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Our Heritage_BENIN KINGDOM. How A New Oba Will Emerge.

Eheneden Erediawa, 6

 

 

According to Benin tradition, the Oba never dies, he only joins his ancestors or he transits. Nobody announces his burial because he did not die in the first instance. What is announced after an interlude is coronation, which usually lasts 3-4 months.

 

BREAKING OF WHITE CHALKS.

 

During this period, the custom prohibits social engagements like burial ceremonies while markets are shut. The Esogban of Benin Kingdom breaks white chalks in front of markets to signal the closure of markets for a period, but no open announcement.

 

All male Bini sons are required to shave their heads in respect of the Oba. The burial arrangements are not public, so many, except a privileged class, do not know his resting place.

 

PILGRIMAGE TO USELU.

 

Immediately the Isekhure of Benin Kingdom announces the coronation programme, the crown prince proceeds to Uselu where he is the Edaiken, and where he will spend 90 days and make all necessary rituals.

 

After that, he will climb the traditional tree (Udianamasunamieuwa tree) and proceed to a wrestling contest at Ogiamien’s palace on Sakpoba Road. The history is that Ogiamien had never pledged allegiance to the Oba, he has always been at loggerheads with the monarch and would always want to prevent every incoming Oba from gaining access to the kingdom.

 

A palace source, who corroborated the narration, said, “They will begin from Egua-Edaiken, the traditional residence of the heir-apparent to the Benin throne. On a day fixed by the Edaiken, his people at Uselu will escort him on his journey back to Benin-City. On the way, he stops at an historical  palm tree named `Udin ama-mieson aimiuwa’ (translated `work before pleasure’), which the Edaiken climbs emblematically.

 

“This little ceremony dates back to the time of Oba Ewuare the Great whose life, as heir apparent to the throne, was characterized by long suffering which included periods when he personally had to climb palm trees on this spot to cut the fruits for a living.

 

“This act of torment by the father of the first Edaiken has ever since been re-enacted in a representational way by every Edaiken. From the palm tree, the Edaiken continues his journey to Benin-City. But at the first moat called lya-akpan, in the area where the firm of defunct Mid-Motors (Nigeria) Limited now stands, the Uselu chief in the procession, takes leave of the Edaiken and returns to Uselu, while the Edaiken is escorted into the city by Benin chiefs”.

 

The source went on: “Thereafter, the Edaiken enters the city via Iguisi (now Lagos Street) and proceeds to Eko-Ohae (bachelors’ camp) where he stays for three days. After three days at Eko-Ohae, the Edaiken continues his journey to Usama, the venue of the traditional coronation rites. Usama was the site where Orominyan, the father of Eweka I, built the first palace and all succeeding Obas from Eweka I were crowned and lived there, until Oba Ewedo in the 13th century moved the palace to the present site in the centre of the town.

 

“The Edaiken remains in Usama for seven days performing all the rituals and ceremonies of the Oba. Before the expiration of seven days, he visits Use, a village few kilometers outside Benin, where he performs the ceremony for choosing the name he will answer as the Oba of Benin”. Interestingly, he added, “This tradition started during the period of Oba Eweka I whose maternal grand-father, Ogie-Egor, lived in the next door village of Egor. When Prince Oromiyan left Benin, he left behind his Bini wife who was pregnant in the care of her father, the Ogie of Egor. The woman delivered a male child who was dumb from birth.

 

“The maternal grand-father then sent him to Use, the mother’s village, for treatment, but when he grew up and still could not talk, words were sent to his father at Uhe. His father sent seven magical Akhue with which the dumb prince participated in the popular village game known as Akhue. With only one seed remaining on the ground and every player having failed to strike it, the young prince used the magical Akhue from his father and succeeded in striking down the remaining seed.

 

“Excited by this feat, he spoke for the first time exclaiming in Yoruba, Owomika (my hand has struck it). He later assumed this expression for a title which became corrupted to Eweka.

 

“Later, having picked a name at Use, the Edaiken returns to Usama where the crowning ceremony is performed by Oliha, the leader of the Uzama, and proclaims Edaiken in his newly acquired name as the Oba of Benin. It is significant to note that until the ceremony at Use, the Edaiken never knows beforehand what name he is going to be crowned with”.

