Thursday, 16 February 2012

In Benin, Igue Festival 2011 celebrates a resilient tradition (Via OYASAF Lens)

Benin Kingdom is one of the well known centers of civilisation in pre-colonialNigeria.The Oba (King) is the traditional head of the Benin kingdom.
 The Igue Festival is celebrated annually in December by the Oba of Benin and his subjects. It is a combination of nine principal ceremonies during which goats and other animals are sacrificed to the gods. The chiefs of the kingdom dress in their finest traditional attires, joining the Oba in songs and dances.
Paying Homage to the Oba of Benin during the 2011 Igue Festival
During this festival every year, the Oba celebrates Ugie Ewere, which is the anniversary of his blessed and prosperous marriage to Ewere. Here all the Ihogbe present symbolic Ewere leaves to the Oba.

The Bini have a long lineage of royal dynasty, and the Igue festival is also an occasion to celebrate Ugie-Evhoba among many others. The festival marks the anniversary of the death of all past Oba of the Bini Kingdom. For seven days, propitiations are made to the spirits of all past Oba. This is done to invoke their blessings for the reigning monarch, his family and subjects.

The Igue Festival is also a period for offering thanks to the gods for sparing the lives of the Bini people, and to request for more blessings. Such rituals include offering sacrifices in some shrines in the palace. During this period, chieftaincy title holders display their Eben emblem in the Ugie dance as they appear in their traditional attire, as bestowed by the Oba on individual chiefs during the conferment of their titles. The Chiefs pay homage to the Oba while the Oba seats majestically in the royal chamber (Ogiukpo
). Bini chiefs are seen during the festival, in their enviable traditional regalia, including the Iloi (Queens) in their Okuku (hairdo). It is a rare occasion of their public appearance, where the stalwarts (Ifietes) of the Oba are seen in active service. Traditional dancers such as Esakpaide, Ohogho and others, display the Eben of the chiefs while dancing and paying homage to the Oba in Ogiukpe at Ugha Oba or the chamber of the Oba.
Benin Chiefs Performing their traditional rites at the 2011 Igue Festival
The Chiefs bless the Oba in the presence of Chief Ihama and members of the various palace societies. At the end of all sacrifices, the chiefs also dance to the Oba and his family, with the Eben.

Every chief scheduled for Ugie dance leaves their home dancing, while being accompanied by their followers. They dress in the traditional regalia permitted by the Oba as granted to them on the day of conferment of their titles. No chief dresses in a manner or attire not bestowed by the Oba. As the chiefs move from their homes to the palace, they dance with two men each by their side among others holding their hands to and from the palace.

On the last day of the festival, that is, the seventh day, Chief Osuma of Benin collects the Ewere and then hands it over to the Ihogbe, who in turn hands Ebewere to the Oba in a dance procession and melodious traditional songs about Ewere.

Oguntimehin Ariyo
OYASAF Documentary Photographer               

1 comment:

  1. This is pure,pristine and unadulterated royalty.The enigma of the Benin traditional system,to me,is that this unique set-up of culture has been this long for centuries because the people have given their unquallified support to this traditional institution for so long.That the ordinary Edo man revers his Oba is an undoubted fact.The obas themselves have been so dignified and disciplined in their conduct and comportment that one cannot but commend them.The fact that an oba is groomed for this ancient throne from the day he is born has helped in given the binis kings who are truly kings indeed(unlike some of benin's neighbours whose obas go to parties,eat publicly at such functions,snatch each other's and citizen's wives,pour acid on their wives,engage in land disputes with their chiefs and even compromise themselves and offices hobnobbing with corrupt politicians,accepting monies from them,etc).As an Edo person who attended school with a couple of benin princes I know how the BENINroyal household educate their princes and princesses and the mindset they are raised with.The average benin royal scion is couteous and respectfull but unbelievably resolute and proud of his/her pedigree.(while in econdary school in benin in the eighties I remember vividly a bini prince in my class telling a teacher (who didn't know who he was)and had requested him to stretch out his hand to be flogged "if I give youmy hand to be flogged by you it would mea that you're superior to me and that cannot be true,if as my teacher, you feel I've done something wrong,what you must do is to inform my grandfather's secretary,I cannot allow you to lift that cane on me,I'm sorry"., he teacher was so aghast that he asked in a harsh whisper "who are you?".The young prince replied "I am omoregie Akenzua,grandson of Omo'n'oba Akenzua".Our teacher took a long look at him and walked out of the class.Some minutes latter the principal's clerk came to summon the prince to the principal's office.That was how the matter was resolved.Please no one should run off with the idea, that the princes and princesses are snobbish and arrogant,no!no!!no!!! A million times no.On the contrary they're cautious,respectfull and obey all rules and belive you me that all,to the youngest,have this strong bias and sense of fairness.Whenever we felt cheated or oppressed by either the school's policies or by our dictatorial seniors we usually contacted them and they always had a way to help us out,but they always insisted strongly that we obey the rules first before they did anything.(By the way the reason why our teacher wanted to flogged prince Omoregie was because the teacher's seat and desk was dusty and we were expected to wipe it clean,which somehow the whole class forgot to do as it was a Monday morning.That was just one incident,for there were several others.