How did ideas about race and about the primitive influence the response of Western Europeans to art from Benin from 1897 onwards? Free essay! Download now
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How did ideas about race and about the primitive influence the response of Western Europeans to art from Benin from 1897 onwards?
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| Words: 1103 | Submitted: 06-Nov-2011
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Descriptionvictorian benin art displays
Read carefully the following piece of text. What does it tell us about cross cultural encounters?
In 1892 the new vice-consul for the Benin river section Captain Henry Gallwey visited Benin and signed a treaty which made Benin a British protectorate, but as far as the British were concerned the treaty proved disappointing and by 1896 many British traders and officials were calling for military intervention, although the foreign office seemed reluctant to do this.
On January 2nd 1897 the acting consul-general of the protectorate James Phillips set off without permission for Benin accompanied by a large armed party. When news of the oncoming invaders reached Benin it caused alarm and messengers were sent out to try and talk to General Phillips and halt the invasion but all talks were in vain and the General continued with his advance, possibly due to the fact he would have needed to collect spoils of his conquest to pay for the expedition, but unfortunately in the words of RH Bacon (reading 1.6 page 38 cultural encounters book 3) “Silver there was none, Gold there was none and the coral was of little value” in fact the only things of any value would have been tusks for the ivory and the Bronze plaques and statues. On January 4th his party were ambushed and most were killed including the General himself. The British responded quickly and within a month Benin City was captured although many of the chiefs escaped.
We know about this cross cultural encounter because of government documents written with the help of one of the two white men who survived the ambush, (Boisragon, 1897). News of the ambush travelled fast with the invention of telegraphs, and within seven days of the ambush, the first journalists arrived in Benin.
How did ideas about race and about the `primitive` influence the response of Western Europeans to art from Benin from 1897 onwards?
Throughout the Nineteenth Century British interest in Africa grew because of British colonial expansion, in the 1880`s and 1890`s Africa was forcefully colonised by Europe, sculptures and artwork was taken from countries like Benin. The Benin art works were brought back and sold to a variety of private collectors and museums alike, including The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford and the British Museum. Competition to acquire these unusual objects was fierce.
The view from Victorians concerning the artwork was that they were obtained from” brutal and unruly savages from Benin” (The Times, 25th September 1897, p12) but it was also thought that the quality and workmanship of the pieces was exceptional.
Originally when the pieces were put on display at museums such as The Pitt Rivers they were just piled up ...
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