Benin Kingdom Leadership Regalia

by Kathy Curnow
Cleveland State University

Chief’s confirmation, Benin KingdomNigeria, 1994. Photo by Kathy Curnow.


During the confirmation ceremonies, certain chiefs relay the messages between the new titleholder and the Oba.  These conversations concern the granting or withholding of privileges relating to dress, architecture, and honors to wives and family. The confirmation ceremonies also include pledges of loyalty, such as igbeken, shown here.  The chief steps toward the Oba several times, each time kneeling and offering a special salute.  The gestures involved suggest the Catholic sign of the cross, and may have their origins in the sixteenth-century reign of Oba Esigie. A baptized Christian, he created many titles and instituted many chieftaincy reforms.  After igbeken, the chief raises his right fist to the Oba, wishing him long life.  He then kneels again with his attendants, all of whom say "thank you" while gesturing in prayer.