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We would like to invite you for a series of free lunch-time screenings, which the RAI is organising in collaboration with the British Museum for the new exhibition Kingdom of Ife: Sculptures from West Africa.

Location: Stevenson Lecture Theatre, Free, booking advised

Friday 23 April, 13.30, A documentary double bill

Benin Kingship Rituals
Filmmakers: Frank Speed and R Bradbury
Nigeria, c. 1963, 20 minutes
Until it was conquered by the British in 1897, the city of Benin, in what is now Nigeria, was the centre of a powerful kingdom. Its rulers, the Obas of Benin, were mysterious, secluded figures who spent much of their time in the performance of rituals designed to enhance their power and to ensure the prosperity of their subjects. Many of the art objects for which Benin is famous were used in these rituals, some of which are still performed. This film shows some of the most significant moments in the rituals that take place around the beginning of the new year, including the greatest event of the ritual year, the Igwe Festival, in which the Oba’s divine powers are strengthened and renewed. The object of worship is the head of the living Oba, the seat of his ritual energy, on which the well-being of the nation is believed to depend.

Duminea: a Festival for the Water Spirits
Filmmakers: Frank Speed and Robin Horton
Nigeria, 1966, 20 minutes
The communal rituals of most villages of the Eastern Niger Delta focus on two great classes of spirits – the heroes and the water people. The heroes once lived with the men, founded their institutions and brought them their characteristic means of gaining a livelihood. Today, as spirits, they continue to maintain the established institutions and the skills with which people wrest a living from their environment. The water people, by contrast, have never lived with men: they are the creators and owners of the rivers and creeks, controlling the state of the waters and the abundance of fish.

The little village of Soku, hidden in the heart of the eastern Delta, has a group of heroes headed by Fenibaso, and its creeks and rivers are controlled by the water-spirit Duminea. This film shows some highlights of the annual ritual for Duminea.

As in most Kalabari festivals, spirit possession features prominently in the proceedings. The possession behaviour is controlled by public expectations, which lay down the stage of the proceedings at which each spirit will ‘climb on’ his priest, as well as the patter of behaviour the latter will display once possessed.

All events: Stevenson Lecture Theatre, The British Museum
For booking a free ticket please phone +44 (0)20 7323 8181 or go on-line http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/events_calendar/march_2010/double_bill.aspx