Great Benin Bronze

EDE N'ERHENA VBE EDO

SIGNIFICANCE OF IVIE AND EKAN (CORAL BEADS) IN EDO CULTURE.

When an Oba of Benin sends a bead or beads to anybody, it means simply one thing, " you are being made a chief "

By Oko'o Ademola Iyi Eweka.

 

Ivie and Ekan are members of the Coral beads family. CORALS ( Phylum coelenterata ) or ( Cnidaria ) are mined from coral stones in oceans and polished as jewelry. EKAN looks like a stone and is grayish in color. IVIE is another specie of co...ral beads, an important type of jewelry worn by Edo chiefs. This kind is described as precious coral. It has a hard core that can be polished to bring out beautiful red, rose, or pink colors. Precious corals seems to grow in the bush-like formations in the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Japan.

Oba Ewuare in the 1400's A.D. is credited the man who brought some of these beeds to Benin, collected from the " goddess of the Sea " at Ughoton ( Gwatto ). Benin River to the occean and Ughoton,  was the gateway of Europe in those days to get to Benin City. The White man, specifically the Portuguese and the Spaniards may have also used some of these special beeds as presents to Oba. Their trade and relationship were influential, especially in area of costume and clothing.

The use of Ivie and Ekan were controlled by the Oba of Benin. There are some shapes you can not wear without being a chief. Corals beads used in Edo speaking areas are very perculiar compare to those from the North of Nigeria.

 


It is historically documented that some chiefs have been barred by Royal Edict, from wearing any Ivie or Ekan as a punishment. An example is Chief Oliha of Benin. It was a punishment for collaborating with the Attah of Igala in IDAH, when the Idah soldiers invaded Benin City and Oba Esigie and his queen mother IDIA led the Edo soldiers to victory.

Oba Akenzua II in the 1940's seized the bearded head gear and most of the beads belonging to Chief Okorotun, the then Iyase of Benin for being disloyal and arrogant. He also took his ADA from him. When an Oba of Benin sends a bead or beads to anybody, it means simply one thing, " you are being made a chief " whether you like it or not. To refuse to accept a bead sent to you from the palace is unpardonable sin. You have in one way or another become an " OGHIAN OBA "-the Oba's enemy

 

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