Emotan: Queen Of Ekioba
Bookmark and Share
Last Update March 15, 2021

EMOTAN is one of the most prominent statues in Benin City. Apart from the pride it enjoys in the City, it even enjoys greater pride of place in the history of the Benin Kingdom This is because of the engineering role she played in the suppression of the evil intrigues of some powerful Chiefs and persona who arrogated so much social political and economic powers to themselves, so much so that they even over shadowed the towering influence of the Oba at the time

The statue is, itself, an artistic impression of the strong personality of a most distinguished and human character. who in contributed to cutting short the reign of with wickedness and the enthronement of Prince Ogun who later reign as Oba Ewuare the Great.

She, however, died the day before Prince Ogun was crowned Oba Ewuare, So when she died in about 1440 AD, the Oba decreed that all Edo people should worship at her grave Today, on-the 5 day  a traditional funeral ceremony in Benin City, the children of the dead person would dance to the statue carrying a beautiful[y decorated box called O from which they would take gifts to lay at the foot of the statue It is hoped that the spirit of the dead person would, like that of Emotan, rest in peace. Also chiefs, during their title- taking ceremonies, would honour the grave of Emotan, on which stands the statue, hoping that just as she helped to preserve the life of  Ewuare, she would also help to preserve their lives, This tradition has been on for over five hundred years now

Emotan real name was Uwaraye which means there is prosperity in the world. She lived with her parents in Eyaen a village that is today on the outskirts of Benin City, before she was married to Azama, a man, who hold a high position in the palace, she had been a very successful trader, a great spinner of thread and a strong character that believe in standing for the truth and high monaurality. Uwaraye was the only child of her parents, She loved her parents so much that she didn’t want to leave them, not even for marriage, She strongly resisted being married to anyone until she as bundied to her husband, Azama in Benin City.

Records have it that as the second wife of Mama, Uwaraye was not too happy not because she did not love the husband, but because she had no child of own, and the first wife of her husband, Arabe always displayed her jealousy and tainted her with her child
Even in her youth, Uwaraye never did her things in hurry for she often said that she didn’t come into the world to race, but to work with the best of her knowledge and strength this attitude transformed her into a slow, but highly dedicated worker, whose end product couldn’t be matched in quality and artistry. This unfortunately followed her into her matrimonial home where she was always late in serving her busy husband food. Often times, in such moments of anger and frustration, Azama her husband would call her Emotan meaning a slow and lay person This name Emitan later transformed into Emotan which she became known by and which of’ she came to accept.

Uwaraye, who arrived Benin from Eyaen in about 1379AD, was childless until her husband, Azama died in of 1420. As a young beautiful widow, Owaraye was pressurized to re-many, but she refused, As she couldn’t’ go back to her parents, she fell in love with trading and she found a place near Ekioba, the present Oba market where she made and sold Evbare a kind of melon butter used for flavouring soup, like the modem day Maggi Knorr.

At the time she started trading at the Ekioba, the market enjoyed very little patronage with few sellers very and buyers But because of great her high quality Evbare and the thread she wove into that beautiful yam, many buyers the and visitors came to patronage her and the market soon became so busy other seller also display their wares alongside.

Because of her kindness, humanitarian gestures and love for all children, many women in the market always brought their children to Emotan to look after while they went about their trading, it is on record that some of these children oven protested when their mothers would come to take them home. This attested to the fact that she took great care of them. And her kindness and humanitarian gestures became legendary, as she became famous.

Meanwhile, political events in the palace of the Oba had become quite disturbing and intriguing. Oba Ohen had four sons from different mothers whom he decreed should resign after him. But because of the circumstances surrounding his personality vis-it-vis his reign over the Benin kingdom, he treated his chiefs with Suspicion. Some of the chiefs conspired against him and plotted his death According to his decree, the chiefs allowed his eldest son, Egbeka, to reign after whom Orobiru, the second son equally reigned, Records have it that because Prince Ogun, the third of the Sons of Oba Ohen was seen as the strongest and the greatest challenge to the overbearing influence of the chiefs, who had grown wealthy and power because they engaged in trade with the ,North African Berber tribe, they (chiefs) conspired to have Prince Ogun killed or banished from the kingdom.