 

REINFORCEMENT BY OLIHA.

 

Another source puts it this way, “Ogiamien poses a problem to every Edaiken. However, he is usually defeated. After that, the Edaiken advances to Uzama-Nihiron at Siluko road, where the Oliha of Benin prepares him spiritually, physically and traditionally for final ascension to the throne. That is where he gets a name. His name is changed and the new name is what he answers throughout his reign.”

 

CORONATION.

 

Following the fortification, he saunters to the famous Urhokpota Hall in the heart of Benin at the King Square where the formal coronation of Oba of Benin takes place. The governor is most likely to present Crown Prince Ehenede Erediuwa with his staff of office same day. From that day, he becomes the 39thOba of Benin.

 

INSTALLATION RITES IN PROGRESS.

 

Before the palace announced the passage of the monarch, the crown prince, was formally installed in March as the Edaiken of Uselu after the successful completion of traditional rites.

Credits: Emma Amaize, Vanguard Newspaper & Simon Ebegbulem

OTHER READINGS ON THIS BLOG:

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Dancing Rhythms Of Love, Part 1.

Olawuwo.
With pulsating beats of music

Afield, aplenty, dancers regale, but

He rose high, then low, supine body

Rising so high, nearly touching the sky

Though many bodies entwined with the light

gyrating to the rhythmic sound of music,

‘Baba’, as the young and old call him, was

deaf to all sound but that of the dun-dun drum.

Dancing left, then right, waltzing in, then out

His hips doing the silent dance of lovers.

Mouths agape, maidens watched as this

young man, called by an elder’s appellation, entertained.

Hearts aflutter, souls a hoping, bodies expectant…

 

It didn’t start today. No. Many a moon has lapsed

As Olawuwo horned his craft, in the shadows;

On the way to the stream; alone in the fields

while chasing oya*; doing sundry chores.

His one desire, to be the King’s choice

For the festival of maidens. Oh, what pleasure

He reckons he’d give to Silifa, his crush.

If only… Oh, if only she had said ‘yes’ by the stream.

What a great life he would give her, what joy

he would harvest, and what envy he’d endure!

But she still says ‘no’! Who does that?

 

Bashiru.

 

Malcontent of the village – derided by many,

Silently admired by all. What with his riches.

Bereft of handsome genes, bankrupt of grace,

Yet, he catches the best oya*, none his rival.

To think that Silifa prefers him. Him?

What could she possibly desire in that ungainly gait,

Crippled by bush traps. Some women are blind!

Who knows what fetish he uses on his farm…

Every farmer laments, Bashiru harvests aplenty!

Who are his parents in this village? Their story we know!

We’ve had the tales – loan sharks, the lot

Now masters among this blind lot. Even Kabiyesi

buys their cock and bull story! Mischew…

 

Surely, Silifa’s father must have fooled her

Allured by promises of riches, afraid of starvation

Why must that fool Alao fall from that damned palm tree?

And must Bashiru offer him help? Olowo igbo**!

Shameless father,Alao, using my Silifa as repayment

He must know that I love Silifa, surely he knows.

Agbaya***. I will have my bride yet. Some parents.

Alao ‘n Moripe sneaking out of Ilugun under the cloak of darkness

Who do they think buy their cock and bull story of why

Ilugun became too hot for them? Mischew… Abowaba*

 

Silifa.

 

Tall, dark skinned, supple hipped, high breasted.

Alluring beauty, worthy maiden – abale* intact.

Silifa’s trips to the stream, piped piper like, draws men

Both old and young; farming pretenders and weathered hands.

Their sojourn to the stream, so sure to be at that time of the day

Wives angry, maidens jealous. Men puffy, cheats heaving.

For me, only one holds my heart strings. Just him …

But why is life so cruel? Baami* insists I must marry Basiru.

Foul of body and breath! Eewa gbami**** All legs only!

Compared to my love. Just look at ‘Lawuwo’s biceps!

Surely triplets there reside! But what can be done?

Three moons from now, my most priced asset

On a cloth, on his mat would go! If only …

 
Alao & Moripe.

 

We are so lucky, Moripe; to have Bashiru to parent.

