In my bid to pursue more knowledge this year especially in Tourism I decided to start a postgraduate Diploma in Tourism and Hospitality which I just completed and was awesome. As part of the programme was to embark on an educational tour to a state of our choice and we landed in the Heartbeat of the Nation ( Edo State) . I have previously been in Edo state a couple of times as my Dad used to work in Edo for a few years and I always went to spend holidays there so it was so lovely visiting after a long time. Upon arrival, we went straight to the National Museum which is located in the city centre on King’s Square. The museum has a significant number of artifacts related to the Benin Empire such as terracotta, bronze figures and cast iron pieces. They also carry ancient art related to the early times. Before entering into the Museum, I stopped to take a picture by this Cenotaph which was erected on the 12th of November 1972 in Memory of the Heroes who lost their lives during the two world wars which was to preserve the territorial integrity of Nigeria as one Nation.
The Museum was formerly in the Oba’s Palace. It is home to a large number of Nigeria’s terracotta, bronze, and cast iron contains priceless objects of antiquities from Benin Kingdom and other parts of the country. With 3 galleries, the museum is one of the largest museums in terms of indigenous artifacts in Nigeria. The first floor in the Museum is called the Chief Solomon Osagie Alonge Exhibition; Chief Alonge was a photographer commissioned by Oba Akenzua and was the first official photographer for the royal court of Benin City, Nigeria, he was also a chief in the Iwebo palace society ad was the only one allowed to take pictures anywhere in the palace as well as pictures of the Queen Mothers. In this Section we saw pictures that were taken by him.
Another section of the Museum is called the Unity Exhibition section were objects and artifacts from other states in Nigeria are on display which shows unity in diversity. There is a Royalty and Authority section where we saw the bronze head used only by the Oba of Benin. Our guide also showed us a picture of Queen Idia who was the only queen mother that ever went to war to fight for her son. The Adia College in present day Benin City was named after her. She was a strong woman who went to war and was victorious and it was during her time they stopped the killing of Queen Mothers. She became the first Iyoba (Queen mother) of Benin when Esigie conferred upon her the title and the Eguae-Iyoba (Palace of the Queen Mother ) was built.
At the Museum we saw how Benin Kingdom started till this present day and I must say that the Benin Kingdom is really rich in history and culture. As usual with the other museums I have visited in Nigeria here, here and here , pictures are not allowed in the Museum and I would definitely recommend a visit to the National Museum. Our visit coincided with the National Festival for Arts and Culture (NAFEST) 2019 which was the the 32nd Edition and the very first one that Benin was the host city. 30 states were in participation showcasing their different culture and values. We were already exhausted from the road trip and did not stay long at the Festival before getting food and retiring to our Hotel.
The next day, we visited The Oba of Benin’s Palace where we got to learn a lot about the Benin Kingdom. We had to wait for a while as the Vice President was visiting the Palace as at the time we were there. Our tour guide in the Palace is one of the best tour guides I have ever met as he is such a true son of the soil and I totally loved how immersed he is with his culture and the history which he shared with us . The people regard their Kingdom as the 1st kingdom in Africa and the 2nd in the World. This Palace is home to all Oba of the benin’s Kingdom. It was built by Oba Ewedo (1255AD – 1280AD), and later was rebuilt by Oba Eweka II (1914–1932) after the original building was destroyed during the 1897 war with the British. The current Oba of Benin (Ewuare II) rebuilt the palace from a mud structure to a modern day structure.However, the mud structure is where the Oba worship hos ancestors and is open to the general public once a year in December.
One interesting thing that struck my attention was how it is mandatory for all the first son of the Oba to be well educated and the reason for this was due to the Invasion in 1897 where the only learned person in Benin Kingdom was Chief Agho Obaseki who was a paramount Chief in the Benin Empire from 1898 to 1914, and then Iyase of Benin from 1914 until his death in 1920. Obaseki played a crucial role in the events leading to the Fall of Benin from the Punitive Expedition of 1897. He had organized a defence of Benin and accompanied Oba Ovonramwen during his escape from British rocket fire. Ovonramwen instructed Obaseki in April 1897 to survey Benin in the aftermath of the British bombardment. Obaseki was discovered by the British and was prevented from returning to Ovonramwen because the British saw him as useful for the new political order they were to impose. Alfred Turner, the British Resident, appointed Obaseki to the Council of Chiefs in September 1897.
The present Oba of Benin who is the 40th Oba of Benin (Eheneden Erediauwa- Eware II ) had served as Nigeria’s Ambassador to Angola and Sweden, with accreditation to Norway, Denmark and the Republic of Finland. He was also Nigeria’s Ambassador to Italy before becoming the Oba of Benin. We also got to see different Chiefs who all had unique hair cuts. Did you know that the Oba of Benin cannot kneel down to greet their Mothers? Find out more here! Click To Tweet The Oba of Benin can visit his mother but he cannot kneel to greet his mother as the benins see the Oba as God’s representative on earth. From the Oba’s Palace, we visited the Idubor Arts gallery and relaxed for the rest of the evening.
Our last full day in the state was set aside to visit Okomu National Park which holds a remnant of the Nigerian lowland forests that once formed a continuous 50–100 km wide belt from the Niger River west to the Dahomey Gap in Benin. It is also hoe to the African Elephant, crocodiles, Dicars and many other animals. After a 90 minutes drive from Benin to the Park, it started raining heavily and we could not go into the park and this was very painful as we had to turn back as the roads are not in great conditions.
I do hope to visit Edo state and possibly visit the Okomu National Park! Alsoooooo have chips and fish at the civil service club in the evening which you should definitely try if you visit Benin.
If you have been to Benin before or you are from there, feel free to share others places and your thoughts in the comments section.
LOVE FROM YOUR FAVOURITE AJALA!