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EDO PEOPLE: AFRICA`S MOST POPULAR AND ARTISTIC PEOPLE FROM NIGERIA THAT BUILT THE PRE=COLONIAL ANCIENT AND POWERFUL BENIN KINGDOM
“Ahianmwen gue oto ru eghian; ona ya tin yaen Ulelefe. Ughemwin ghee oto ‘ye ye!” (A bird that flew from the ground only to perch on an anti-hill; is still very much on the ground!)~ Edo Proverb,Nigeria
The Edo people are the ancient Kwa language Bini-speaking ethnic groups who occupy South/Mid-Western Nigeria now called Edo State. The Edo/Bini-speaking ethnic groups include the Esan, the Afemai, the Isoko, the Urhobo among others. They are the descendants of the people who founded the ancient and mighty Benin Empire. The generic term “Edo,” therefore, refers to these peoples who have shared historical origin as well as political and cultural similarities. These peoples are called the Edoid peoples.
Edo woman in her traditional marriage attire with Edo beads embroidery
However, these days the Esan, the Afemai, The Isoko, the Urhobo and others see themselves as distinct ethnic group though they are all of Edoid origin. As a result, the Edo (proper) now occupy seven out of the 18 Local Government Areas of the Edo State which constitute 57.54% while others Esan (17.14%) Afemai compirising of Etsako (12.19%), Owan (7.43%), and Akoko Edo (5.70%). However, the Igala-speaking communities exist in Esan South East, Igbira related communities in Akoko and Afemai Areas as well as Urhobos, Izons, Itsekiris and Yoruba communities in Ovia North East and South West Local Government Areas especially in the borderlands.
The Edoids living by the river bank told the white man (Portuguese) of the powerful overlord living in Igodomigodo and the name of the tribe of this powerful king was UBINI- a term which White man (the Portuguese) corruptly wrote down as Benin when they began trade relations with Oba Ewuare around 1845. For example, the name of the eldest daughter of Oba Osewende, the mother of the OSULAS and the AIWERIOGHENES is today known as AGHAYUBINI. Aghayubini was a very wealthy trader among the Edoids living by the river bank , from whence she got the money she used, in getting the throne for her brother, who became Oba ADOLO. .
The Edo people pride themselves on their wealth of history and civilization. The arts of Benin Kingdom are global brand. Benin artifacts are among the most exquisite and coveted in world’s history which represents the earliest civilization among blacks, specifically Africans. The Benin Kingdom is the fourth earliest known civilization recorded by historians, archaeologists and anthropologists.
Their mythical story of creation says that Edo is the candle of the world (“Edo ore Isi Agbon”). They say that when God Almighty was creating the world, he also created the king who was to rule the various parts of the world. This is the origin of the saying that “Oba Yan Oto Se Evbo Ebo” meaning that the Oba owns the land up to the European country.
According to Prince Edu Agharese Akenzua , the Enogie of Obazuwa-Iko, near Benin, Edo State “Mythology tells us that kingship in Benin is as old as time; it was there at the time of creation. When OSAN’OBUWA ( God, the Creator) finished creation, He decided to send his sons to live on earth. Before they departed, He asked each one to take along a talent or a gift. Among the talents were wealth, knowledge wisdom and an old snail shell. One of the sons chose wealth, another knowledge,and another wisdom. When the youngest was to choose, only the old snail shell and a couple of nondescript items were left.
As he wondered which to take, a hornbill emerged and whispered to him to choose the dirty, old snail shell. What would he do with an old snail shell? But he obeyed the hornbill and told OSA N’BUWA he wanted the shell. They set forth on their journey, each in his boat. They arrived at their destination and found it was water. The boats could not berth. The hornbill appeared again and told him to pour the shell’s content into the water. As he did so, the water solidified: land emerged and rolled forth into the distance. He anchored his boat and stepped onto TERRA FIRMER. OSA N’BUWA was impressed by the intuition which made his youngest son choose the shell. God named the land EDO and made him king over it.
The other brothers could not find a place to anchor their boats and settle down. They offered part of their talents to their younger brother in exchange for a place to settle. Thus the Oba of EDO became owner of all land on earth. To this day, a snail shell containing medicinal earth forms an important and integral part of the coronation rituals of the Oba of Benin. The story we have just heard is told and retold to every royal child.”
Queen Mother Pendant Mask: Iyoba, 16th century
Nigeria; Edo peoples, court of Benin
Ivory, iron, coppe
(Among the most celebrated masterpieces of African art, this pendant is at once a prestige object worn by the king on ceremonial occasions and the portrait of an important historical figure at the court of Benin. The preciousness of the material and the refinement of the carving indicate that it was created by the exclusive guild of royal ivory carvers for the king.
Framed by an elegant tiara-like coiffure and openwork collar, this likeness of an Edo royal woman is in fact a portrait of Idia, mother and close advisor to one of Benin’s greatest leaders, Esigie, who ruled in the early sixteenth century. Esigie honored Idia for helping to secure his claim to the throne and for the wise counsel that she provided him throughout his reign. As a consequence of Idia’s role, the title of Queen Mother (Iyoba) was introduced to the Benin court, granting the mother of the oba (king) equal authority to that of senior town chiefs.
The miniature motifs of Portuguese faces depicted along the summit make reference to the extraordinary wealth generated in the Benin kingdom in the sixteenth century through trade with the Portuguese. Additionally, Olokun is linked to purity, the world of the dead, and fertility. The mudfish motif, which alternates with the Portuguese faces, is one of the primary symbols of Benin kingship. It is associated with the qualities of aggressiveness and liminality due to its ferocious electric sting and its ability to survive in water and on land.
The hollowed back of this work suggests that it was both a pendant and a receptacle, possibly containing medicines to protect the king while worn during ceremonial occasions.
Given the scale of this artifact and the inclusion of suspension lugs above and below the ears, it appears likely that it was worn suspended as a pectoral. Recent ritual practices, however, suggest that related works may alternatively have been worn at the king’s waist.)
The climate is typically tropical with two major seasons- the wet (Rainy) and the dry (harmattan) seasons. The wet season lasts from April to November and the Dry Season December to March.
Edo people speak Edo also called Bini (Benin). It is a Kwa Niger-Congo language spoken primarily in Edo State, Nigeria. It was and remains the primary language of the Edo people of Igodomigodo.
Edo is a core member of the group of genetically related languages called the Edoid group (Elugbe 1989). It is rated as one of the first few of the twenty-four languages, which make up the Edoid group in Nigeria. The language is currently spoken throughout most of the territories, which are coterminous with the old Benin province. This constitutes the permanent core of the pre-colonial Benin Kingdom and includes the following local government areas: Oredo, Ikpoba-Ikha, Orhionmwon, Uhunmwunode, Egor, Ovia, North East and Ovia South West. Edo is the main language spoken in these local government areas.
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