If we say that the African tradition and culture is gradually fading away, then the Bini kingdom is one of the few hopes of preservation we have. Except in the offering human sacrifices (as it did in the past) which has been replaced by sacrificing of animals, very little has changed as regards the traditions and culture of the popular African kingdom.
The Bini kingdom is today located in what is geographically referred to as Benin City in Edo State, Nigeria. It is still ruled by the Oba of Bini from his palace which is located at the heart of the city.
The Royal Palace of the Oba of Bini kingdom is one of the most prestigious sites in the world today. It was originally built by Oba Ewedo (1255AD – 1280AD) and rebuilt by Oba Eweka II (1914 – 1932) after the 1897 war during which it was destroyed by the British. The royal palace was declared a UNESCO Listed Heritage Site in 1999.
It is on record that the Portuguese where the first foreigners to visit the Bini kingdom around the 14th and 15th Century and they were marveled at the organization as regards the monarchy government structure and trade which they experience. They were the first to call the place a city in their notes and records when referring to the kingdom.
Ancient records in which the European traders recounted their visit in the kingdom read:
“Dutch and Portuguese traders were invited into the king's palace - and thus we have written records of what the palace looked like.
”The king's court is very big, having within it many wide squares with galleries round them where a watch is always kept. I went so far within these builds that I passed through four such squared, and wherever I looked I still saw gate after gate which opened into other places."
Surprisingly, not much has changed in this structure as told here.
Despite the wealth, history and education acquired by the well-traveled people of the Bini kingdom, their culture and traditions are upheld to the highest levels. This is seen in their day to day activities and festivals – with the Igue festival being the most prominent.
The Igue festival is a celebration by indigenes of the Bini kingdom from all over the globe. In the past, it was celebrated to renew Oba Ewuare's magical powers. It also marks the marriage between Oba Ewuare and Queen Ewere.
Today, the festival is celebrated between the period of Christmas and New Year. During the festival, the Oba blesses the land; during this period, his people and non-native are prohibited from seeing the Oba.
It was also gathered that the Igue festival is also a ceremony set aside to celebrate the deaths of previous Oba’s that have ruled the kingdom.
The festival begins with the application of native chalk on the Oba's head which signifies purity and the blood of the sacrificial animals which are usually slaughtered during the festival.
On the last day of the festival, the chief collects the Ewere leaves and then hands it over to the Ihogbe (a high ranked chief in the land), who hands it to the Oba in a dance.
The festival is celebrated yearly and attracts people from all over the world.
Would you love to attend such a festival?
Header Image Credit: Bini Palace