Our Silifa will have a life worthy of a princess.

You would agree with me that you too can have a lot –

Trinkets, those finely woven adires* you so love and so on.

For me, a life of luxury, in-law to Bashiru. Think about

my friends’ envy, my voice in the meeting square…

Hmmmm ….. Baale mi*, remember how we too began o.

We married for love despite my father’s opposition

Looking into your eyes was a dream! With nothing,

I followed you; sneaking out of Ilugun at night …

Our daughter too deserves her choice be respected.

 

Shut up! Foolish woman. So, what if we snubbed your father?

That’s past tense o. Ehen! So, you would rather we stave, abi?

What value has that lazy dancer? What’s his name again?

Is he blind? Silifa that kings and Chiefs desire?

That young bull better know where to stick his nose, or else…

Is it by force? Was his placenta buried in my compound?

Ka so ra o*!

 

Ha, Baba Silifa, Eewa beru Oloun*! On the days of yam

that boy could ill afford; what about his only goat, sold for

your treatment after the fall? Or …

Or what, you this foolish woman? Or what?

Did I to him appeal for help? He offered ..

When I was unconscious o! You, who was conscious –

Why didn’t you reject his gifts, why? Mschew…

Please if you have nothing good to spew,

Go get my food! Olawuwo ko, olafuye ni!!!

 

This Dance continues in Part 2… Watch out…

*What do you reckon the various characters should do next?

 

© 12th May, 2016. Adewale Adeniji.

 

Glossary of Yoruba Words:

*Oya – Bushmeat.

*Olowo igbo- Money miss road.

*Agbaya – Foolish old man.

*Abowaba – Coming back to you.

*Abale – Virginity.

*Baami – My father.

*Ka so ra o – Be very careful here.

*Eewa gbami – Somebody help!

*Adire – local, hand woven, patterned clothes.

*Eewa beru Oloun – Why don’t you fear God.

Our Heritage_After Omo n’Oba Erediauwa, What Next For The Binis?

 

 

Eheneden Erediawa, 7With Oba Erediauwa’s passing, and the primogeniture of ascension to the Benin throne, his first son, now Edaiken N’Uselu, takes over as the new paramount ruler of the Benin Kingdom.

The Edaiken is the heir apparent to the apex throne of the Benin Kingdom. The title, according to Benin traditional history, first came into existence during Oba Ewuare’s reign in 1440. The first Edaiken was Prince Kuoboyuwa. As the eldest son of the Oba and heir apparent to the Benin throne, he is groomed in the art of governance in form and practice at Uselu, a town of about five kilometres from the Oba’s Palace.

As tradition demands, the Edaiken normally has his own set of chiefs and his administration at Uselu is a replica of what is in Benin City. About the age of puberty {sometimes after 16 years of age} the Oba introduces him to all Edo people. The introduction ceremony involves the invitation of all categories of chiefs in the kingdom, important citizens, members of the royal family and well-wishers.

This ceremony establishes for the last time the person of the Edaiken to the people and thereafter there can be no doubt about who is the heir apparent to the throne of Benin Kingdom. It is not unlikely that this ceremony was established in order to avoid the needless power struggle between rival princes in the past, which had resulted in unpleasant situations. Before the Edaiken is invested with all the powers of his office, he must be initiated to the royal palace society of Iwobo, where he would be conferred with the title of Ukoniwebo. Thereafter, he must be invested as Edaiken before he proceeds to live at Uselu his official residence.

According to oral tradition, Edaiken is one of the Uzama who belong generally to the group of Chiefs usually referred to as kingmakers but in actual sense they officiate at the crowning ceremony of a new Oba. In Benin parlance, kings are born and not made.
When an old king passes away, the Edaiken remains in his position until the royal funeral ceremonies are over and he is proclaimed as king and crowned. The royal funeral rites of the departed and the coronation ceremonies of the new Oba that immediately follows the King’s demise last about three months.

Preparation
His Royal Highness Crown Prince Eheneden Erediauwa, was on October 14 last year conferred with the title of Uko N’ Iwebo in accordance with the Benin custom. The ceremony, which is seen as one of the initial rites in preparation for a new king’s ascension, had in attendance traditional rulers, palace chiefs and members of the public.

