For Your Information

This section of the web site offers readings, images, and maps that can help students to further understand course assignments, but which are not required reading. In other words, the readings on this page are for your Information (FYI). Links from the five sections of the course come here, and are marked thus: Optional (FYI) Reading.

From Wednesday March 21

Images illustrating colonial history

This ivory pendant mask is one of a pair of nearly identical works; its counterpart is in the British Museum in London. Although images of women are rare in Benin's courtly tradition, these two works have come to symbolize the legacy of a dynasty that continues to the present day. The pendant mask is believed to have been produced in the early sixteenth century for the Oba Esigie, the king of Benin, to honor his mother, Idia. The Oba may have worn it at rites commemorating his mother, although today such pendants are worn at annual ceremonies of spiritual renewal and purification.

 In Benin, ivory is related to the color white, a symbol of ritual purity that is associated with Olokun, god of the sea. As the source of extraordinary wealth and fertility, Olokun is the spiritual counterpart of the Oba. Ivory is central to the constellation of symbols surrounding Olokun and the Oba. Not only is it white, but it is itself Benin's principle commercial commodity and it helped attract the Portuguese traders who also brought wealth to Benin.

Thomas Gainsborough 1727-1788 

       The Baillie Family 
       circa 1784
       Oil on canvas (Oc)
       support 2508mm x 2273mm 
       Bequeathed by Alexander Baillie 1868

Palace door 
 Artist: Olowe of Ise (c.1875-c.1938)
 Wood, pigments 
    221.3 cm (87 1/8 in) 
Sir Joshua Reynolds 1723-1792 

       Admiral Viscount Keppel 
       Oil on canvas (Oc)
       support 1245mm x 991mm 

Staff (opa Osanyin or opa Erinle) 
  Yoruba peoples, Nigeria 
   71 cm (27 in) 
John Singer Sargent 1856-1925 

       Colonel Ian Hamilton, CB, DSO 
       Oil on canvas (Oc)
       support 1384mm x 787mm 
       Presented by Gen. Sir Ian Hamilton 1940