Benin Class Play preview
Cast Size: 30 - easily adaptable up or down
Duration: Around 15 minutes not including music suggestions
This script is one of several written in response to recent (Sept 2014) changes in the UK National Curriculum. Apart from adding new subjects e.g. Stone Age to Iron Age and Ancient Sumer (both of which I have ‘done’/are available off this website), the challenge to teachers now is to present ‘the bigger picture’. I have addressed this challenge by taking a broader approach to my writing – but US customers will notice from the extract I give below that I refer to Europeans’ link to the slave trade – and I have not extended the subject to America. So apologies in advance for this ‘European slant’ – it is of course just one section of the script but I thought I should pre-empt any criticism re: bigger (bigger!) picture. Likewise there is reference to British history. In order to facilitate changes US teachers may want to make to the script – to make it more relevant to their children, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I can provide you with a word document.
1. Bigger picture – Africa – North, South, East and West
2. Answers to questions What? Where? When? How? And Why?
3. History from origins in 900 to independence in 1960 (final paragraph bringing picture up to date)
• Early rulers Owadu and Eweka (transition from Ogisos to Obas and explanation of these terms)
• Ewuare and son, Ozolua (importance of Benin army)
4. Reference to Britain around 900 through to 16th century – putting events into context
5. 1897. This is given some prominence in addressing ‘ethics’ of European powers changing from traders to ‘looters’ in Scramble for Africa
6. Description of Benin City
7. Importance of animals in art – with reference to the gods
8. Plaques and Lost Wax Process
9. Changed perception of ‘savages/primitives’ - challenged by great craftsmanship
10. Recognition that with knowledge comes respect and appreciation of differences
I have made particular reference to ‘the bigger picture’ – as per new UK curriculum guidelines; and have hopefully ‘delivered’ on such key concepts as:
1. Continuity and change in and between periods
2. Causes and consequences
3. Similarity/difference within a period
4. Significance of events/people
Narrator: So, what was so special about the Benin Kingdom?
Child 16: Well, the so-called Golden Age of Benin wasn’t until the 15th and 16th centuries.
Narrator: And why was it Golden?
Child 16: Because of its greatness in terms of land, power and wealth.
Narrator: Would this have anything to do with us Europeans, by any chance?
Child 16: Well, yes and no.
Narrator: Explain yourself!
Child 16: Yes – because the people of Benin did do very well out of their trade with the Europeans.
Child 17: And vice versa!
Child 16: Indeed. Benin sold them ivory, leopard skins, rubber, palm oil, precious stones
Child 17: In return for metal and luxury items such as fine textiles and corals.
Narrator: All sounds very civilised?
Child 18: Unfortunately it didn’t stay that way. The Europeans traded guns and the Benin traded slaves.
Narrator: Ah! The infamous slave trade!
Child 18: Indeed. Up to 3,000 sold a year and continuing through to the late 19th century. Not the Benin’s ‘finest hour’.
Narrator: But wait! I’m getting confused. We started this assembly talking about the Edo people. When was the switch made to Benin? These names! So confusing!
Child 19: The earliest civilisation was known as Igodomigodo.
Narrator: Wow! I’m not going to ask you to repeat that! And its dates?
Child 19: 900 to 1180 when the Edo people were ruled by a dynasty of kings called Ogisos.
Child 19: Yes. Ogiso is the Edo word meaning King of the Sky.
Child 20: There were 31 of these Ogisos of Igodomigodo, the last one being Owadu. Interesting guy – tried to have his own son killed just to fulfil the prediction of an oracle!
Narrator: (Tutting) Whatever happened to family love? So. What happened to him?
Child 20: He was banished! And a new dynasty formed under an Ogiso descendant called Eweka. He became Oba in 1180.
Narrator: Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Eweka? Oba? You’re losing me!
Child 21: OK. So, you got the bit about the last Ogiso being banished?
Narrator: Right. But you just switched from Ogiso to Oba!
Child 21: That’s because Eweka was living in neighbouring Yoruba when he was invited to take over the kingdom.
Narrator: And don’t tell me, the Yoruba for king is Oba!
Child 21: Correct! And the new kingdom was now called Edo – until the Europeans arrived in the 15th century when it switched to Benin.
Narrator: Confusing or what? So, back to those Obas. What do we know about them?