in Benign City containing of ‘Chiefly cheap rubbish and the usual cheap finery that traders used to tickle the fancy of natives. ‘ This is primary source evidence to our understanding of the Portuguese trade within and outside of Benign even though it’s a later account. We know from before that the Benign Bronzes were commissioned by ND only for use of the Bob, and now can back this theory by comparing Bacon’s account were he describes of ‘One blacksmith’s shop, with little sign of any native industry or evidence of much trade with the interior. It is known the King was running the country by placing a Juju on nearly every article of merchandise. ‘ – (R. H. Bacon, The City of Blood 1987) We can start to build up a clear understanding from this account and studying the bronze plaque in (Plate 3. 19) that although the Portuguese may have been a powerful force within Benign, the Benign people and the Bob still thought of themselves of higher importance. I can conclude that when presented with the evidence discussed, and using it against Portuguese accounts, it suggests these cross-cultural encounters were beneficial to both groups.

Benign people considered themselves higher rank over the Portuguese, but their presence and trade in Benign is continually referenced in the Benign artwork. But knowing these pieces were commissioned by the Bob, they therefore represent a biased perspective of the encounters between the two countries. We can also conclude that the biased opinions of the Portuguese in regards to Benign being a ‘primitive’ kingdom is backed up by the 1 9th and 20th entry accounts but can be argued in the findings of the Benign bronzes in the later 19th centuries, with the bronzes being of superb standard and off limits to outsiders.

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