Benin Bronze is cast using the “Lost Wax” method of Bronze making.
Benin bronzes are part of a history of “Court Art”. This implied that the artworks were made by artists who were commissioned by the King. Their works were made at the request of the King, for the King and the Royal House.
In time past, history was mainly based on Oral renditions. Therefore, a means of documentation that could be immortalized was needed. The bronze sculptures served as chronicles of the Historical and cultural events in the City of Benin.
The bronze casters were located in a particular area of the town called Igun, near the Oba Palace in Benin City. The Benin Bronze Casters Quarters was given International recognition and made a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Street is now beautifully paved, with Interlocking tiles, a testimony to one of the Past Governors of the State Lucky Igbinedion, whose father happens to be a paramount Chief of the Kingdom.
With the strong history and the level of perfection of the bronzes, one would expect Igun street to be overflowing with tourists. However, very few tourists can be seen in this of cradle of creativity. Tales of horror, scary stories and an admixture of truths and myths about security and safety in Nigeria has left the area pretty much isolated.
With each passing year, the open air galleries fade away, replaced by glam fashion shops, beauty salons and other businesses that provide fast cash. The casters, retreat to the backstreets, the hidden corners, the art silently witnessing “The dark ages”.
THE CASTING PROCESS
The traditional process of Casting bronze is a time and labor intensive process, lasting days to weeks before the attainment of the perfect sculpture.
Making the Mould
Waxing of the mould
Dewaxing of the mould
Melting of the bronze/brassPouring the Bronze
Breaking the Cast
Finishing the sculpture