They so worked on Oba Orobiru that the king banished Prince Ogun,who should have reigned after him from the kingdom. When Oba Orobiru died in about 1430 the fourth son, Irugbe took the crown as Oba Uwaifiokun when the rightful owner of the crown, Prince Ogun was still on forced exile.
When Prince Ogun came back he learnt from the people he met at Uselu that his younger brother was reining in his stead and that plots had been perfected to kill him, Prince Ogun sneaked, however, into Benin and got wind of the good work of Emotan, whom he recognized as his mother blood relation.

It was from Emolan that Prince Ogun got the full gist of how Oba Uwaifiokun was plotting to have him killed.

He sometimes took refuge in Emotan’s residence at Ekioba, where he carried out his own master-plan on how to wrestle the crown from his younger brother. He succeeded after he killed Oba Uwaifiokun, who was on a procession along the road by Ekioba. In fact reports have it that the plans and the attack were mapped out from Emotan’s house.
Emotan was highly respected by Prince Ogun and all peace-loving Bini men and women because she staked her life for peace; she worked clandestinely to topple the evil reign of a powerful ring of chiefs who literally held the people captive.

As earlier stated, Emotan died the day before Prince Ogun was crowed Oba, The Oba deified her and ordered that on all occasions and celebrations, homage should be paid to her, At her graveside, Prince Ogun, who was then reigning as Oba Ewuare, had his to say of Emotan
“This woman, the girl of Eyaen the Queen of Ekioba will always be remembered by our descendants. She gave me food when I was hungry; she gave me drink when I was thirsty. She gave me a refuge when I was in danger. It was from her house that I went out to defeat Uwaifiokun.
She will be honoured by our Sons and daughter and by their descendants, until the end of time, in her memory, shall plant this Uruhe tree. Let all Edo people honour this tree, and always be inspired by her memory”.

The tree that Oba Ewuare planted lasted nearly 400 years. By the close of the eighteenth century, in the last years of Oba Akengbuda, it began to die and early in the 19th century Osemwende planted another Uruhe tree, together with an Uloko (Iroko) tree. These two trees lasted for over a century and were known to the sacred trees of Emotan Nevertheless, when in 1950 some thoughtless Europeans first inject the trees with poison chemical and then uprooted them, with machinery, in order to “improve’ the look at a shop belonging to a Frenchman, who had come to trade in Benin, there was a very angry protest by the local people. The Oba at that time was Oba Akenzua II objected strongly to this lack of respect for Emotan, whom he describes as a “saint, a prophetess and the soul of the Bini nation.”

The tree finally fell in 1951 reportedly blown down by a heavy storm. With the fall of the tree at Emotan shrine there was a great indignation that the fall was due to evil machinations of the enemies of progress and peace in the realm.
To perpetuate the memory of the woman and to keep the tradition going, Oba Akenzua II erected the present bronze statue.

Two statues were moulded in clay by Enomayo, the Esasoyen of Igun eronmwon (the guild of the brass-smith) One is in the Museum in Benin and the other was reserved for enlargement into life size, The life size bronze statue of Emotan is erected in place of the tree planted on the grave by Oba Ewuare.

Emotan dress and hair style are exactly those of the fifteen century Bini woman. It is still worn today by the palace women.

Today, the Emotan statue is in a garden of sort with flowers surrounding it and an over head canopy shelter the statue from the simmering heat of the sun.
The responsibility of keeping the garden clean, ensuring it is not desecrated has been placed by the palace, on the shoulders of the Akaeronmwon or Oden the Royal Court Jester, Many Akaeronrowon have rendered their services to the distinguished memory of Emotan.

Comment Box is loading comments...
Benin kingdom copy right