The “uncovering cities” series by allmyview allows us see and experience every part of a city. This includes their cultures, traditions, art, history, delicacies and make better in anyway possible.
This started with Benin city and Igun street being our first location if exploration.
About Igun Street:
Igun street is a world heritage site founded or discovered in 1440. Igun street is famous for being the home to the Benin bronze works. Every piece if bronze produced in the city is made in Igun street.
Igun street is located off Sakpomba road in Benin. You can access the street from the famous ring road. The decorated entrance can’t be missed. The street can also be accessed from Lagos street but it’s a lot confusing to go from there.
Our team wanted to experience the city and everything including it’s street life so they walked through Oba market road, cut through forestry road through mission road and eventually busted into Igun street.
Everywhere in Benin is interlinked. The road network is amazing and all interconnected.
Meeting a bronze caster:
There are several rules and regulations when accessing the Igun street. One if which includes a letter from the ministry of culture and tourism in Benin city. Unfortunately, we didn’t have that but luckily enough, we had 2 Indigenes on our team which made it easier for the representatives of the guild to offer a second option to us. Since we were all students, we were asked to pay a little token to the bronze caster who was willing to show us round his workplace and his showroom.
Mr West Osadolor:
Mr West Osadolor is a bronze caster and a member of the bronze casters guild in Benin city. Just like his father before him and his father. He shared with us the history and culture of Bronze casting in Benin city.
He offered us a long wooden bench to sit on while watching him make an earth mould. There was a lady who sold “Agbo drink” there. Agbo is a locally made drink from herbs and roots believed to have healing tendencies and enhances health. Mr West explained that he needs this to strengthen him for the work everyday. After the lady left, we watched Mr West work on his earth mould while explaining the process to us.
Things to note:
- Bronze casting is a tradition and also a skill passed from generation to generation of selected families that make up members of the bronze guild in Igun street, Benin city.
- This skill cannot ordinarily be learnt by just anyone, even an indigene. You must be a member of the founding families or be married into the family. Even at that, there are several traditional rites to be performed first.
- The guild is a body precided over by a chairman. He receives guests, shows them around and has a recording of visitors exploring the bronze village.
- The Igun street was named a world heritage site after Benin Art works made it to the world and in several top museums all over the world.
- The bronze works are iconic to the fame of Benin city in ancient history and times.
The Bronze Process:
First, a cast is made. It’s like the blueprint of the original work to be made. The cast is moulded with earth and coated with Wax gotten from honey bees. The cast is then designed and perfected.
Then a second mould is made with the shape of the cast inside it. The wax is then melted and poured into the second mould through an already made hole. The wax is allowed to cool before the Bronze is now poured inside the mould. The bronze takes the shape of whatever the wax has rested on. This is an adage in Benin city “the bronze takes the shape of whatever the wax touches”.
The bronze and the wax are pre heated in a furnace before this process.
After the making process, Mr West took us to his private showroom where the finished products are kept or showcased. There were several works already being showcased. Ranging from full bronze representatives of the Oba of Benin (king of Benin kingdom) and his wife, the map of Nigeria, staff, human sculpture, and many more.
Igun Street is a must visit place in Benin. The Art works is not only limited to Bronze works. There are wood works, brass (bronze and iron), art paintings, ornaments, and much more.
Thinking of visiting Igun street whenever you’re in Benin? Hit up any member of the allmyview team and we are always ready to take you around.