Benin Assembly. Cast Size: 30 – easily adaptable up or down. Duration: Around 15 minutes not including music suggestions
Benin Assembly Subject Coverage:
- Bigger picture – Africa – North, South, East and West
- Answers to questions What? Where? When? How? And Why?
- History from origins in 900 to independence in 1960 (final paragraph bringing the picture up to date)
- Early rulers Owadu and Eweka (transition from Ogisos to Obas and explanation of these terms)
- Ewuare and son, Ozolua (importance of Benin army)
- Reference to Britain around 900 through to 16th century – putting events into context
- 1897. This is given some prominence in addressing ‘ethics’ of European powers changing from traders to ‘looters’ in Scramble for Africa
- Description of Benin City
- Importance of animals in art – with reference to the gods
- Plaques and Lost Wax Process
- Changed perception of ‘savages/primitives’ – challenged by great craftsmanship
- Recognition that with knowledge comes respect and appreciation of differences
- Optional addition: Comparison with Europe at the time
I have made particular reference to ‘the bigger picture’ – as per new curriculum guidelines; and have hopefully ‘delivered’ on such key concepts as:
- Continuity and change in and between periods
- Causes and consequences
- Similarity/difference within a period
- The significance of events/people
Benin Assembly Sample Text:
Narrator: So, what was so special about the Benin Kingdom?
Child 16: Well, the so-called Golden Age of Benin wasn’t until the 15th and 16th centuries.
Narrator: And why was it Golden?
Child 16: Because of its greatness in terms of land, power and wealth.
Narrator: Would this have anything to do with us Europeans, by any chance?
Child 16: Well, yes and no.
Narrator: Explain yourself!
Child 16: Yes – because the people of Benin did do very well out of their trade with the Europeans.
Child 17: And vice versa!
Child 16: Indeed. Benin sold them ivory, leopard skins, rubber, palm oil, precious stones
Child 17: In return for metal and luxury items such as fine textiles and corals.
Narrator: All sounds very civilised?
Child 18: Unfortunately it didn’t stay that way. The Europeans traded guns and the Benin traded slaves.
Narrator: Ah! The infamous slave trade!
Child 18: Indeed. Up to 3,000 sold a year and continuing through to the late 19th century. Not the Benin’s ‘finest hour’.
Narrator: But wait! I’m getting confused. We started this assembly talking about the Edo people. When was the switch made to Benin? These names! So confusing!
Child 19: The earliest civilisation was known as Igodomigodo.
Narrator: Wow! I’m not going to ask you to repeat that! And its dates?
Child 19: 900 to 1180 when the Edo people were ruled by a dynasty of kings called Ogisos.
Child 19: Yes. Ogiso is the Edo word meaning King of the Sky.
Child 20: There were 31 of these Ogisos of Igodomigodo, the last one being Owadu. Interesting guy – tried to have his own son killed just to fulfil the prediction of an oracle!
Narrator: (Tutting) Whatever happened to family love? So. What happened to him?
Child 20: He was banished! And a new dynasty formed under an Ogiso descendant called Eweka. He became Oba in 1180.
Narrator: Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Eweka? Oba? You’re losing me!
Child 21: OK. So, you got the bit about the last Ogiso being banished?
Narrator: Right. But you just switched from Ogiso to Oba!
Child 21: That’s because Eweka was living in neighbouring Yoruba when he was invited to take over the kingdom.
Narrator: And don’t tell me, the Yoruba for king is Oba!
Child 21: Correct! And the new kingdom was now called Edo – until the Europeans arrived in the 15th century when it switched to Benin.
Narrator: Confusing or what? So, back to those Obas. What do we know about them?
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