Benin art is the art from the Kingdom of Benin or Edo Empire (1440-1897), a pre-colonial African state located in what is now known as the South-South region of Nigeria. Benin art was produced mainly for the court of the Oba of Benin - a divine ruler for whom the craftsmen produced a range of ceremonially significant objects. Aside from producing work to promote theological and religious piety, Benin Art includes a range of animal heads, figurines, busts, plaques, and other artifacts. Typical Benin art materials include bronze, brass, clay, ivory, terracotta, and wood. During the reign of the Kingdom of Benin, the characteristics of the artwork shifted from thin castings and careful treatment to thick, less defined castings and generalized features.  One of the objects unique to Benin art is an Ikegobo, a cylindrical object that celebrated the success of an individual.
Benin art has proven to be hard to interpret. This is due in part to the lack of supplementary written documents. Because of the non-literate nature of the ancient inhabitants of Benin City, there is a dearth in literary backup as would be seen in other cultures (Ben- Amos, 1980).
A common consensus among historians is that the art of Benin served to narrate events and achievements, actual or mythical, which occurred in the past. It was grounded on traditional values and religious beliefs and displayed iconographic affinities. Although only made popular after the Punitive Expedition in the 19th century, Benin art has been in existence since at least 500 BCE (Andrea & Overfield, 2005). They used their art to depict religious, social and cultural issues that were central to their beliefs such as ceremonial weapons, religious objects and masks (Blackmun, 1988). The culture of the Benin people was that of religious sentiment which can be seen in a lot of their art. They viewed their kings or obas as unearthly, in the sense that they were closer to the gods than the average human was. In a popular story, Ewuare, a ruler in the 15th and 16th century, goes to the river and steals the beads that belong to Olokun, god of the waters. He brings them back to Benin and in the process establishes the palace of the oba as the earthly counterpart and the kind of dry land (Ben- Amos, 1980). Stories and events like these inspired many of the beliefs and art of the early Benin people.
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Many art objects of the Bini people are similar to pieces from the Yoruba or Benin people. However the Bini masks are of a very autonomous shape. This very typical mask is part of the collection of Boris Kegel-Konieztko collected by his mother in the 1950s.
Masks like this are used within the rituals of the secret Ekpo-Society in order to protect the people against illness. This one has little mirror pieces on its eyes which reflect the flames at night.
This well used mask comes from the Bini people of Nigeria from the region where the better known great Kingdom of Benin was located around present day Benin City. They are part of the large Edo speaking peoples of Nigeria that includes the Yoruba, Igbo and a number of smaller populations in the southern region of Nigeria. The Bini have a men's masking society known as Ekpo, sharing traits with similar groups around them to enforce laws and personify spirits. Worn during the local yam festival this mask most likely represents a chief or individual of high social status and rank. The form of the masks probably derives elements from their better known neighbors the Yoruba. When these masks are danced by the Bini, the dancer is covered by a costume of grasses attached to the mask. This face mask shows signs of long use over time in that it has been repainted numerous times. It is a classic example of Bini masks that are unfortunately less known than other neighboring people such as the Yoruba or Igbo. Notwithstanding this Bini mask would be prominent in a collection due to its sculpted form and age.