he Igue Festival is a cultural event held in the Benin Kingdom of Edo State, Southwest Nigeria. It is one of the country’s largest and flashiest festivals. This celebration commemorates Oba Ewuare’s marriage to Ewere, a woman from the Benin Kingdom. Oba Ewuare is a legendary King in the history of the Benin kingdom. The festival lasts seven days and takes place in the first half of December.
The Igue Festival has been celebrated in Benin for over 1000 years, according to Benin history. It is a collection of ceremonies and rites that are done every year to purify and strengthen the Oba and the kingdom in preparation for the New Year. In 1897, the event was disrupted by the British invasion, which resulted in Oba Ovonranwen’s capture and exile.
The Benin people’s Igue Festival takes place once a year in December and is unique to them. During this time, no burials or funerals are permitted in Benin. This is because the Festival is regarded as a time of celebration, and any type of public grief should be avoided. The Oba cleanses the ground first before taking him to be cleansed.
Among the state’s numerous lined-up events for the year, the Igue Festival is the most important. Every December, the reigning Oba and his subjects commemorate the conclusion of the Benin year, herald in the New Year, and express gratitude for the previous one. It is a Festival that brings good fortune. The Edo people believe that their Monarch’s luck is linked to the people over whom he governs. The Oba is seen as a leader by the people. The Oba is the personification of Edo culture, and his good fortune becomes theirs.
The Igue Festival is held every year for this purpose. The event traditionally starts with the Oba’s head being anointed with chalk, which symbolizes purity/cleanliness, and the blood of the sacrificial animals, which are usually slaughtered during the Festival, which is marked by mirth.
The Oba is frequently honoured by the chiefs; after the Oba performs his cleansing (Igue), members of the royal family follow suit by performing theirs on the third day, and the Edo people celebrate their own Igue afterwards.
The celebration consists of a number of distinct Oba-related festivities. The event honours Ugie Iron, a re-enactment of the Obas’ conquests. Ugie Erha’oba, which translates as “father of the Oba,” is also performed in honour of the current Oba’s father and all the ancestors. The most extravagant of the ceremonies is this one. The Oba is joined by the people in this festivity. In honour of his father, he wears full coral regalia and performs the ritual dance while wielding the Eben, a traditional sword.
Another ceremony that includes performances by many groups is the Igue Oba. This is held at the Ugha Ozolua, the kingdom’s focal point for social and ceremonial activities. Following the acts, the Oba then pays honour to Oba Ozolua, the kingdom’s renowned warrior king. During the ceremony, he offers prayers and asks for ancestral guidance, after which the Ewaise guild purifies him. The finely clothed chiefs put on a spectacular exhibition of dance steps such as the Ugie, Esakpaide, and Ohogho dance steps throughout this occasion; this includes the symbolic tossing of the Eben into the thin air subsequently fetching it back in style unto one’s grip but, if the Eben (traditional sword) eventually fall off to the ground while being tossed up, a punishment/sanction awaits such a chief who made that blunder.
Animals are slaughtered during the event, and the blood is used to anoint the Oba’s head, hands, and feet; the adoration of the Omo N’oba’s head is known as this. The Ugie Ewure rites, which commemorate Oba Ewuare’s marriage to Ewere, bring the festival to a close. This is a flashy and colourful occasion in which the chiefs and their supporters dance in their regalias to the palace. The Ewere leaf is given to all Edo people as a New Year’s gift. The major purpose of the event is to express gratitude for the previous year and to beg for blessings for the next year. After the festivities, the Isologbe greeting, which translates to “Happy New Year,” reverberates around the city.