Art and Rule in the Benin Kingdom

by Barbara W. Blackmun
Professor Emeritus, San Diego Mesa College

Oba Erediauwa II, the Oba of Benin, at Igue Ceremonies in the Royal Palace, Benin City, Nigeria, December 1981. Photo by Barbara W. Blackmun.

Legend claims that the fifteenth century Oba Ewuare the Great won this coral beaded regalia from Olokun, god of the rivers and the sea.  Oba Ewuare also contacted Portuguese mariners on the African coast, who brought Benin new luxuries from trade with Europe.  It seemed to the Edo that their seaborne allies traveled through Olokun’s realm and traversed the spirit world, bringing divinely sanctioned wealth to the Benin kingdom.  Images of these foreign traders are on the Oba’s wrapper.