Ewuare and Sao Tome Island: The First Europeans Visited To Benin Kingdom
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By Ekhaguosa Aisien (Last update March 22, 2022)

Ewuare was on the throne of Benin when the first Europeans visited the kingdom, in the second half of the 15th century. This was the period in history when Europe, led by Portugal began their sea-borne exploration of the world. The exploratory effort was a necessity imposed on the Europeans by the fall-out of their centuries-old struggle with the Moslem world.

The struggle between Christian Europe and the Moslem world which began with the Crusades in the 11th century came to a head in 1453. In May of that year, the forces of Islam, led by the Moslem Turks, succeeded in conquering and occupying Constantinople, the first Christian city in the world, Pre-dating even Rome itself in its embrace of Christianity.

The loss of Constantinople, re-named Istanbul by the Moslems, slammed shut to Christian Europe the known gateway to India and the rest of Asia, that is, to the rest of the then known world. Europe found herself completely hemmed in. She could only go up North, towards the North Pole. or West, into the trackless waters of the Atlantic Ocean. She could not go East because the Moslems were in occupation of the Middle East nor go South because Islam was in occupation of the whole of North Africa, from Egypt to the Atlantic Ocean shores of Morocco.

The existence of the American continents was as yet unknown during this period in history.

Therefore Europe, led by Portugal, moved out in the only direction it was possible for her to go: into the Atlantic Ocean. In their little three-misted caravel boats, the intrepid sailors crept along the coast-line of West Africa, keeping near to land as best as they could in a few years they had reached the Bight of Benin, and discovered the mouth of the Benin river, a river which they called the Rio Formoso, the “Beautiful River.” They also discovered the Escravos and the Forcados rivers, and then the Ramos River. Further on along the coast, in ¡he eastern reaches of the Gulf of Guinea, they discovered the off-shore Islands of Fernando Po, Príncipe and Sao Tome. Oba Ewuare was on the throne of Benin.

Robert Waite, an American author, has written in his book: “The First Conglomerate: the Economics of the Sugar Slave Industry,” about what followed the discovery and occupation of Sao Tome Island by Portugal. As Britain was later to do in some of her overseas colonies, notably in Australia, Portugal populated Sao Tome Island with the disposable portions of her population — convicts, and Jews who had relinquished Judaism and converted to Christianity in order to escape religious persecution.
Into this tropical island sitting on the Equator off the coasts of Benin, Portugal introduced the sugar cane crop which subsequently created the world’s first Trans-Atlantic Trading concern, a conglomerate which traded in SUGAR, the product of this crop. The conglomerate also traded in SLAVES, slaves obtained from the African mainland whose labour made the commercial cultivation of the sugar cane crop in Sao Tome possible, according to Robert Waite.

The sugar cane plant is a reed, a giant type of grass, native to India and the lands of the South Pacific Ocean. It was introduced into the Mediterranean world in ancient times, where its sugary sap gave dietary pleasure to the Mediterranean peoples. These peoples later introduced the crop into the temperate African off-shore islands of the Canaries, the Azores and Madeira. When in later centuries, during the Age of Exploration, the Portuguese discovered the tropical African off-shore islands of Sao Tome and Principe they brought the sugar cane plant there also.

The sugar cane plant manufactures sugar, like all other green plants But this plant stops the food-manufacturing process at this primary sugar stage, proceeding no further to turn the sugar into starch, This makes the whole of this plant a living, growing solution of sugar!

The successful commercial cultivation of this crop is labour-intensive, and to obtain the labour for it the Portuguese purchased slaves from the local African mainland markets along the coasts. The slaves were already expert agriculturists in their homes, and with their involvement, the sugar cane industry thrived in Sao Torne.

The lesson learnt in Sao Tome bringing together of African labour and the sugar cane crop became the winning formula which was introduced into the Americas when those lands were discovered. And so, the transatlantic trade in sugar and in African slaves began. It lasted for four hundred years.

