In the 13th century, the Edo people living in the Benin Region of present day Nigeria perfected techniques that created some of the most celebrated pieces in archaeology. In 1897 the Benin Bronzes were discovered and taken to the British Museum in London. Back then, colonial experts found it incredible that these “primitive and savage people” were responsible for such sophisticated objects. Some concluded that the Benin knowledge of metallurgy came from the Portuguese. Today it is clear that these were made in Benin from an indigenous culture.
THT is working with the And Albert Foundation on a set of objects from Africa, Asia and South America that illustrate the craft, innovation and sophistication of indigenous peoples. We plan a series of evenings combining the objects themselves with stories giving context, poems giving voice, music and dance to set the perceptive darkness echoing.
Here is a poem celebrating a bronze figure discovered by David Murden of AAF in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Working with the local craftsman it became an AAF limited edition illustrative of local skills and creativity. The poem was written by Rob Bell in response to seeing the image and learning of the wider context which links to the slave trade route that features in other collaborative projects between THT; AAF and the Transformational Agenda.
African woman running against the wind
IM Simon Murden
Carved by a moist wind
rinsing her village of all dust;
bare feet sure on baked mud
connecting home to home.
Where is she rushing to?
No basket on her head; nor child
in her grasp, no task in each step.
How could this shape be savage;
torn from life itself? Borrowed skill?
This lost-wax casting tells stories
where others take craft to fill shelves;
not souls. This woman running
in the wind dances life to the tune
of where she is loved; falls silent,
is bronze again, bound for foreign
lands – just like those taken
to the Gold Coast.
Poem by Rob Bell