Benin Kingdom Leadership Regalia

by Kathy Curnow
Cleveland State University

Chief holding an eben during thanksgiving ceremony, Benin KingdomNigeria, 1994. Photo by Kathy Curnow.

The new chief, encouraged and instructed by his more experienced colleagues, manipulates his eben in several ways.  He first salutes the monarch, tipping the point of the sword to the ground several times in acknowledgement of his authority.  He then uses the eben to recognize his family and supporters, as well as his fellow chiefs.  As he proceeds through the ceremony, well-wishers shout, "Iyare!"--"May you go and return safely."  This prayer speaks to the dangers inherent in chieftaincy; while its recognition, status and power are craved, it exposes candidates to supernatural challenges from rivals.  Such competitors prefer to disgrace their victims publicly, and chiefs medicinally prepare themselves before such exposure.  Festive occasions like this are occasions of both pride and anxiety for participants.

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Nigeria; Benin Kingdom peoples. Benin chief’s confirmation. Video by Kathy Curnow.