Art and Rule in the Benin Kingdom

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

Textiles on display on Iwebo Street, Ogbe, the area of the Oba’s Palace, Benin City, Nigeria, April 1994. Photo by Barbara W. Blackmun.


Iwebo is the senior of the three great Palace Associations that serve the Benin Kingdom.  This organization is in charge of brasscasting, iron working, leatherworking, weaving, beadworking, the carving of wood and ivory, certain musicians and dancers, and other guilds involving the Oba’s regalia, ceremonial choreography, and the visual and performing arts.  Before the twentieth century, Iwebo also regulated the kingdom’s international trade.  

Indigenous and foreign textiles have been important in this trade.  Although most of Benin’s craftsmen are male, the Owina n’Ido incorporates both men and women weavers.