This bronze Benin leopard is one of a pair made in about 1950 but characteristic of West African craftsmanship from earlier centuries. The leopard was once the emblem of power for the exclusive use of the oba or king of Benin, representing triumph of people over the wild. It was a symbol of fear as well as a leader in the animal kingdom. Leopards are still very important among the Yoruba people of Nigeria today, being given as gifts to grant spiritual protection to the recipient.
Until recently, many commentators on Africa claimed that African societies had no tradition of writing. Read more...