Sao Tome grew prosperous and became a noted center of European settlement there on the Equator. The coastal peoples of West Africa, and of the Congo and Angola, came to know about the existence of this thriving European community off their shores. This community was literate, having schools and churches. It was processing agricultural produce into semi-processed commodities for export to Europe. And it traded with the coasts of the near-by African mainland to purchase commodities, and slaves, in the local markets.

The knowledge of the existence of these Portuguese colonies of Sao Tome and Principe during this historical period of the middle decades of the fifteenth century has helped to throw light on some aspects of Benin history which would otherwise have remained difficult to explain. The existence of these European settlements of Sao Torne, Principe and also of Fernando Po, off the Bight of Benin explains very satisfactorily the Benin folklore story of the first visit of a white man to Benin City. As the folklore narrates it, this was a visit of “God’ Himself to Benin City, and He came on the invitation of Ewuare, the Oba of Benin.

The story begins with Ewuare sending Ogbeide, alias the OKHUAIHE, a life-long follower, confidant and courtier who possessed great Para-psychic capabilities, to “Heaven’, with an invitation to God to visit Benin.

The folklore becomes history when, in the story, Sao Torne is substituted for “Heaven”, and “God” is substituted for the ruler of that “Heaven”, the Governor of Sao Torne.

Ewuare was proud of what, by dint of his efforts the city of Benin had begun to look like. His subjects were praising him for these improvements in their physical surroundings, and he perhaps wanted to show-case the city, and win approbation from “God”, for the impressive civil works which had transformed the town into a city.

Understandably, there would also be some intractable problems in the polity he was ruling over which, even he, Ewuare, with the unrestrained exercise of power which he enjoyed, was not able to grapple with, and which he would, with relief, lay at the feet of’ God” for resolution.

Okhuaihe lived in the lkpokpan quarters, Benin City, at the Sapele Road end of the modem First East Circular Road. He farmed in IKPE village, the water-side settlement on the banks of the Orhionmwon River, near where that great river receives three of its large tributary rivers of the Ikpoba, the Okbuaihe and the Akhianmwan

From time immemorial, even before the period of the Ogiso kings in Benin, the Ikpe waterside village had been the river-beach where travelers from Benin, traveling east to Iyekorhionmwon crossed the Orhionmwon River. Canoe men have always formed the bulk of the population of lkpe village, ferrying passengers and their luggage across the Orhionmwon River for a fee, and landing them on the beach of the opposite village of Evbuarhue, on the lyekorhionmwon side of the river.

The Ikpe and Evbuarhue ferrymen were the Orhíonmwon river canoeists, and the profession was usually handed down from father to son.

In his lkpokpan quarters residence, Okhuaihe made preparations to leave for “Heaven”, which we should now translate to be the Portuguese settlement of Sao Tome, or more probably, Principe, because of the latter’s shorter sea distance from the mouth of the Benin river. He was to constitute a one man Embassy from the king of Benin to the ruler or Governor of that Island. He decided that he would travel light, taking only one companion with him on the avowedly hazardous journey that no Edo man had ever attempted. Okhuaihe told one of his retainers, by name OGAN, to get ready to accompany him on the journey.

Let us tell the story as the folklore narrates it:
Ogan n’ Ekhua, now deified and worshipped in Ekhua village, was an Ishan man from Irrua town. He had settled in Umagbae village not far from lJrhokuosa in Uhunmwode. He became a disciple of Okhuaihe. He was a noted expert in native metaphysics, able to see farther into the future than most other people. He was said to have been immune to most of the everyday afflictions that perturb ordinary individuals. And he was a warrior, his main battle weapon being the javelin or spear, in the use of which he had no rivals,

Another retainer in Okhuaihe’s household was AKE, a personage also later deified and worshipped in the land. Ake, whose name means “rock” or “granite”, was an expert bowman. His expertise with the bow and arrow was unrivalled. He built his reputation on his elaboration of the metal-tipped poisoned arrow. The metal tip of the arrow was called uto. Into the hollow of this metal-tip, into which the wooden shaft of the arrow would fit, a powerful herbal poison was introduced. This poison brought down any animal, or man, shot with the arrow — a form of chemical warfare.

