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Art, Performance and Ritual in Benin City

Charles Gore


This book explores the roles of contemporary urban shrines and their visual traditions in Benin City. It focuses on the charismatic priests and priestesses who are possessed by a pantheon of deities, the communities of devotees, and the artists who make artifacts for their shrines. The visual arts are part of a wider configuration of practices that include song, dance, possession and healing. These practices provide the means for exploring the relationships of the visual to both the verbal and performance arts that feature at these shrines. The analysis in this book raises fundamental questions about how the art of Benin, and non-Western art histories more generally, are understood. The book throws critical light on the taken-for-granted assumptions which underpin current interpretations and presents an original and revisionist account of Benin art history.


1 History, Art History and the Edo Kingdom
2 Shrines and Deities
3 Priests and Shrines
4 The Life Histories of Some Ohens
5 Artists and Artworlds
6 Songs for the Gods
7 The Parrot's Tale
8 Art History and Artefact.

About the Author

Charles Gore is an artist and Lecturer in the History of African Art, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).


Gore's book is important for its detailed study of numerous contemporary shrines, ohens and artists, as well as its historiography of the field of Benin studies.
- Courtnay Micots, Journal of African History
This seminal book on the urban shrines of Benin City, Nigeria, is a densely composed work of anthropology. Gore adds an important study of Benin shrine arts to the corpus of available research.
- Christian Lund, Africa

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