Igue Festival Dance

Benin Kingdom is one of the well-known centers of civilisation in pre-colonial Nigeria. The Oba (King) is the traditional head of the Benin kingdom. The Igue Festival is celebrated annually in December by the Oba of Benin and his subjects. It is a combination of nine principal ceremonies during which goats and other animals are sacrificed to the gods. The chiefs of the kingdom dress in their finest traditional attires, joining the Oba in songs and dances.

During the Igue Festival, the Oba celebrates Ugie Ewere, which is the anniversary of his blessed and prosperous marriage to Ewere. Here all the Ihogbe present symbolic Ewere leaves to the Oba./p>

The Bini have a long lineage of royal dynasty, and the Igue festival is also an occasion to celebrate Ugie-Evhoba among many others. The festival marks the anniversary of the death of all past Oba of the Bini Kingdom. For seven days, propitiations are made to the spirits of all past Oba. This is done to invoke their blessings for the reigning monarch, his family and subjects.

The Igue Festival is also a period for offering thanks to the gods for sparing the lives of the Bini people, and to request for more blessings. Such rituals include offering sacrifices in some shrines in the palace. During this period, chieftaincy title holders display their Eben emblem in the Ugie dance as they appear in their traditional attire, as bestowed by the Oba on individual chiefs during the conferment of their titles. The Chiefs pay homage to the Oba while the Oba seats majestically in the royal chamber (Ogiukpo). Bini chiefs are seen during the festival, in their enviable traditional regalia, including the Iloi (Queens) in their Okuku (hairdo). It is a rare occasion of their public appearance, where the stalwarts (Ifietes) of the Oba are seen in active service. Traditional dancers such as Esakpaide, Ohogho and others, display the Eben of the chiefs while dancing and paying homage to the Oba in Ogiukpe at Ugha Oba or the chamber of the Oba. Also, the palace guard showcase their dancing talent.

The Chiefs bless the Oba in the presence of Chief Ihama and members of the various palace societies. At the end of all sacrifices, the chiefs also dance to the Oba and his family, with the Eben.

Every chief scheduled for Ugie dance leaves their home dancing, while being accompanied by their followers. They dress in the traditional regalia permitted by the Oba as granted to them on the day of conferment of their titles. No chief dresses in a manner or attire not bestowed by the Oba. As the chiefs move from their homes to the palace, they dance with two men each by their side among others holding their hands to and from the palace.

On the last day of the festival, that is, the seventh day, Chief Osuma of Benin collects the Ewere and then hands it over to the Ihogbe, who in turn hands Ebewere to the Oba in a dance procession and melodious traditional songs about Ewere.


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