Art and Rule in the Benin Kingdom

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

Chief Izevbizua Iyamu, the Esogban of Benin, one of the four Town Chiefs, wearing ehaengbehia. Benin City, Nigeria, December, 1981. Photo by Barbara W. Blackmun.

At certain palace ceremonies, the highest ranking eghaevbo n’Ore (Town Chiefs) still wear the ododo cloth armor that has been depicted for centuries in brass and ivory.  In the past several decades the privilege of wearing this ancient regalia has also been extended to the most important chiefs of the three great eghaevbo-n’Ogbe (Palace Associations).  Because the color scarlet embodies power to overcome hostile forces, this bright red imported cloth has always been reserved for those in authority.