Sunday, 2 June 2013

Tying down a few historical facts and evidence from the 14th and 15th century

Here are a few facts that I feel should not be overlooked in history:
1)   Early 15th century renaissance art.
Whilst Kings of Benin used bronze plaques to record their history and achievements, European early renaissance art of bronze plaques of the same period were used to depict scenes from the bible and mythical gods and beings:

2)  Early travellers accounts from 1400s and onwards
We know of the splendour of the Benin king’s palace from merchants and other travellers’ accounts that the palace was square; that it was decorated with rows of bronze plaques and other artwork which showcased achievements of past kings and important events in the kingdom.  We know further that exquisite terracotta, ivory and wooden art work also decorated the palace. Even further that royal blacksmiths and wood carvers worked exclusively for the king to produce this magnificent artwork.

3)  Europe’s magnificent palaces
The guidebook by Pauli Cortesii published in 1510 on how to build the perfect home for a Catholic Cardinal became the main handbook for building magnificent palaces and nobility homes across Europe e.g. Cardinal Wolsey’s Hampton Court (built in 1529) in England which subsequently provided a model for King Henry V111 (1491 – 1547) and his noble men.

In his book, Pauli Cortesii stated that the courtyard should be square and arranged as a forum in which should be displayed records of deeds performed by past emperors in Christian manner.
This guidance bears a striking resemblance to the layout of the palace at Ubini. Ubini Kings built their palace in this fashion and used magnificent artwork around the palace to display their ancestral history and achievements long before European merchants and visitors came on the scene in 1472.

We know this to be so from the records at the time and also from records and accounts of the British Punitive Expedition of 1897. British officials found thousands of intricate and exquisite bronze plaques, terracotta and ivory artwork which used to decorate the palace but were in a store room at this time as the palace was being renovated. They also recorded that these artwork showed varied scenes and people from the Kingdom of Benin history.

This recorded bundle of evidence therefore shows that the Ubini Kings (Kings of Benin) palaces were light years ahead of their European counterparts who did not begin to build in this fashion till the 1500s.

As the Benin Kings did not travel overseas due to their religious beliefs of the God Olokun, it is plausible to argue that it was not them who copied the palace design idea from Europe but that rather European visitors took their ideas and designs and copied them back home; producing guidebooks to aid this(Pauli Cortesii). As there were no copyright rules at the time, it was perfectly okay to do so.

It is also perfectly okay to admit that much today.

On this note:
Oba Ghato, Okpere!
Long Live the King!
Long Live the Kingdom of Benin

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