Art and Rule in the Benin Kingdom

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

Ihama of Ihogbe bringing Ewere leaves to the Oba, Oba’s Palace, Benin City, Nigeria. December 1981. Photo by Barbara W. Blackmun.


The Ewere Festival occurs at the end of December, when the entire population takes part to bring in the New Year with joyful anticipation.  Among the Edo, the roots, bark, sap, or leaves of many plants are used medicinally, spiritually, and symbolically.  According to legend, the Ewere tree once saved the life of Oba Ewuare, who hid among its broad, large leaves from his enemies.  Ewuare decreed that these leaves of good fortune,” ebe ewere, would be honored forever in his kingdom. At the Oba’s palace, Ewere leaves are brought by specific delegations of chiefs. They are presented to the Oba by Ihama of Ihogbe and by Esekhurhe, both of whom are descended from the Oba’s royal ancestors at the beginning of the present dynasty.