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Igue Festival: A unique Benin celebration

Elders and chiefs exchanging plansantries an Igue Festival in Benin
Elders and chiefs exchanging plansantries an Igue Festival in Benin

This unique Benin Igue fiesta was originally celebrated as a festival to renew Oba Ewuare’s magical powers.

One tradition states that the festival date coincided with the marriage of Ewuare to a wife named Ewere.

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Celebrated between Christmas and New Year, the festival includes the Oba’s blessing of the land and his people.

During the festival, the Oba blesses the land and his people and non-native persons are prohibited from being in the presence of the Oba.

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It is a time for offering thanks to the gods for life and to ask for more blessings. Sacrifices are offered and the chiefs dance in their traditional attire and dance the Ugie dance.

Women are an intergral part of the festival
Women are an intergral part of the festival

The Igue festival also celebrates the death of past Obas and for 7 days, propitiations are made to the spirits of the departed Obas. This is done to invoke their blessing on the reigning monarch and their family and subjects.

It is also a time to pursue evil spirits and bring blessings to every home in the kingdom.

The festival usually begins with the application of chalk on the Oba’s head which signifies purity and the blood of the sacrificial animals which are usually slaughtered during the festival.

A group of elders performing during the Igue Festival
A group of elders performing during the Igue Festival

On the last day of the festival, the chief collects the Ewere and then hands it over to the Ihogbe, who hands it to the Oba in a dance.

(Zaccheus Onumba Dibiaezue memorial libraries)

Chiefs in a procession during an Igue Festival
Chiefs in a procession during an Igue Festival

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