Ake was the hunter who supplied venison to the Okhuaihe household. In battle he was an expert marksman, always able to hit his target. He, therefore, acquired the appellation.

Ake n’okpefi:

“Ake who never misses a target !”

Okhuaihe’s wife at this period was a young and comely woman. Her name was IRHEVBU and Okhuaihe was very fond of her.

Okhuahe had already set out on his journey to the IKPE waterside, accompanied by Ogan with his javelin when a troubling thought occurred to him. He was keenly aware of the fatal attraction which hunters have for women, and Ake, a member of his household be was leaving behind, was a hunter.

A woman is attracted more to a hunter than to a farmer. She loves the male who brings the killed animal home. In the village market a hunter’s wife stands shoulders higher than a farmer’s wife, and the wares that she sells dried and fresh meats, are more valuable and attract more clientele than the yams and plantains of the farmer’s wife.

Okhuaihe did not want to be cuckolded while he would be away on his journey to the sea-coast. And not having known about the “Chastity Belts” which solved this nagging problem for the European crusaders of old, who put these locked-up belts on their wives before leaving Europe to fight the Moslems in Jerusalem, Okhuaihe decided to remove what he knew might threaten his wife’s virtue in his absence. He decided to include Ake in his entourage to the sea-coast, to ‘Heaven.”

So Okhuaihe turned on his heels and with Ogan, returned home. He met Ake cooking a breakfast of yam pottage. Ake’s favourite meal, Okhuaihe told the Youngman to hurry up with his cooking, so he could join his entourage to the sea-coast.

Egged on by the impatience of his lord, Ake added more faggots to the fire and soon the pottage was ready. He ate the meal hot and as quickly as he could. Then, grabbing his bow and his quiver of arrows, he set out with Okhuaihe and Ogan along the winding forest road leading lo lkpe village, the present - day Benin — Abraka road.

Freed of the burden which had been weighing on his mind, Okhuaihe maintained a jaunty pace of walking, emulated by his two companions. But it was not long before Ake began to lag behind the other two.

The road, being a forest track, was narrow and winding, and traveling along it was possible only in a single file. The high canopy of the branches of the great forest trees shaded the track from the direct rays of the sun, making the trekking not unduly tiresome.

Okhuaihe looked back, and Ake was not in sight. He hollered his name, and Ake answered, at the same time coming into view as he rounded a bend in the track.

''Catch up!” said Okhuaihe, “and let us make fair progress in order to get to Ikpe before night fall’.

Some short while later Okhuaihe again looked back, and again. Ake was not in view. He hollered his name. Some moments passed before Ake’s answering voice filtered through, assuring Okhuaihe that he would soon catch up with them.
When a while later Okhuaihe again called out at Ake he received no further response from him. Okhuaihe decided to plod on towards Ikpe. He hoped that the laggard. Ake, would catch up with him and Ogan in the village where they planned to spend the night before embarking on their boat journey to the sea coast, to the mouth of the Benin river.

When Ake was satisfied that Okhuaihe had gone on ahead without bothering to wait for him to catch up with them, he turned on his heels and raced back to Benin. There he seduced lrhevbu, his mentor’s wife. And that night the couple fled from the ikpokpan quarters and headed in the direction of the ISI distinct, towards ILOBI village. Ake’s native place. Irhevbu became Ake’s wife, and never was a union between a man and a woman so ordained in heaven with love and companionships that between this eloped couple.

Ake and lrhevhu became inseparable throughout their lives. And not even death could separate them. They were said to have died on the same day, and were both buried in the same grave. A few days after their burial, it was said, a rivulet sprang from the grave, and flowed into the Orhionmwon River, not far from Abudu town. The stream is called “Ake" to this day.

Ake developed into one of the mystics of Edo Land, and when he died he was deities as an IHEN, a deity. Irhevbu, his wife, shared in his deification. There are fourteen shrines or temples devoted to this worship of Ake in Edo land. And whenever an altar sculpture of Ake was created in any of the temples devoted to his worship, the statue of his wife. Irhevbu. was always a part of the statuary. And no prayers or supplications ever made to Ake were complete without a mention of the name of Irhevbu. Ake’s wife.

