Benin Bronze Casters
Even though I have been to Benin city numerous times and I am fully aware of the rich cultural history of the ancient city, I have never explored it. My stays have been limited to visiting family and friends. On this trip to Benin city, a couple of friends were visiting from the “abroad” and I decided that it would be a shame not to show them the city. I did what every sane human being would do, and googled “Places to visit in Benin city.” That was how I stumbled on Igun street which is a UNESCO world heritage site. Benin city is famous worldwide for its bronze work and it made all in the sense in the world to visit with my friends.
Igun street is a stone throw from Ring road roundabout where the Benin National Museum is located. The street from afar looks like any other street with clay houses with their signature rusted zinc roofs which is quintessential Benin city in my opinion; until you sight on an arch entrance way written, “GUILD OF BENIN BRONZE CASTERS WORLD HERITAGE SITE.”
The street is lined with stores selling different type of artworks made from wood, brass and bronze to name a few materials. We decided to start our unravelling towards the end of the street and work our way back to the front.
We ran into a friend of our driver and he took us to his shop on Igun street where he gave us a super quick lesson on how he makes his bronze artworks. From creating the mold to melting the bronze and finally getting the desired artwork. We also got a quick history lesson. The Bronze casters who are in the guild do not take apprentice, but the skill is passed on from father to son and kept in their lineage. The actual Oba who formed the guild is still in dispute depending on the scholar you read but all the bronze at that time was controlled by the Oba and only with his permission where works commissioned.
One of the popular brass/bronze pieces on display is that of the Queen Mother Idia that most people will recognize as the emblem of FESTAC 77 (Festival of arts and culture held in Nigeria in 1977). The bronze casters are open to making custom artworks upon request in addition to the artwork they display in their art studios. There are jewelries, bottle openers, paintings, carvings and various bronze work at every shop for sale. There is little variety in what is sold from store to store which was disappointing, but we still had a good time admiring and purchased a couple of the pieces.
The beautiful work of the casters and the mythology of this street makes it an A-1 destination site for art and culture. If you find yourself in Benin city, you don’t have to google “Places to visit in Benin city” to figure out your first destination. Make Igun street your first stop.
Did you know about Igun Street?
Will you be visiting the next time you’re in Benin City?
*Reviews are based on opinions and personal experiences, and may differ from person to person
*prices written are based on the time the visit was made and is subject to change by the owners.