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PALACE SCULPTURES OF ABOMEY: HISTORY TOLD ON WALLS by Francesca Pique and Leslie H. Rainer with Jerome C. Alladaye Rachida de Souza-Ayari and Suzanne Preston Blier The Getty Conservation Institute February 2000, $45.00, ISBN 0-892-36869-2

At first glance, it may appear that this is an art book that focuses on the bas-reliefs found on the walls of the palaces of the Dahomey royal dynasties. However, the authors actually trace the development of Dahomey from the 13th through the 20th centuries when the name of the country was first changed to the People's Republic of Benin, and later to the Republic of Benin.

With an articulate narrative, the introduction immediately gives the reader a sense of the depth and breadth of this West African country and its capital city of Abomey. In fact, the content is clear and well structured throughout. Including a finely tuned time line, crisp photographs and full-color illustrations, this examination of kings and their respective palaces, the bas-relief art, the meaning of the pictograms and the relevance to the thrones proves to be a hearty wealth of information.

One particularly striking photograph, taken in the 1890s by a French military doctor, shows a group of Dahomean women who were officers and members of the king's fierce Amazon Battalion. In the chapter on the Warrior Kings, there is a wonderful, two-page illustration of a textile applique with symbols of the twelve kings traditionally acknowledged to have ruled Dahomey. The book even manages to insert brief references to the issue of the Dahomean king's involvement in the slave trade.

By the final chapters of the book, the reader has a profound understanding of the form and function of the bas-relief sculptures of Abomey and may come to deeply appreciate the efforts to preserve this magnificent visual and oral African history, as told in the people's own beautiful language.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Cox, Matthews & Associates
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Warfield, Vivian Millicent
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2001

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