Art and Rule in the Benin Kingdom

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

Osuan, High Priest of Ora, Oba’s Palace, Benin City, Nigeria, December 1981. Photo by Barbara W. Blackmun.


The high priests Osa and Osuan lead twin guilds that honor the Ebo n’Edo state deities.  Osuan, who serves as a diviner or counselor as well as a priest, wears the oro protrusion on his helmet.  His ancestor, like those of many Uzama, assisted Prince Oranmiyan, founder of the Oba’s dynasty.  This ancestral Osuan was entrusted with the fertility of the Edo people and their land, while his brother Osa was charged with protecting Edo soldiers from weapons of war.