Queen Mother Head
Queen Idia Pendant Mask
FACE is currently working in partnership with Edo State Ministry of Arts, Culture, Tourism and Diaspora Affairs to promote its rich cultural heritage and help connect African Americans to their ancestral roots through exchanges, music, culture, fashion, literature, arts, culinary and exhibitions. The project also, creates opportunities for tourism development and investment.
Queen Idia Pendant Mask has become an iconic image of Benin art, and the British Museum version in particular was featured on Nigerian one Naira banknotes in 1973, and was chosen as the official emblem of the pan-africanist FESTAC 77 cultural festival in 1977, by late Chief Anthony Enahoro. The Mask has its deep roots in the ancient city of Benin in Edo State of Nigeria, and can be traced to the expansive conquest of Queen Idia, who during her reign, extended the frontier of what is known as Ancient Benin Empire to unbelievable heights and wide geographical reach. Queen Idia’s son Oba King of Benin, is said to have commissioned the mask in honor of his mother and her contribution to the success of his reign. This design is often known in modern Nigeria as the FESTAC Mask. A 150 kg bronze reproduction was also donated to UNESCO in 2005 designed by Edo artist, Felix Idubo. Recently, it was used in the Black Panther movie in a heist scene played by Michael B. Jordan.
The Benin Empire and Slave Trade
The kingdom of Benin, in Edo State was among the earliest, longest lasting, and most active participants in the European trade on the Slave Coast, including the trade in slaves. From "pre-European" times, Benin was one of the mightiest powers on the eastern Slave Coast. Most significantly, the Benin’s socio-cultural development was firmly established before the Europeans arrived. The Portuguese probably reached Benin in 1472, but established strong relations with the kingdom only in 1485/86, when they founded a trade “factory” at the port of Gwato. Europeans demanded slaves from the very beginning of trade with Benin, and it was there that the Portuguese purchased their first large slave cargoes. Portugal (until the mid-16th century), the Netherlands (late 16th – early 18th centuries), and Great Britain (mid-18th – 19th centuries, culminating in the occupation of the country in 1897) successively became the dominant European powers in the Benin region, although the French, Germans, and others also intermittently established presences there.
Before the mid-17th century, Benin exported slaves not only to the New World, but also to Europe and the Gold Coast. In 1506, a slave typically cost between twelve and fifteen manillas (brass bracelets); by 1517, the price had risen to 57 manillas. After the 1520s, cowry shells replaced manillasas the most popular “money” in the slave trade (in 1522, fifty manillas were equal to 6,370 cowries). Goods such as hats, beads, etc. were also bartered for slaves. From the late 16thto the late 17th century, Benin never sold its own citizens, but only female captives (including Igbo, Sobo, Ijaw, and others) captured in war or purchased from neighboring peoples. From the mid-17th to 18th centuries, however, slaves became the principal trade “goods” acquired by Europeans, and foreign male prisoners and eventually citizens of Benin itself were also sold abroad.
Benin supplied 3,000 slaves a year. A contemporary related that “The West India planters prefer the slaves of Benin to those of any other part of Guinea. ”The overseas slave trade's influence on Benin should not be overestimated, however, and Benin-European trade relations cannot be reduced to the history of the slave trade. Slavery and the slave trade in Benin preexisted before the arrival of the Europeans. Slaves were never the only trade, article purchased by the Europeans (included pepper, ivory, cloth, etc.). The slave trade from Benin continued until the late 1920's, long after the official abolition of the overseas slave trade.
Edo State offers a remarkable range of physical beauty in her land and hospitality of her people, ready to be enjoyed by the tourist fortunate enough to choose this land of ancient empires as their travel destination, such as Ogba zoological garden, somorika hills, ososo hills, emotan statue, the tomb of Asoro, edegbake/oghodhoghodo caves, igun street, egedede nokaro, the Benin moat. Tourists visiting the sites will gain insights to a glorious past as well as a promising future, set amid the natural beauty of this diverse state.
