Animal imagery as metaphors of power

Africa / Dahome culture / lion / dog

Essay Topic:

The evaluation of the symbolism of the animals and their meaning for the African Kingdom of Dahomey.

Essay Questions:

How does African culture resemble all the history it has outlived?

Why does the Dahome culture uses the animals as the metaphors for its power?

How does the character of a lion reveal the Dahome culture?

Thesis Statement:

The image of animals on different things shares with us the unique contents that the art product carries inside and how deep African people felt other people to choose animals with such a precision.


Animal imagery as metaphors of power

Introduction: Africa has always been the continent of hidden secrets, unrevealed mysteries and the place where every person dreams to travel to. Seeing and understanding the culture of Africa, means knowing its history and everything is has gone through. The cultural impact that Africas arts have in the general collection and its influence is very important and irreplaceable. One of the well-known facts is that ancient people in Africa used the image of animals a lot in their art to transmit the special meaning of the animals character and the way it cognates with the person who owns this thing. The image of animals on different things shares with us the unique contents that the art product carries inside and how deep African people felt other people to choose animals with such a precision. For example, a dog's skull on a African sculpture form means guardianship and surveillance. A dog is believed to help, because is warns people by barking that a stranger is coming or that the danger is close.

One of the popular places of ancient Africa is the Kingdom of Dahomey. The Kingdom of Dahomey existed from 1620 up to 1901. During the period of its existance a lot of masterpieces have been created. And the quality of the art products can be justified with its saturated history. The ethical group that lived there was called: Fon. The culture that the Dahomey presented is very varied doe to the changes and influences it went through. But we are particularly interested in the role of the animal image in the cultural products of this kingdom. One of the examples we are about to talk is The divination portrait of a lion king and the man of iron, performed by king Glele of Dahome. This is one of the brightest examples of the Dahome culture and it is very important to see the roots and the value of the animal image usage in making portraits like this. It is a visual projection of the character of a brave man. In the deep meaning of the Dahome culture the image of the lion signifies the divine power, earthy remains, authorities and greatnesses, sun and fire. The image of a lion is close related to such qualities as wit, nobility, generosity, valor, fairness, pride, triumph, haughtiness, vigilance, and bravery. It is not surprise that the image of a lion was used to depict a king and a hero. And by having such a powers it is connected with the ability to give life and death. All these things are reveled through using the image of a lion in this sculpture. The iron face in this case intensifies the lion-effect. It is very important to understand the variety and the deep meaning of the animal image if the Dahome culture. As we started with the image of a lion, let us continue analyzing the animal imagery through it. In ancient Africa a lion could be compared only to Ra (the god of sun), which only by itself indicates on the power of this image. It is a symbol of royal power. It is very useful to understand the total understating of all the lion-variations in the Dahome culture, for in different art forms the image of the lion changes giving an additional special meaning to the art product. Fighting lions signify giving mercy to a timid and not subdue a proud one. Which means being intelligent and strong enough to show generosity and be merciful. If the lion is depicted obedient and quiet it indicates the image of a person who is not ferocious, however he is unconquerable; the lion here is a symbol of true courage and generosity. Very seldom we can find the image of a lion bitting himself. He seems to say:I do not spare even my own flesh. Why do you expect me to spare yours?. It is a symbol of fury.

Conclusion: The validly of the usage of the image of a strong, powerful animal to emphasize the strength and bravery is unflinching. The Fons simply followed their intuition and based on experiences making the art product they created very deep in the sense of meaning. Certainly, the lion is not the only animal used to depict honorable qualities. But the image of the lion is one of the brightest examples of using an animal as the metaphor of power. The whole essence of the creation can be understood through the animal images it sustains in itself. And it can be grown on to a very skilled literature product by the ability to put inside it so much life depicted through the life of an animal. Africa really has something to be proud about


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