Benin: A Na­tion of Unique Charm

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS -

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.”

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