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Bronze figure of a huntsman
From Lower Niger?, Nigeria, 16th-18th century AD
This bronze figure represents a hunter carrying an antelope with a dog at his knee. It was found in Benin City but is in an unusual style, which, together with other objects of uncertain origin, is loosely classified as belonging to the Lower Niger Bronze Industries.
There are many casting traditions in southern Nigeria whose precise interrelations remain unclear. The most developed early tradition is that of Igbo-Ukwu that flourished around the ninth and tenth centuries, but ancient bronzes are found scattered over the Lower Niger area with no information of where they were cast. Between the twelfth and fifteenth centirues, brass casting flourished alongside terracotta sculpture in the Yoruba kingdom of Ife. Local history relates that, in the fourteenth century, the skill passed from here to the Edo people of Benin, the best documented of all the African casting traditions.
Such figures were made using the lost wax process. This involves a base figure of clay which is covered in beeswax and moulded into shape, leaving a small channel at its base. After completion further layers of clay are applied and it is fired in an open fire and the melted wax runs through the channel. The mould is left upside down in sand and hot metal is carefully poured into the mould. It is left to cool before the outer layers are broken off revealing the newly-cast figure. Further work is done to dig out the core.
P. Girshick Ben-Amos, The art of Benin (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)