Friday, August 22, 2008


Osazee's standing on a decorative inset showing the crossed eben and ada ceremonial swords, a motif restricted to the Oba and his chiefs. Wealthy householders often floor parts of their compound yards, either with concrete or an amalgamated material. I've never seen one of these insets being made, and I'm still curious about them--a metal strip separates the colors. I've never viewed anything like them outside Nigeria--perhaps the costs here are too high? Or perhaps I just don't get out often enough! Owners choose the motifs; in Benin, traditional gongs and other emblematic symbols also show up.
Even though this flooring has a practical purpose, particularly in the rainy season when mud can be a problem, the decorative aspect recalls older forms of floor ornamentation. Cowrie shells used to be placed into floors in patterns. Since cowries were an old currency, they attested to the owner's wealth--so extreme that he could afford to seem casual about it. and have his visitors step on money.
I've never seen cleaner compounds anywhere. The whole of a household, inside and out, is swept every morning. When younger, Osaze would be out with a hose, a broom, and Vim or Omo, scrubbing the light-colored designs of Benin's red mud or dust.

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