The Benin people believe that their kingdom was
created by the daughter of the king of Tado, a
Yoruba, who, when coming to look for water in
the forest encountered the leopard spirit. From
that union Agasu was born, the ancestor of all
the Fon. The art created by the Fon artists falls
into two categories- royal art and religious
objects. Objects of prestige in bronze and copper
were produced by artisans living at court; these
included engraved calabashes, scepters and
commanders' sticks, the most beautiful of which
holding high place in the king's residence.
Beyond court art, the Fon adopted the belief of
Vodun, which was the affirmation of a
supernatural world that could be contacted
through a series of various procedures. The
members of the Vodun believed that their faith
could directly effect this world and guarantee
eternal life in the next.
Apart from ancestral statues, the Fon also made
Bochio statues. These were actually made by the
village blacksmith who sculpted them from a
trunk of a tree. It was then placed at the
entrance of a village or house to protect its
inhabitants by chasing away prowlers or ghosts.
The power of this amazing statue is undeniable.
He is more a mythical being than a man, holding
a skull in front of him as a sort of weapon to
frighten away unwelcome visitors. It is possible
this statue also represents an ancestor whose
function is much the same as the Bochio, to
serve as guardian for his living relatives.
Whatever his exact purpose this imposing figure
conjures a primordial state where man and spirit
mingle, life and death personified, a guardian at
the gates of the netherworld, offering protection
for the safety of his people.