By Christopher D. Roy
University of Iowa
There are two major systems of rule in Africa in which art has a role: centralized and non-centralized. Centralized systems have a chief, king or emperor established at the apex of a complex and well-ordered political bureaucracy. Such systems exert power over communities, cities, kingdoms and empires. In contrast, non-centralized systems of government rarely extended beyond the clan or community. In these communities, councils of elders representing each of the families in the community meet to make decisions about the conduct of life. In addition there are communities in which there are no apparent systems of rule at all, but the laws for the ethical and moral conduct of life are established by the nature spirits that watch over the group.
Nigeria; Benin Chief's Confirmation. Video by Kathy Curnow.