The first series of Lost Kingdoms of Africa concludes with the kingdom of West Africa. What will Gus find out about the kingdoms of West Africa? Tune into this episode to find out.
Gus begins at the British Museum. He is exploring the Kingdom of Benin. When the British discovered the artifacts they did not believe they were carved by Africans. However, they are not carvings, they were copper cast. Copper casting is a difficult skill to masters and the fact that Africans mastered it baffled Europeans for ages. Where did the Benin people learn these skills? How did they manufacture these artifacts? Gus goes to Nigeria to find out.
Nigeria was home to the kingdom of Benin. Gus will then travel to Mali to discover more about the kingdoms of West Africa. He begins in the former kingdom’s capital. He sees a 500-year-old feat of engineering. Moats and walls protected the Benin capital. They stretched for an incredible 4,000 miles. These walls protected a very important city. The kingdom was governed from a palace by a hereditary ruler. He ruled a country over 40,000 square miles.
The British established a trade agreement with the Kingdom of Benin. However, relations soured, and as a result, there was a British massacre. The British fought back and raised the city to the ground. It was a huge defeat for Benin. When the British arrived at the palace, they discovered the bronzes. They could not believe that Africans had the skills to create them.
In 1914, the British brought back the king to Benin to help them administer their Nigerian colony. The King or Oba made rulings for the Benin kingdom. The Oba believes that the plaques were made to mark important events and rulings that were made by the Oba. They were not made for museums. Present-day bronze casters still have a guild. Membership is hereditary and they skill use their skills to cast bronze plaques.
Gus accepts that the bronze plaques were used to mark history and events, but he wants to know why they were created. He dives further into the history of the Lost Kingdoms of Africa. He goes to Mali and he wants to explore the evidence of the Benin craftsmanship. Timbuktu was the hub of trade for West Africa. Mansa Musa was the emperor of Mali and he was the richest man in Africa. He sent envoys to Europe.
Copper from North Africa made it's to Timbuktu and would eventually make its way to Benin. Gus talks with a historian about the bronzes. The historian explains that in Islam that images of human forms were forbidden. In Islam, poetry, geometry, and calligraphy were the art forms. So how did the Kingdom of Benin craftspeople manage to learn the casting techniques?
Gus continues to explore Mali to discover more about the skills behind the Benin Bronzes. He looks at the architecture of Mali. The wealth Mali had enabled it to create fantastic buildings. Gus ends up in front of a house of a wealthy man who showed that she had two wives and five children. Gus could tell this by how the man built the house. What will Gus find? Will he find the answers he seeks? Tune into this documentary to find out.
This is one neat episode about the Benin kingdom. Gus covers thousands of years of history in one episode. The downside of this series is that it was too short. I am glad that there was a second series for the Lost Kingdoms of Africa. This one would be a good filler episode, otherwise, I would share this episode with an independent study student.
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