On March 12, the Crown Prince of Benin was formally installed as the Edaiken of Uselu in Benin City, the Edo state capital, following the successful completion of the mandatory traditional rites. The event attracted a large crowd of people that thronged the palace, while shops and other business outlets were shut temporarily as a mark of honour and solidarity with the Crown Prince.

The Oba market and some streets as well as roads housing some traditional shines were cordoned off by security personnel and manned by colourfully dressed palace chiefs.
The movement was assisted by officials of the Federal Road Safety Corps and other traffic policemen to ease human and vehicular movements of persons.

During the installation, women groups adorned in Benin traditional attire, drummers and entertainers, youths and visitors, palace chiefs, including politicians and government officials led by Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, defied the scorching sun to usher in the Crown Prince.
The arrival of the convoy of the Crown Prince, in company of some first class Benin Chiefs, from his private residence in Benin to the palace marked the commencement of the ceremony.

About 4pm on that day, the heir apparent to the traditional stool rode with a long convoy, accompanied by Oshiomhole and his deputy, Dr. Pius Odubu, and other top government officials as well as palace chiefs, to the Edaiken palace, situated at Uselu in Ego Local Government Area. The Edaiken is expected to go through some traditional rites before he is assumed to have taken the traditional stool of Edaiken of Uselu, which will become his temporal place of abode.

Crown Prince Eheneden Erediauwa, born 1953, had served as Nigeria’s Ambassador to Norway as well as Ambassador to Angola. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Sociology from the University of Wales. He is a member of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs. Since 1987 Crown Prince has been active in leading positions within the Nigerian business community, especially the oil and gas industry.

Crown Prince Eheneden Erediuawa will become the 39th Oba of Benin, in the new line of Obas, after a long reign of Ogisos, the ‘Divine’ kings.

 

Other readings on this blog:

https://adewaleadenijisworldview.com/2016/04/19/our-heritage_tribute-to-eheneden-erediauwa/

https://adewaleadenijisworldview.com/2016/04/29/adieu-omo-noba-nedo-uku-akpolokpolo-erediauwa-i/

 

Adieu, Omo n’Oba n’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo Erediauwa I

Omo N'Oba Erediauwa

 

 

Ide Imariwo o, Ide Imariwo

Elu e – dugbe dugbe!

Igodomigodo! Igodomigodo!

Igodomigodo !! Igodomigodo!!

Omo n’Oba, son of Ogiso Akenzua

The curtain has been pulled, your

mortality enforced. So, journey well.

 

In Edaiken Eheneden, the royal blood

of the Ogiso’s flows on. So, travel well.

Regale Eweka, Ewedo, Udagbedo,

Uwafiokun, Eware, Ovoranmwen, your

Grandfather, Eweka II and all who went

ahead of the land of Edo. The peace you

brought, the fruitfulness of the land.

 

Solomon, Igbinoghodua, Aiseokhuoba

Son of Akenzua II, Igodomigodo hails you.

Iyase Igbe, leader of Eghaeuho N’ore

broke the Osorhue! Eeewo!!! Eeewo!!!!

But Eheneden has been prepared,

Your son is ready to lead … your subjects ready.

Look back, bestow the land with your blessing.

 

*Esagien avbe Ogiso lekokpo vbetebite!*

*Wa rhuosa! Wa rhuosa!*

 

© 29th April 2016. Adewale Adeniji

 

 

*The royal blood of the Ogisos flows eternal*

*God be praised! God be praised!*

Our Heritage_Ancient Benin Kingdom & Europeans

This is the story of a lost medieval city you’ve probably never heard about. Benin City, originally known as Edo, was once the capital of a pre-colonial African empire located in what is now southern Nigeria. The Benin empire was one of the oldest and most highly developed states in west Africa, dating back to the 11th century.

The Guinness Book of Records (1974 edition) described the walls of Benin City and its surrounding kingdom as the world’s largest earthworks carried out prior to the mechanical era. According to estimates by the New Scientist’s Fred Pearce, Benin City’s walls were at one point “four times longer than the Great Wall of China, and consumed a hundred times more material than the Great Pyramid of Cheops”.

