West Africa

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  • A collection of extraordinary plaques, seized as loot during the colonial aggression that ended the powerful Benin Empire in 1897, depict life in the African kingdom's royal court at its height. In this program art historian Gus Casely-Hayford travels to legendary Timbuktu, the Great Mosque of Djenn, the Oba Royal Palace, and Dogon country to learn more about how the plaques were made and what they reveal about the continent's sophisticated pre-colonial civilizations. In addition, Casely-Hayford meets with local historians, village elders, and craftspeople from hereditary guilds still using an ancient mix of metallurgical skill and spiritual practice to create traditional works of art.


  • Encoded with permission for digital streaming by Films Media Group on June 05, 2011.
  • Films on Demand is distributed by Films Media Group for Films for the Humanities & Sciences, Cambridge Educational, Meridian Education, and Shopware.
  • Mode of access: Internet.
  • System requirements: FOD playback platform.
  • Portions in other languages with English subtitles


  • Records of the Benin Empire (3:19) -- Benin Fortresses (2:48) -- End of Benin Empire (1:45) -- Kingdom Rulers Today (2:01) -- Benin Bronze Casters (4:13) -- Questions About Benin Art (2:19) -- Timbuktu (2:35) -- Djenn (5:27) -- Jenne-Jeno (4:13) -- Dogon Country (7:19) -- Animist Principles (2:57) -- Dogon Escarpment (3:33) -- Prehistoric Africa (4:04) -- Credits: 'West Africa' (0:23)
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