Page last updated at 11:49 GMT, Wednesday, 8 October 2008 12:49 UK

In pictures: Nigeria's 'lost wax' caster

Adebisi Agbede

Nigeria is famous for its "Benin Bronzes" statues but the technique used to make them has all but died out. Adebisi Agbede works at one of just three workshops which still use the wax-casting methods.

Doorway forge

His family has used the same methods for generations. Now his foundry is located in a doorway among the back streets of the south-western town of Osogbo.

Masks and bangles

He makes sculptures using the "lost wax". These parts are for a mask worn by a masquerade, a representation of a spirit who will dance around at festivals worshipping animist gods.

Adebisi's sons Ojo and Eta

He is watched closely by his sons, Ojo and Eta. "This is how I learned my craft, by watching my father. They will take over from me," Adebisi says.

Moulded in wax

The process starts with a block of wax. Adebisi cuts chunks off and softens them with a hot blade.

Artistic skill

He joins pieces of wax together by heating up the edges of the softened wax and plunging the model into water to cool it.

Wax head

This is the model of his casting before it is covered in a clay mould. This will be a head of a Yoruba spirit-god for a decorative piece held by a priest during ceremonies.

Pouring the brass

Adebisi heats up scrap brass taken from old plumbing supplies for his casting. He heats up a crucible in a pile of palm wood chips which burn hotter than other woods.

Lifting the mould

The mould is placed in the ground to prevent it moving during casting. He lifts out the mould, breaks it open and cools the cast metal in water.

A finished casting

This is the finished casting before it is cleaned up. The yellow colour of the bronze staff head will come when the metal begins to oxidise in the air. Words and pictures: The BBC's Andrew Walker.




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