A Rich, Colorful Heritage of the Benin Kingdom
“He, who knows not the Oba, let me show him, he has piled a throne upon a throne…”
The lines of this panegyric revealed the underlined drama, a recount of history and entertainment during the 40th Coronation of the Omo n’Oba n’Edo Uku Apolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, gallery exhibition at The Thought Pyramid Norman Avenue, Ikoyi Lagos.
Like a time traveler on April 29, 2018, I metamorphosed to become a participant in the coronation of the Oba as he makes his way from Benin, after the transition rites of the late Oba to Uselu, Eko Ehae, Usama Palace, Use Village and back to Benin even as Omoregie Osakpolor, the gallery exhibitionist and a Nigerian Documentary Photojournalist became my eyes and a raconteur telling me all about the coronation and explaining every detail, reason for the crowned prince’s movement at the gallery.
Participants of the royal occasion were art admirers; renowned photojournalists; and a writer who loves writing and telling entertaining African visual stories, whilst the colorful and epical avalanche pictures also re-affirmed my earliest beliefs in regards to how Benin is culturally endowed and why the Oba is greatly referenced.
The Ediaken (the crowned prince) leaves Benin for Uselu, after the transition rites are over, to Uselu, a symbolic place in the Benin history.
Asides form the other things he does at Uselu is the climbing of the symbolic palm tree which fed his fore-father, Ewuare, during a time of self-exile. He moves to Eko Ehae, Bachelors Camp, which is another symbolic place the crowned prince goes to for some ritual rites.
Next, he moves to the Usama Palace to Use Village where he plays the Akhue-a game that he played to get his addressed title and he is proclaimed by the Usama as the Oba of Benin with the title. It is noteworthy to know that the crowned prince spends three or seven days in these places to complete his ritual rites of 21 days.
Asides from the beauty and the scenery at the gallery, the coronation pictures, the costume, the improvisation, plot and setting have some underlining elements of drama, re-enactment, entertainment and mysticism.
According to my guide, at Uselu, the Ediaken, symbolically climbs the palm tree known as Udin ama meieson, to re-enact the suffering of Oba Ewuare; all crowned princes must go through this rite as a norms for their coronation.
Additional dramatic aspect of the coronation is the re-enactment of the crossing of the bridge at the Omi River which is followed by a mock battle between Oba Ewedo and Ogiamen with his followers.
From the coronation pictures of the Oba, placed on the wall, I could deduce that the whole process has a large percentage of music, songs and dancing as the Ekassa Dancers, are known for the symbolic spiritual cleansing dance.
The mysticism dancers are mostly male, wrapped in their white wrappers. The dance is only performed at the demise of an Oba and the coronation of a new Oba. Asides the Ekassas are the Ikppakohen, Isienmwenro amongst others. The beauties of these dancers are accompanied with songs and various dance steps as captured by the decisive shots of Osakpolor.
Lastly, the coronation pictures also revealed a rich referenced culture. African monarchs are highly referenced and the coronation pictures confirmed this. My raconteur revealed that trading activities in Benin was practically short down during the Oba’s coronation most especially on his way back to Benin after the completion of his 21-days coronation rites.
The gallery exhibition was an avenue to learn about art, history and entertainment even as they accompanied the coronation rites of the Oba of Benin. . . Long live the Oba, long live our traditions.