Monday, 16 December 2013

The Benin’s Igue Festival.

His Royal Highness. Oba Erediawa of Benin Kingdom.
December is a time of the year for celebrations and reflections. A time when stocks of the year are taken as it comes to an end and a time to plan for the New Year. Everyone in one way or the other no matter your culture has a way of celebrating.

For the people of Benin kingdom, in present day Benin City, southern Nigeria, December is a month for them to celebrate the end of a year and welcome the New Year with renewed hope for peace and prosperity in a colourful festival called The Igue Festival.
The Igue festival is a combination of several celebrations of which Igue is one of them, celebrated annually in December by every reigning Oba and the people of Benin. The festival is open to everyone, wherever you are, no matter your religion or culture. During Igue, sacrifices are made first to thank the gods for a successful outgoing year, and then to ask for more bounties and good luck for the incoming year.
Benin Chiefs in white attire.
Oba Ewere the Great instituted the Igue festival. He instituted the festival to thank god and the god of good luck that made it possible for him to become the Oba of Benin kingdom after a long struggle with his half brother. As years went by, other festivals were added to the Igue festival. The Igue festival is significant to the Benin people because since Oba Ewere instituted the festival, every successor Oba had kept to it and holds tenaciously to the celebration of Igue festival.

Front view of The Palace.
The long week of Igue celebration begins with the Otue ugie-erhoba ceremony. The Oba as the primal head and authority in Benin as well as the spiritual head of his people begins his Ugie celebration by recognizing his ancestors and perform rituals to appease them, all the while dancing around the items of sacrifice. The Esogban, who doubles as the Odionwere of Benin opens the ceremonial dances at the frontage of the Urho-okpere directly opposite the palace.

The night preceding the Ugie-Ewere, which is the climax of the Igue festival, is the Ugie-Edohia when every home in Benin between 7pm and 12pm performs their Igue. The heads of the families give thanks to their heads for leading them safely throughout the outgoing year.
Benin Chiefs during Ewere ceremony.
On the morning of Ewere day, people dance with Ebe-Ewere leaves and distribute to people like charisma card wishing that person a happy new year. This marks the end of the year and usher in a new year. When a Benin man says ISELOGBE to you he simples means Happy New Year.

On this day, the Isekhure accompanied by the Ihogbes walks down to the place with Ewere leaves. Others come in pairs with their Ewere leaves, which they presented to the Oba as they pay homage. The Ewere leaf is a symbol of peace, love, unity and progress among the Benin’s.
Benin men paying homage to the Oba of Benin in his palace.
Every Benin man at home or in Diaspora look up to Igue festival as an important event ushering them into a new year. It is a full embodiment of their culture and they have tried to exhibit a culture of independence not influenced by another religion.

In recent times many young people are beginning to see the festival as fetish. According to Chief D.U Edebiri, The Esogban of Benin, " There is nothing fetish about the festival. It is to mark an event just as people celebrate Christmas, Boxing Day… We are very resolute and will not allow them to influence or dilute our culture.”

Despite, the reservation of some people about the continued survival of the festival due to religious influence, the Benin’s still believe that their cultural festivals like Igue will continue to thrive.