Situated on a plain, Benin City was enclosed by massive walls in the south and deep ditches in the north. Beyond the city walls, numerous further walls were erected that separated the surroundings of the capital into around 500 distinct villages.

Pearce writes that these walls “extended for some 16,000 km in all, in a mosaic of more than 500 interconnected settlement boundaries. They covered 6,500 sq km and were all dug by the Edo people … They took an estimated 150 million hours of digging to construct, and are perhaps the largest single archaeological phenomenon on the planet”.

Barely any trace of these walls exist today.

View along a street in the royal quarter of Benin City, from 1897.
View along a street in the royal quarter of Benin City, 1897. Photograph: The British Museum/Trustees of the British Museum 

Benin City was also one of the first cities to have a semblance of street lighting. Huge metal lamps, many feet high, were built and placed around the city, especially near the king’s palace. Fuelled by palm oil, their burning wicks were lit at night to provide illumination for traffic to and from the palace.

When the Portuguese first “discovered” the city in 1485, they were stunned to find this vast kingdom made of hundreds of interlocked cities and villages in the middle of the African jungle. They called it the “Great City of Benin”, at a time when there were hardly any other places in Africa the Europeans acknowledged as a city. Indeed, they classified Benin City as one of the most beautiful and best planned cities in the world.

In 1691, the Portuguese ship captain Lourenco Pinto observed: “Great Benin, where the king resides, is larger than Lisbon; all the streets run straight and as far as the eye can see. The houses are large, especially that of the king, which is richly decorated and has fine columns. The city is wealthy and industrious. It is so well governed that theft is unknown and the people live in such security that they have no doors to their houses.”

In contrast, London at the same time is described by Bruce Holsinger, professor of English at the University of Virginia, as being a city of “thievery, prostitution, murder, bribery and a thriving black market made the medieval city ripe for exploitation by those with a skill for the quick blade or picking a pocket”.

African fractals

Benin City’s planning and design was done according to careful rules of symmetry, proportionality and repetition now known as fractal design. The mathematician Ron Eglash, author of African Fractals – which examines the patterns underpinning architecture, art and design in many parts of Africa – notes that the city and its surrounding villages were purposely laid out to form perfect fractals, with similar shapes repeated in the rooms of each house, and the house itself, and the clusters of houses in the village in mathematically predictable patterns.

As he puts it: “When Europeans first came to Africa, they considered the architecture very disorganised and thus primitive. It never occurred to them that the Africans might have been using a form of mathematics that they hadn’t even discovered yet.”

 

At the centre of the city stood the king’s court, from which extended 30 very straight, broad streets, each about 120-ft wide. These main streets, which ran at right angles to each other, had underground drainage made of a sunken impluvium with an outlet to carry away storm water. Many narrower side and intersecting streets extended off them. In the middle of the streets were turf on which animals fed.

“Houses are built alongside the streets in good order, the one close to the other,” writes the 17th-century Dutch visitor Olfert Dapper. “Adorned with gables and steps … they are usually broad with long galleries inside, especially so in the case of the houses of the nobility, and divided into many rooms which are separated by walls made of red clay, very well erected.”

Dapper adds that wealthy residents kept these walls “as shiny and smooth by washing and rubbing as any wall in Holland can be made with chalk, and they are like mirrors. The upper storeys are made of the same sort of clay. Moreover, every house is provided with a well for the supply of fresh water”.

Family houses were divided into three sections: the central part was the husband’s quarters, looking towards the road; to the left the wives’ quarters (oderie), and to the right the young men’s quarters (yekogbe).

Daily street life in Benin City might have consisted of large crowds going though even larger streets, with people colourfully dressed – some in white, others in yellow, blue or green – and the city captains acting as judges to resolve lawsuits, moderating debates in the numerous galleries, and arbitrating petty conflicts in the markets.

The early foreign explorers’ descriptions of Benin City portrayed it as a place free of crime and hunger, with large streets and houses kept clean; a city filled with courteous, honest people, and run by a centralised and highly sophisticated bureaucracy.