The Oba Akenzua ll Cultural centre, Benin City is the hub of cultural activities in the state, a fine architectural masterpiece with beautiful murals of Edo traditional motifs, the centre is complemented by Urhokpota hall which is close by on Ring Road. These two theatres have hosted performances symposia and exhibitions. Edo film makers are coming out with a more dynamic and interesting home movies both in English and Edo language.
Pottery, basket making cane furniture, cloth-weaving, mat-making and gold-smiting trades thrive in Edo state with quality and standard comparing favorably with others anywhere in the world. A craft shop, with wares such as caring, hand woven clothes, ebony ring, bowls, ash-trays, flower pots and bronze objects, was opened by the state Government in July 1968 in Benin City. The art of basket making is popular among the Esan ethnic group the ready availability of palm fronds has engendered the prevalence of practitioners in the trade in five local government areas that are Esan-speaking. Their products, which are veritable work of art, include shopping baskets waste paper and farmer’s wicker baskets.
The Uneme-Nekhue and the south uneme people in Akoko-Edo and Etsako west Local Government Area are renewed for their dexterity and skills in traditional blacksmithing and ceremonial sword. Gold and silver smiths are found in all the major towns in the state. They specialize in the fabrication of ornamental adornments like trinkets, bracelet, bangles, chins and earrings favoured by fashion-conscious men and women. Somorika, Auchi Igarra, and Ubiaja take pre-eminence as major area of traditional cloth weaving. The colourful, artistic motifs of the Igarra people have won national and international acclaim. Moulded statues statuettes and figurines of Olokun the goddess of the sea is a major feature of the traditional worship in the core Bini speaking area of the state.
The womenfolk who specialize in the production of earthenware kike cooking pots bowls mugs water pots pipes etc largely do pottery making. Ojah in Akoko-Edo Local Government of Edo state is known nationally for its fine pottery. Other trailblazers in the area of traditional pottery are the people of Udo, Uhonmora, Okpekpe and Imiegba all north of the state. Edo State offers a wide variety of tourist attractions such as extended and roomy river, ideal for swimming and other water sports, unique wildlife, vast tracts of unspoiled nature ranging from tropical forests, magnificent waterfalls, some new rapidly growing cities and climatic conditions in some parts particularly conducive to holidaying, such as the Ososo Rock.
Other attractions include traditional ways of life preserved in local customs; rich and varied handicrafts and other colourful products depicting or illustrative of native arts and lifestyle, and the authentic unsophisticated but friendly attitude of many in the Edo population. However, many of these attractions are still largely untapped and even at their raw, undeveloped state, although they are still being enjoyed by few outsiders, either very rich visitors in quest of exoticism or adventurous people in search of new challenges and experiences. These are impediments to tourism, which the new administration has been tackling since assumption of office and committed to building a world class museum to house its stolen artefact, upon return. Investors, both foreign and local public and private sectors, organizations, such as UNESCO, are therefore called upon to invest and/or partner in the abundant tourism development and potentials.
EdoFACE is an advocacy platform for youth/women empowerment and renewed calls to return artefacts looted from Benin Empire by the British in the late 18th century, in what became known as the “punitive expedition.” When Oba Ovonramwen, then ruler of Benin, imposed customs duties on goods leaving the territory, Britain sent 1,200 soldiers to destroy the kingdom as a form of reparations for the colonial power. The city was set on fire and hundreds of trinkets, bronze sculptures, and valuables were stolen and later handed to the British government. Through trade and art dealership, these artifacts have mostly ended up in Germany, France, and the United States.
Artefacts such as Queen idia pendant mask, sculptures of head of the Queen and Oba, including artefacts from other indigenous tribes in Edo State, Nigeria can also, be found at museums in Britain, France, Germany, and United States. EdoFACE promotes cultural appreciation, history, tourism, hospitality, preservation of arts and historical sites through cultural awareness.