Benin: A Nation of Unique Charm
Benin is a country in south central West Africa. Its coat of arms is complex and rich in imagery, illustrating the culture and history of its people and was officially adopted in 1990. The central design is divided into four parts: the golden castle in the upper left represents the splendid civilisation of ancient Benin; the leafy palm in the lower left shows that Benin, a well-known “country of oil palm,” is rich in green resources; the star design in the upper right symbolises the cause of the African people; and the ancient sailing ship on the blue sea in the lower right reminds people of the nation's long, seafaring history. Above the coat of arms, the two horns filled with golden corncobs symbolise Benin's inexhaustible treasures and the redtongued, red-spotted golden leopards on the two sides are a symbol of the firm and unyielding character of its people “Fraternite, Justice and Travail'' is written on the white ribbon on the bottom of the shield.
The development of agricultural industry in Benin began in ancient times when some powerful tribal kingdoms in the south of Africa supported contact with Europeans. Palm kernel and palm oil are now the main exports of Benin. The carotene content in their palm oils as high as two percent. The country's main crops are yam, cassava, sweet potato, corn, pea, broad bean and peanut. “Benin is also suitable for growing tomatoes, pineapples, coconuts, cashews, corn and cotton,” Envoy Orou-yerima Baudouin Euloge of the Embassy of Benin in China explained proudly, pointing at the pictures posted in the exhibition area.
Staff from the Embassy of Benin in China filled the exhibition area with various exhibits so visitors could learn more about the country. Those with artistic characteristics, such as bronze reliefs, were some of the most interesting.
These decorative reliefs are famous for their background design, which is usually composed of roses. The reliefs' foreground usually contains a group of as many as nine figures of different sizes. The reliefs mainly depict kings' achievements, war, hunting, travel, court life, foreigners or animals. The social identity of the figures can be ascertained from the clothes, headgear and strings of beads they wear. There are also reliefs that depict scenery, which form a unique view of the design art of West Africa. The designs on the decorative reliefs depict palace buildings, court life and people from all walks of life in ancient Benin. In addition to bronze reliefs, a variety of objects with local artistic characteristics were exhibited, including those offering a glimpse of imperial life, such as royal clothing, sceptres and art depicting royal guardian gods.
The wall in the booth also displayed photographs of familiar stars of Beninese origin. One of the most well-known was the singer Angélique Kidjo. Her music is not very African and also features a blend of many other traditional musical styles, such as funk, rumba, jazz, soul music and makossa. A socially conscious artist, Kidjo is also an ardent advocate for girls' education and was appointed as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador on July 25, 2002.
Djimon Hounsou, an actor who enjoys international fame was also pictured in the booth. Born in the city of Cotonou, Hounsou was a model before he turned to film. He was twice nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. One of his most impressive performances was opposite Leonardo Dicaprio in Blood Diamond, directed by Edward Zwick in 2006. In recent years, Hounsou has played supporting roles in such blockbusters as Seventh Son, Guardians of the Galaxy and Furious 7.
Envoy Baudouin Euloge said that it is of great significance for Benin to participate in the third “Colourful World” event. “This is a very good opportunity not only for exhibition but also for promoting our cultural exchanges with the world so that more people can learn about our country.”