Benin and Cultural Encounters

In what ways did cultural encounters between the people of Benin and European visitors change between the sixteenth and late nineteenth centuries?
To begin this essay I sought to clearly outline and define what the term “cultural encounter” means. Through independent research I found that many wrote on the subject of encounters between the times stated, which all contributed to my understanding, as one author wrote; ‘’the term cultural encounters is used to refer to social relations, places and objects. They require mutual adjustment and learning, and seldom take place without conflict. Cultural encounters bring with them movement and change, whether as a result of tourism, migration, colonialism or war’’. (UIO 2016.). It is an important to remember the task at hand is to analyse a piece of text and a sculpture or object as the quote above would suggest. Each text, sculpture or object holds their own cultural meaning and significance, ranging from the early sixteenth century all the way to the nineteenth century, which helps build an accurate representation of the cultural development and change within the African country of Benin.
The story and culture of most countries, past or present can be told through the art that they create. Due to the craftsmanship, context and time of creation of the pieces being analysed, we are provided with a range of information that aids our understanding of the era. Whether this is a stone sculpture or a small delicate engraving, each piece tells you a lot about the time in which it was created. If we delve in to the art of Benin and more specifically ‘plate 3.1.17’, we find that “unknown artist relief plaque showing a Portuguese boy hunting with a dog and musket”, which gives an indication into the cultural makeup of Benin at the time.
A plaque has the ability to reveal a great deal of information, not only through its craftsmanship but also in its ability to visually document the encounters that where happening at the time....