Benin craft

In the palace of the Oba (king) lived guilds of specialists such as leopard hunters, astrologers, drummers and craftspeople who produced brass, ivory, wood sculptures, embroidered textiles and leather fans for the Oba, his chiefs and priests. These skilled artisans lived in close proximity and often married within their guilds. Outside the court people lived in villages, some of which specialized in particular crafts and produced items for their own communities.

In both the royal court and in the villages craft specialists were usually men. There were strict religious taboos against women handling metal or metal tools; they were only permitted to work for the weavers' guild, where they made elaborate ceremonial wigs and wove hip pennants. More recently, female members of the guild have begun to make decorated pots. Pottery was an important women's craft until the early part of the twentieth century and remains a female specialization in some villages.

Artisans in all the crafts developed their own designs which were handed down from generation to generation. Within the guilds they believed that the supernatural formed the basis for their creative inspirations. Artists sought guidance and protection against accidents and witchcraft.

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