Lost Wax Playing Cards inspired by the Benin Empire

Lost Wax Playing Cards inspired by the Benin Empire

Olutade Abidoye gives us a doze of history with his Lost Wax playing cards. The pack of cards consists of 54 playing cards, each featuring beautiful illustrations of kings, queens and courtiers from 15th – 19th century Nigeria, particularly the Benin Empire.

The Lost Wax is actually a difficult method of sculpting (using both clay and metal) that was popular in the Benin Empire. If not for these cards, I would never have known this. This simple fact shows that one of Olutade’s  objectives with these cards is being fulfilled: “If Nigeria’s prosperous past becomes common sense through these cards, then perhaps the notion of a brighter future won’t be so far-fetched.” ~ Olutade.

With these cards, Olutade aims to bring Nigeria’s rich history, culture of sculpture, and the royal kings and queens, to the forefront of everyone’s minds, through portraying consumer goods (such as these cards) as art.

I expect Lost Wax Playing Cards to bring a new dynamism to Nigerian popular culture and consciousness. My aim is to rekindle this colorful, yet elusive history into Nigerian popular culture through these playing cards. Nigerians are influenced by their indigenous traditions but more increasingly by popular culture. Symbols of tradition—such as those that inspire these cards—are easily overshadowed by meanings, images and activities drawn from popular culture. Since popular culture is grounded in the mundane and the persistent routines of everyday life, then this history too becomes implicit and fixed. The old Africa that inspired these artifacts has now lost much of its luster. If Nigeria’s prosperous past becomes common sense through these cards, then perhaps the notion of a brighter future won’t be so far-fetched.

– Olutade
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