842 x 1250 Art and Rule in the Benin Kingdom, Page 25 - Art & Life in Africa - The University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art

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.


Singing the chorus, “Ewere mwen, Ewere rue!” (“Your good fortune is my good fortune; your joy is mine”), they request the palace gates to open to their gifts. Early in the morning of the Ewere Festival, before dawn, bands of young people run through the city with burning torches, to drive away any vestiges of disharmony.  At the outskirts of the community they extinguish their fires and gather fresh green ebe ewere, which are given out as New Year’s gifts to all whom they meet.  Children and adults come out on the streets, singing the festival songs and performing the Ewere dances, as they visit every home to distribute the leaves that bring social harmony and good fortune.