The Bini believes in the physical world which they call “Agbon” or Aye” and spiritual world referred to as “Erinmwin”. Agbon is the domain of human beings while Erinmwin is the abode of the spirit beings including the ancestors – the living dead. They also conceive of Erinmwin as the final home of all humans at the completion of the circle of reincarnation. The earth (world) is believed to be only a cosmic market from which individuals must retire home at closure. Hence, the synthetically connected proverbial expressions; “Eki madodo vbagbon, Agha dueki, tag ha yowa” and “Erinmwin o owa” – we are in the world as a market place, after which we must return home. The basic thought of Yoruba beliefs. The Binis also believes in life after death and in the active participation of the departed ancestor in all the activities of their erstwhile community. The re- appearance of the ancestor in the physical corporeal world to participate symbolically in the affairs of the community is what the Binis demonstrates by EKPO (masquerades). The Yoruba also hold this basic idea about Egungun. This symbolic representation does more than remind the people of life hereafter. They are also means by which moral consciousness and ethical values are championed. The activities associated with the masquerades awaken a deep sense of responsibility and communal interest among the people. This usually leads to a high level of co-operation and the attendant effects of Socio- economic development in the community.

Although masquerades are visible phenomenon among virtually all African communities, its appreciation and application is unique among the Binis and the Yorubas of Nigeria. The concept thrives abundantly among both people and their belief system. So much has been said about the striking similarities that exist in the Yoruba and Benin traditional beliefs and worship system. The case that both people share a common ancestral background is further accentuated in the light of these similarities. The similarity of EKPO among the Bini and Egungun among the Yoruba, is one of such parallels that attests and favours the claim that both people have had something in common in the distant past. EKPO is an ancestral cult showing the belief of the Bini in life after death. The concept compares favourably with Egungun among the Yoruba. When asked, “what is there to Egungun?” a Yoruba man said; The dead are not dead, so we believe. All over Yoruba land we share the same beliefs that the Egungun represent the spirit of the ancestors who have descended from heaven/ mountains. It is a period when the dead interact with the living. Ancestors are assured a place for the dead among living. It is their responsibility to compel the living to uphold the ethical standards of past generations. Egungun is the celebration of Egungun and family ritual through the Masquerade. The Egungun is a festival for the worship of the ancestors. The above glaringly reveals the similarities between the Benin EKPO and Yoruba Egungun. Among the Efiks or the Ibibio of Nigeria, Masquerades are also called “EKPO”. The beliefs and practices associated with it are not different from that of Binis and Yorubas. Nigeria boasts of a plethora of customs and traditions, cultures and festivals, perhaps more than any other nation of the African and probably the world. EKPO and the Egungun among the Binis and the Yorubas respectively, designates the continuous participation of the spirit of the departed ancestors in the affairs of their human relations. Both are connected with ancestral worship and demonstrate the belief in the unbroken relationship between man and the spirit of the departed members of the community. Death therefore, is not an end to human existence but only a passage or a transition from the material world to the spirit world with a continuum in interaction between both worlds.

The origin of EKPO is shrouded in antiquity as there are variegated versions of the folklores connected to its emergence. However, two popular versions are found; the first is connected to Agboghidi of Ugo town in Edo State. He was a famous warrior who lived at the time of Oba Akegbuda in the middle of the eighteenth century. Agboghidi was said to have returned to Ugo his town from several military campaign to meet a devastating epidemic. He became worried and prayed the ancestors to help cleanse the land. On a certain night he had a dream in which he saw Ekpo spirit walking through the major street of the town. He was then instructed to make emblem of EKPO to represent the spirit of the aggrieved ancestors and to offer sacrifices to appease them. He then made the EKPO shrine and instituted the cult in Ugo from where it is believed to have spread across other parts of Edo land. Unlike the first Version which situate the emergence of EKPO in a not too distance past, the second, which seems to be more correct, implies that Ekpo came into existence as a result of the need of the Binis to represent the spirits of the ancestors coming to the physical world in a symbolic way, to have communion with them. This belief also corroborates that of the Yorubas as revealed by Quarcoopome. However, the two versions attest to EKPO as a symbolic representation of the ancestors. There is no doubt about this position among the Binis.

Although lgwe festival takes pre- eminence among the Binis, there are however myriads of other festivals. The Ekpo festival is one of such. The festival varies in rituals and texture depending on the community and the divinity associated with the Ekpo cult. Among the lguagban community of Ununmwode Local Government Area of Edo state, the Ekpo festival usually accompanies the lgwe festival held at the beginning of the New Year. Throughout the festival, the life of the community is renewed. The festival brings together the people as a group, thus, strengthening their unity and communal interest. The link between the living and the lining dead- ancestors are renewed. The period affords the people the opportunity to offer prayers to the blessings and protection. Through the eating of a common ceremonial meal, the people strengthen their covenant with the ancestors and themselves on the other hand. Thus, the community is reminded of the need to keep the standard of the ancestors. The festival brings to life the sense of participation and feeling that the people are in the presence of the divinities and under the watchful eyes of the ancestors.


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