The ancient Nigerian kingdom of Benin (not to be confused with the Republic of Benin) has crowned a new king to continue a direct lineage of monarchs that have ruled the kingdom for the past 186 years. Crown Prince Ehenedan Erediauwa, who before his coronation went by the royal designation “Edaiken N’Uselu,” is the 39th Oba (king) of the kingdom and the 70th ruler in the Ogiso dynasty. Traditional Benin society functions as a complex unit with the Oba as the central authority around which all activities revolve. According to ThisDay, Erediauwa now sits atop the 836-year-old throne, which is the oldest and most revered in Nigeria.
The new monarch was born in 1953 and holds an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Wales. He has also earned a graduate degree in public administration. He has also served as the Nigerian ambassador to Italy and Sweden. He supersedes his father, the late Royal Majesty Omo n’Oba n’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo Erediauwa I, whose death was announced by the Benin Traditional Council in late April. The late-Oba is believed to have died sometime between March of 2015 and April this year. According to Benin tradition, it’s forbidden to announce he death of a king until certain rites have been fulfilled.
The kingdom of Benin boasts one of the most intriguing and engaging cultures, with a recorded history dating many centuries before the arrival of European colonialists. The kingdom is famous for its rich culture, ancient buildings, and its craftsmen, who are skilled in weaving, wood carving, and brass/bronze works.
In addition to its rich oral tradition, much of the kingdom’s history is told through its bronze carvings. In the past, it was common to represent past Obas of the kingdom with elaborate bronze statues both at Igun and the Royal Palace. Brass casting gained aesthetic and technical sophistication in the 16th century when decorative plaques and sculptures (now known as “The Benin bronzes“) were made to decorate the palace of the Oba.
ThisDay reports that the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright, expressed his best wishes for the incoming Oba, prior to his coronation. It’s important to note that the kingdom and its people have a chequered history with the British. In 1897, Britain launched an imperialist expedition to Nigeria that resulted in the exile of the Oba at the time, Ovonramwen. This effectively gave the British control of the area and allowed for the establishment of a colony. The Benin royal art collection, including its treasured bronze work, was stolen and its contents were eventually auctioned off by looters. Sadly, many of these precious artifacts are still in the possession of the British government.