Sulphur Springs museum shows off bronze sculptures from Benin at new ‘Sa'ey'ama’ exhibit

It’s up now and runs through Juneteenth.

click to enlarge Ancestral head of an oba (a king), part of an exhibition on empire and museum collections, and an example of Benin bronze sculpture. - Matt Neale from UK, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Matt Neale from UK, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Ancestral head of an oba (a king), part of an exhibition on empire and museum collections, and an example of Benin bronze sculpture.


Benin is a French-speaking West African nation that takes up a narrow strip of land between Togo and Nigeria, and it’s known in part for virtuoso works of art known as Sa'ey'ama. Translated to the Edo language spoken in parts of Nigeria, “Sa'ey'ama” (pronounced “sa-e-y-ama”) means “to remember,” but its literal translation is “to cast a motif in bronze.”

Nearly 5,900 miles away, Tampa’s Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center—with the help of private collectors in Orlando—wants to give locals a slice of Benin with its new exhibit showing off some of the African continent's most spellbinding forms of art, which are still being produced in Benin (much of the original Benin bronze casts from the 13th century was, naturally, plundered by colonialists). Originally created by the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico, the Sulphur Springs exhibit runs through Juneteenth (June 19) and is open right now.

Also included in the exhibit are pieces from the museum’s own collection of fossils, rocks, vintage postcards , Native American pottery and more, seen for the first time in four decades, after years of storage at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry. Dr. Elizabeth Bird speaks at 2 p.m. on June 13, but you can pop over to see the exhibit during operating hours.

Sa'ey'ama: The Power of Brass in the Kingdom of Benin. Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center, 1101 E River Cove St., Tampa. Wednesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. 813-935-9402. sulphurspringsmuseum.org

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About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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