Benin (bĕnēnˈ) [key], city (1991 est. pop. 203,000), S Nigeria, a port on the Benin River. Palm nuts and timber are produced nearby and processed in Benin, which is the center of Nigeria's rubber industry. Furniture and carpets are also made. The Univ. of Benin (1970; formerly the Institute of Higher Studies of Benin) is there.
Benin was the capital of the kingdom of Benin, which was probably founded in the 13th cent. and flourished from the 14th through the 17th cent. The kingdom was ruled by the Oba and a sophisticated bureaucracy. From the late 15th cent. Benin traded slaves as well as ivory, pepper, and cloth to Europeans. In the early 16th cent. the Oba sent an ambassador to Lisbon, and the king of Portugal sent missionaries to Benin. The kingdom of Benin declined after 1700, but revived in the 19th cent. with the development of the trade in palm products with Europeans.
Britain conquered and burned the city in 1897, destroying much of the country's treasured art and dispersing nearly all that remained. The portrait figures, busts, and groups created in iron, carved ivory, and brass (long thought to be bronze) made in Benin beginning perhaps as early as the 13th cent. rank with the finest art of Africa. Cire perdue casting is still practiced there. Examples of Benin art are displayed in museums in the city.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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