NOT many lands can boast of the kind of artistic heritage in Benin City, Edo State capital. The city is choked to the throat with art works, art studios, gallery-public commissioned outdoor sculptures, cultural centres, and traditional institutions among others. Despite what some call modernization, the city which is also the capital of the ancient Edo kingdom is still to its people what it has always been, from yore, a visually rich epicenter of Benin indigenous and modern culture, a self-contained society that brims with towering sculptures and cultural monuments. Since 14th century when the Portuguese berthed in the kingdom known as Igodomigodo, bringing with them western cultural influences, Benin has continued to receive foreign overtures yet it has held tight to its ancestral traditions and ethos including her home grown religion.
AGOZINO AGOZINO, captures some of the cultural landmarks that make the city culturally understanding.
The power house in Benin City is the Oba of Benin palace. The royal palace which dates back to centuries in the heart of Benin City is a repository of history and relics of ages preserved in artifacts. Sculpture pieces in the form of bronze casts, brass works, stone pieces and relic of all manner comprising plaques and other forms of art depicts the land’s history.
Major events in the history of the land are richly preserved in mural sculptures displayed on the walls and panel doors. The palace is the abode of the highly revered Oba of Benin, Omo n’ Oba n’ Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Erediauwa.
The monarchy in Benin is rich and revolves around every other aspect of people’s life in the land. The institution which dates from ancient time is hereditary. Highly revered, it commands the respect of nearly every Edo indigene, traditionalists, Christians and Muslims.
Benin National Museum Sources informed that the Benin National Museum, an imposing edifice located near the Oba’s palace which hosts several events weekly, was known formerly as Benin Divisional Council Museum.
It was opened in 1946 with veteran historian Joesph Eghareva as curator. However, it was rebuilt after many years by the defunct Bendel State Government. The museum is in a beautiful place in a King’s square. The facility with a conspicuous oval shaped major structure is always a delightful place to visit.
Like most globally reported cultural tourism destinations, Benin has a lot of statues and public commissioned sculptures towering over the entire land.
But one that readily attracts any visitor is the popular Emotan Statue. It is the monument of a stately woman, dressed in traditional Benin wrapper and headgear. The subject Emotan in Benin myth is linked historically with the Benin royalty. The awesome feminine statue stands opposite the popular Oba market.
In Benin history, Emotan is said to be a patriotic woman who lived in the 15th century. She traded in foodstuff where the statue stands. Further information has it that although she was childless during her lifetime, she helped many market women take care of their daily market business.
There is also the account that the mythical figure assisted one Prince Ogun to the Benin throne against his usurper brother. The Prince later became Oba Ewuare the Great. Visually, the giant Emotan statue is awesome and fabulous.
Ogiamien residence Chief Ogiamien’s residence is another interesting place in Benin City that showcases rich aspect of Benin rich cultural heritage.
The place is the home of the second Okaevbo, leader of Benin during the 70-years interregnum in 19th century through early 20th century. Located around Sokponba Road, the residence displays a high mark of traditional architecture and has been declared a monument by the National Commission for Museum and Monument (NCMM) it contains carvings, bronze and metal works of historical significance. Any visit to Benin with seeing the residence is like going to Rome without seeing Vatican City.
Chief Nosa Isekhure palace This is the abode of the Chief priest of Benin kingdom also located along Sokponba road. The present occupant is Chief Nosa Isekhure, a well-educated journalist and United State of American trained scholar who believes so much in preservation of Benin cultural heritage and history. Chief Isekhure carries the designation of office of the Chief priest with admirable panache and regality. It is said that in line with his hereditary title, his duty is always to perform sacrifice and ritual for the Oba and the entire Benin kingdom.
*this was published in the Daily Times dated Monday, December 29, 2014