Dominated political, religious, and social aspects of life Had a mysterious aura around him Was accepted through his divine birth right (being ancestor of the divine Ife king and because of approval by the Uzama)
The First Oba Prince Oranmiyan of Ife removed the Ogisos from power His son, Eweka I, became the first Oba Oba Akenzua
Aesthetic Propaganda The Oba had sole control over the making of artifacts. Craftsmen were regarded highly by the Oba. They were given wealth and gifts when they depicted him as he wished. They lived within the inner wall of the city. The Edo associated brass, which resists corrosion, with the permanence and continuity of kingship
Brass Heads Altar pieces which supported carved ivory tusks. Commissioned by new Obas to commemorate the former one.
Altar Tableaus Depicted the Oba and his attendants The Palace (as described by Dapper) As big as a city Had wooden pillars covered in cast copper (engraved pictures of war and battle exploits) Benin city was a military fortress
Ceremony The Oba showed himself once a year 300 to 400 noblemen used to be present Accompanied by musicians, leopards, dwarves and the deaf
The Uzama Most ancient and the highest ranking order of Chiefs Early stages of the Kingdom Shared control with the Oba 13 th Century Oba Ewedo made the power move into his hands 15 th Century The Oba became singularly in control Oba Ewuare introduced hereditary succession The power of the Uzama was diluted by naming more categories of chiefs (palace and town chiefs) The seat of power was moved to within the inner walls.
There were 7 Uzama, each with their own unique role Each position was hereditary All enjoyed a large degree of independence in his domain All lived outside the inner wall 1. Oliha Senior Uzama, responsible for crowning the king 2. Edohen Senior war chief, wealthiest and most influential 3. Ezomo 4. Ero Guardian of one of the gates. Had responsibility for Edaiken and the Queen Mother since they lived in his domain 5. Eholo-nire 6. Oloton Keeper of the shrine were sacrifices were made during special rituals 7. Edaiken Oba’s eldest son, heir to the title
・ The mother of the king was given the title of Queen Mother (Iyoba) and was set up in her own palace in the village of Uselu, which is outside the city. ・ The Queen Mother had an unique position in the Benin Kingdom Hierarchy. ・ She functioned as a titled chief, with control over her own district, Iyekuselu, and the right to grant titles in her own court.
・ She was the origin of divine and political power (Oba). ・ She had an uninterrupted contact with Oba, but not directly, through Messengers. Queen Mother and assistants
・ The Queen mother had the privileges of the town chiefs. ・ Every year was kept a ceremony of a private pure character by Oba in the mother queen name. ・ Her representative symbol was the tall cap ・ After her death, a commemorative altar was made in her name.
The titled chiefs constituted the political elite of the kingdom. The highest ranking among the chiefs were the Uzama n'Ihinron, Seven Uzama, who were considered to be the descendants of the very elders of Benin. Responsibility: Installation of new kings Annual worship of the departed ones.
The Other Titled Chiefs The other titled chiefs were divided into 2 kinds… *Palace Chiefs *Town Chiefs
Palace Chiefs & *Palace chiefs were the members of well-established urban families Responsibility: The administration of the palace belonged to one of the three important palace associations. 1.Iwebo: care for the Oba's regalia, supervised his craftsmen and conducted negotiations with European traders visiting Benin. 2.Ibiwe: caring for the Oba's wife and children. 3.Iweguae: Oba's domestic staff of officials, cooks, servants and pages.
Town Chiefs *Town Chiefs men who rose to their power by their own efforts Responsibility: The administration of the various territories of the kingdom. ・ collection of tribute ・ conscription of soldiers ・ mediation between royal and village interests.
Court Officials In the same area as the Town Chiefs lived ・・・ ・ palace officials ・ chiefly retainers ・ members of guilds(40-50 members) Each guild was located in a special ward and had a specific service to perform for the king. e.g. Leopard hunters, Drummers, Astrologers, and Land purifiers
Dwarfs ・ At late 14th-15 th century. ・ The first dwarf was 23inches high and weighed 37 KG. ・ They were without hats and simply clothed. ・ The presence of dwarfs at the royal court was confirmed by Dapper. They were a means of enjoyment to the Oba Others had a philosophical function (they helped the Oba)
・ Round relatively large head, short beard, and short curly hair. ・ The upper part of the body is relatively long. ・ A wide, quite plain skirt covers its lower torso. ・ They were made of brass and are one of the high points of Benin art, capturing the essential aspects of body by comportment and spiritual expressions.
Craftsmen ~‘Servants of Oba’~ Craftsmen were the people who made ・・・ ・ brass ・ ivory ・ wood sculpture ・ cloths ・ leather fans for the Oba They were considered… 'Servants of Oba'. Wealthy and powerful Obas became the patrons of artists and craftspeople.
Why 2 walls?? Oba Ewuare is credited in Benin tradition with having built a monumental system of walls and moats around Benin City. He divided Benin City into two wards, one for the palace and the other for guilds of artists and craft workers. Under Oba Esigie, the artists of Benin produced their most famous work.
Social Order of Benin Oba Palace chiefs Town Chiefs Court Officials Uzama Queen Mother Craftsmen Dwarfs Brass casters Blacksmiths Woodcarvers Doctors Seers Leatherworkers Deaf people Musicians Public Executors Servants Drummers Common people Slaves