Galerie Peter Herrmann

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Ancient Art from Africa - Benin & Ife
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Relief Plaque with Amufi Acrobats
Benin, Nigeria
16th-17th century
Bronze
58 x 43 cm

Relief Plaque with Amufi Acrobats:


This relief depicts two acrobats of the Amufi ceremony. As members of one of Benin's many guilds, the acrobats are responsible for climbing trees for certain ritual purposes and for catching osprey for the Oba to sacrifice at the Ugie celebration. It is believed that these members of the Amufi guild are endued with special spiritual powers that enable them to climb the highest treetops, a feat most ordinary people would not and could not achieve. In this particular ritual, the acrobats climb a very high tree, secretly prepared with ropes the night before. Upon reaching the highest perch, they loop the ropes around themselves and leap into the air with arms and legs spread, swinging themselves in large circles and flapping their rattle-draped arms as though they were wings. On the uppermost part of the relief plaque, three big birds perch atop the tree - perhaps the ospreys caught for the Oba by the acrobats.

This plaque is remarkable in that it portrays both people in motion and nature, an unusual combination for Beninese plaques. Only one other plaque is stylistically similar: the Relief Plaque with Leopard Hunt. Given that both pieces depict people in unusually contorted positions and trees bedecked with lovingly-formed leaves, one can assume that both plaques were crafted by the same artist, whom Fagg calls the "Master of the Leopard Hunt." His unique, individual style arguably makes him Benin's most significant artist. In general, the minimal stylistic variation of Beninese plaques over the course of many centuries make most efforts at attribution futile; the so-called "Master of the Leopard Hunt" is one of the few artists for whom experts make efforts at attribution.


Cp.:
Barbara Blackmun, in: Barbara PLANKENSTEINER (Hg.): Benin. Könige und Rituale. Höfische Kunst aus Nigeria, Wien 2007, S. 334/ 335.



Similar objects:  

Illustration:

The National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria
 

Barbara PLANKENSTEINER (Hg.): Benin. Könige und Rituale. Höfische Kunst aus Nigeria, Wien 2007, S. 335.