1358 x 900 Benin Kingdom Leadership Regalia, Page 15 - Art & Life in Africa - The University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art

Benin Kingdom Leadership Regalia

by Kathy Curnow
Cleveland State University

Oba of Benin at chief’s thanksgiving ceremony, Benin KingdomNigeria, 1994. Photo by Kathy Curnow.

As the chief and his entourage advance to offer their thanks and loyalty, Oba Erediauwa watches from his throne.  Shaded within a shrine to Oba Ozolua, an important warrior monarch who ruled five centuries ago, he is surrounded by chiefs, and several of his children relax at his feet.  Teenage boys, often chiefs' sons, attend him as pages; one holds his ada, a ceremonial sword that refers to the Oba's powers over life and death.  During their years of palace service, pages are not allowed outside its gates; a court school offers them a standard curriculum.  In past centuries, they were remained nude until their "graduation" from the palace; today they wear a khaki uniform of shirt and shorts.  For this occasion, the Oba is simply dressed in white satin.  This, the color of peace and prosperity, is in sharp contrast to the elaborate coral attire worn at more important festivals.