Private and public ceremonies mark many of the important moments in Benin’s yearly calendar. In the past, an elaborate series of rites were performed throughout the year to secure otherworldly support for the kingdom’s well-being and to celebrate decisive events in its history. For the sake of convenience, the current monarch, Oba Erediauwa, emphasizes the end-of-year festival called Igue, which is held during the winter holidays to allow the greatest number of people to attend. Igue includes a sequence of rituals that renew the oba’s supernatural powers and cleanse the kingdom’s unruly spirits.

Benin’s other important ritual festivals include Ague, where the first budded yams are blessed in hopes of a successful harvest; Ugie Ivie, the Festival of Beads, in which the oba’s coral and red stone regalia is bathed in cow’s blood to reinvest it with spiritual force; Ugie Erha Oba, which honors the oba’s father and all paternal ancestors; Oduduwa, a masquerade that likewise honors the oba’s paternal ancestors; and Ugie Oro, celebrating Oba Esigie’s victory over the Idah Kingdom in the 16th century.

Explore more works related to this theme.

Double-Gong and Striker, 16th century. Edo; Benin Kingdom, Nigeria. The Trustees of the British Museum, London, Af1964, 04.1 and Af1964, 07.1.