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Ikega Obo As Historical Document In Culture

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With Ambrose Ekhosuehi {Last update 25/092017}

Ikega obo is an artifact, altar of the hand; valuable expression of certain features of Benin culture, and society in the past. It dramatizes the ideal relationship between Military commanders and indicates the elaboration of rites and magical devices for procuring success in war, the remarkable degree of dependence upon medicines that the ancestors were never defeated in war, because they never fought until they were sure that their medicines were strong enough to give them victory.

The Ikega, Ikenga is found in various forms over wide area of southern Nigeria. It is every where associated with the hand or arm specified with the prowess, strength and enterprise of the individual, and Anklet of cowries which women keep on their trays for carrying merchandise in order to prevent things being stolen and for quick sale.

There are wooden and brass Ikega obo. War commanders Ikega obo usually surrounded by war commanders. Ikega obo is usually surrounded by warriors and attendants, making offerings to ancestors for the success of the campaign, or giving thanks for victory.

The heads of the animals form frieze around the pedestal. The shrine is cast in four pieces. The pedestals, the figure of the Monarch, with the dais on which he sits; and the Leopard which stands in front of him were cast separately from the main cylinder.

The Leopard, a symbol of kingship, is free-standing. The Large central figure is said to represent the commander; dressed for war. In his left hand, holds ropes attached to five human heads. These heads vary considerably in such matters as tribal markings and hair styles, indicating that they represent people from different areas.

On his head wears a helmet to which are attached three tiny calabashes
Ukokogho, of the kind which are filled with medicines worn by warriors and others seeking magical protection. Some of the other figures also wear okokogho round their necks, and on their heads.

The Ewaise were responsible for Osun Okuo-war Laboratory. The symbol on the front cap is called Owen vbe uki, the sun and the moon; a charm with protective purpose. Just as the sun and Moon always reach their destination in the evening and return the next day, so also will the warriors return safely from their campaign “what is thrown at the moon cannot strike the moon, what is thrown at the sun cannot strike the sun”; the emphasis is on the warriors immunity from enemies weapons; death cannot kill the sun in the sky.

The armlets-egbaa, round the arms are stewed in a medicine which gives them the power of diverting gun fire, arrows, and protecting the warrior from wounds. They are of the type known as armlet of the rope that the spirits tie, a knot. Which cannot be untied by human person.

There is a twine, attached with stone Celt, symbol of power and strength, believe to be thunderstone, particularly associated with the deity that controls the thunder, iron and medicine. All these deities are concerned with war.

The weapon is a two edged sword whose sheath is tucked under the left arm. The circlets of beads round the neck and the beaded anklets denote chiefly rank.

Two figures on the right and left arms are Ewaise attendants holding charms, (Ekhuae) used to give power to curses or blessings; held in the direction of the enemy, a curse would be pronounced. Another kind of charm Ukokogho n’ ogiode, filled with medicines and with the narrow neck open, the guide point out the way, the road, when the calabash is held with the open neck pointing to—wards the enemy, and guide the warriors and the curse to the enemy or put the enemy to flee.

Another figure on the Ikega obo is the pestle. It would accompany the war chief; warriors would touch it, in the belief that as the domestic pestle returns to its mortal so they would return home from the war. On Ikega obo, a short figure carries a shield- asa, appears to have a protective calabash attached to it.

Ikega obo has historical records value for the owners and of the others whose names might have now been forgotten which they may have for the historians.

The drummers have the war drums (izaduma). Warriors carrying curved single edged swords — Umozo, Fighters, carrying bows and arrows. Six figures of warriors — Ivbiyokuo are arranged symmetrically round the back of the cylinder armed with cutlasses. They wear bells used in identification in the fighting.
Another figure carries a long spear (asoro) and round his neck wears a pouch of protective medicine, and an attendant beating iron gong-egogo. Sacrificed are made to ancestor for success in war; so in his right hand holds a kolanut- an indispensable part in any offering; and in his left a god stick ukhure which is the direct symbol of the power of the spirit. It is banged on the ground to emphasize prayers, blessings and curses.

On the dais is a big round wooden bowl with Lid, containing kola nuts and other offerings, a calabash of palm wine for pouring libations, a trumpeter, blowing an elephant tusk horn-akohen. An attendant carrying a box stoolekpoki containing valuables for carrying offerings and ceremonial gifts.

One of the Ewaise carrying an iron staff- Osun ematon which embodies the power of medicines, and this staff has branch like proliferations at the upper end, often worked in the form of bells, birds, chameleons and other animals. Its purpose is to protect against evil intentions.

Also, figures, apparently representing European soldiers in tunics, trousers and helmets, carrying guns, acting as the Oba body guards.

The frieze on the pedestal has heads of cows, rams, he-goats, and cocks, interspersed with segments of kola—nuts, bottles, calabashes and a bird. These are the usual offerings to ancestors.

The Ikega obo were contemporary about the types of weapons, dress, ornaments, apparatus in use at that time and the presence of European soldiers would be directly significant.

It was the practice for warrior chiefs to take bronze casters with them on their campaigns to repair guns, cannon and other equipments; and cast Ikega.

The European figures took a hand in the internal conflicts of the Benin Kingdom in the Later seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

Nyendael who was in Benin (1699 and 1701) describes a situation remarkably similar to the conflict concerning to lyase n’ ode of Benin tradition, an uneasy peace having been patched up by the mediation of the Portuguese. The relationship tenuous of Ikega obo and an actual passage in Benin history recorded by a contemporary chronicler of Ikega obo as historical document in culture.

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