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African Arts








Clio smiles, then weeps. A hundred years after its destruction, the empire of Benin enters the hall of fame of civilizations. Standing alongside old standards like Greece and Rome that have constituted the canon at least since the Renaissance, and next to some newcomers like the ancient Maya, the Aztec empire, China's Tang Dynasty, and India's Gupta Dynasty that have been ushered in by the spirit of multiculturalism, Benin—so far the sole representative of the African continent in the series "Cultures of the Past"— takes its position on the educational shelf that could shape the historical consciousness of future generations. Other West African kingdoms like Oyo, Dahomey, and Asante could have represented Africa in the global canon of political and cultural history (Forde & Kaberry 1967), but Benin, triumphant in her 1897 defeat, offers a more poignant testimony to the horrors of colonialism and a more striking monument to its demolition.

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Originally published in African Arts © 1997 MIT Press.


Date Posted: 22 September 2017

This document has been peer reviewed.