The city was split into 11 divisions, each a smaller replication of the king’s court, comprising a sprawling series of compounds containing accommodation, workshops and public buildings – interconnected by innumerable doors and passageways, all richly decorated with the art that made Benin famous. The city was literally covered in it.

The exterior walls of the courts and compounds were decorated with horizontal ridge designs (agben) and clay carvings portraying animals, warriors and other symbols of power – the carvings would create contrasting patterns in the strong sunlight. Natural objects (pebbles or pieces of mica) were also pressed into the wet clay, while in the palaces, pillars were covered with bronze plaques illustrating the victories and deeds of former kings and nobles.

At the height of its greatness in the 12th century – well before the start of the European Renaissance – the kings and nobles of Benin City patronised craftsmen and lavished them with gifts and wealth, in return for their depiction of the kings’ and dignitaries’ great exploits in intricate bronze sculptures.

“These works from Benin are equal to the very finest examples of European casting technique,” wrote Professor Felix von Luschan, formerly of the Berlin Ethnological Museum. “Benvenuto Celini could not have cast them better, nor could anyone else before or after him. Technically, these bronzes represent the very highest possible achievement.”

A drawing of Benin City made by a British officer in 1897.
A drawing of Benin City made by a British officer in 1897. Illustration: akg-images 

 

What impressed the first visiting Europeans most was the wealth, artistic beauty and magnificence of the city. Immediately European nations saw the opportunity to develop trade with the wealthy kingdom, importing ivory, palm oil and pepper – and exporting guns. At the beginning of the 16th century, word quickly spread around Europe about the beautiful African city, and new visitors flocked in from all parts of Europe, with ever glowing testimonies, recorded in numerous voyage notes and illustrations.
Lost world
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Now, however, the great Benin City is lost to history. Its decline began in the 15th century, sparked by internal conflicts linked to the increasing European intrusion and slavery trade at the borders of the Benin empire.

Then in 1897, the city was destroyed by British soldiers – looted, blown up and burnt to the ground. My great grandparents were among the many who fled following the sacking of the city; they were members of the elite corps of the king’s doctors.

Nowadays, while a modern Benin City has risen on the same plain, the ruins of its former, grander namesake are not mentioned in any tourist guidebook to the area. They have not been preserved, nor has a miniature city or touristic replica been made to keep alive the memory of this great ancient city.

A house composed of a courtyard in Obasagbon, known as Chief Enogie Aikoriogie’s house – probably built in the second half of the 19th century – is considered the only vestige that survives from Benin City. The house possesses features that match the horizontally fluted walls, pillars, central impluvium and carved decorations observed in the architecture of ancient Benin.

 

Curious tourists visiting Edo state in Nigeria are often shown places that might once have been part of the ancient city – but its walls and moats are nowhere to be seen. Perhaps a section of the great city wall, one of the world’s largest man-made monuments, now lies bruised and battered, neglected and forgotten in the Nigerian bush.

A discontented Nigerian puts it this way: “Imagine if this monument was in England, USA, Germany, Canada or India? It would be the most visited place on earth, and a tourist mecca for millions of the world’s people. A money-spinner worth countless billions in annual tourist revenue.”

Instead, if you wish to get a glimpse into the glorious past of the ancient Benin kingdom – and a better understanding of this groundbreaking city – you are better off visiting the Benin Bronze Sculptures section of the British Museum in central London.

Credit:

Benin: The Nigerian City that Made the Europeans Jealous

Further Reference: Video: Africa’s Past: Ife & Benin Kingdoms (12th to 19th Century):

Our Heritage_Tribute to Eheneden Erediauwa.

Eheneden Erediawa, 6

Eheneden Erediawa, 7

 

 

As the Binis of Southern Nigeria prepare for the enthronement of a new Oba for their ancient Kingdom, we join to offer our homage to the crown prince, Eheneden Erediawa:

 

Eze no re oto Igodomigodo

Gha yo oghogho gha wuon yo

Nu soyenmwen noto Igodomigodo da – vaan
Emwiniman tewowiri, amioen nen erena
Esasigen omo nokegbe Ogiso re, yero!

English Translation:

Let the rivers of the land of Igodomigodo

Swell with joy

Let the land tremble in happiness

For what we had feared lost

We have today found

The blood lines of the Ogisos lives!