Okhuaihe arrived in Ikpe with Ogan, and when Ake did not show up, the great mystic accepted the fact that he had lost his wife. He then turned his full attention to prosecuting the royal errand which he had been entrusted with. He struck up transportation agreements with the lkpe canoe men, and with himself and Ogan as the passengers, the boat set out downstream on the Orhionmwon River.

The Orhionmwon River receives the waters of the Ogba River after flowing past the modern OLOGBO town, and then empties its many waters into the Benin River as the Ilogi waterway, downstream from KOKO town. On these roadsteads of rivers, Okhuaihe and Ogan were taken to the mouth of the Benin River. There at the mouth of the Benin River, the travelers saw for the first time nature’s marvel of the unending vista of the trackless waters of the Atlantic Ocean. They had arrived at the gates of ‘Heaven’.

Okhuaihe’s expenences in Heaven” are narrated in some detail by folklore. Therefore it must be assumed that the travelers found their way, by an ocean-going boat, to one of the off-shore Islands of the Gulf of Guinea, to the Portuguese settlement of
Principe, or perhaps Sao Tome itself.

Okhuaihe and his companion arrived in this European populated colony in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, this “Heaven”, with no other piece of land visible in any direction across the encompassing sea. The two Benin City men were made the guests of Okhuaihe’s ehi. Okhuaihe’s alternate self who lived in Heaven. It could be inferred that this “Ehi” was a black man living in the Island.

In the night, the Benin travelers were attacked in their abode by some ighele "Erinmwin”, denizens of the Spirit World, intent on making them captives. But they escaped capture by deploying some supernatural powers of their own. Okhuaihe transformed himself into a spider’s web, high up in a comer of their room. And Ogan, the Javelin-throwing expert, stood his javelin upright in another comer of the room, climbed up the weapon and sat on its sharp tip. The javelin tip pierced into his upper thigh and genitals, but he bore the discomfort while the rampaging of the intruders lasted. It could be assumed that this night attack on the visitors was an attempt to capture them as slaves by sugar cane plantation owners on the Island.

The day dawned and Okhuaihe heard their host, his Ehi, talking to no one in particular about the protocol which had to be observed when having an audience with “God” in His Palace. Kneeling down before “God” while having an audience with Him was forbidden. He who did that forfeited his freedom and his life.

So, when Okhuaihe was ushered into the presence of “God”, presumably the colonial Governor of the Island, he dipped his hand into the hold-all bag he had with him. From the bag he brought out two live tortoises and two large snails. He arranged the tortoises, under-belly up, on the ground and knelt, with one knee on the chest of each of the creatures. In like manner be disported the snails on the ground so that the toes of one foot rested on each of the slugs. In this manner Okhuaihe was able to have his audience with “God” without violating the heavenly protocol of not kneeling with the knees touching the ground.

“Idalu” was the name which Okhuaihe was given in “Heaven” during this Sojourn.
With “God” sitting on his throne, and Idalu kneeling on the tortoises and the snails, Idalu delivered Oba Ewuare’s invitation to “God” to visit Benin City as his guest “God” accepted the invitation, and promised he would be Ewuare’s guest in Benin in “seven days”.

Okhuaihe got up from his kneeling position, collected his tortoises and snails and returned them into his “agba vb ‘oko “bag. He had succeeded in his embassy to “Heaven”.

He turned homewards with Ogan his companion. Returning to the mouth of the Benin River in an ocean-going boat, he got into a canoe which took him upstream towards home. Successfully identifying the mouth of the Orhionmwon River as the Ilogi waterway the canoe pushed into it, and then battled laboriously against the flow of the waters until it brought its passengers home to Ikpe village.

At Ikpe, with their feet on solid ground once more since they left “Heaven” for home, the Ukoba and his companion trekked through the forest track to Benin City.

Calling briefly at his lkpokpan home, and confirming the elopement of his young wife Irhevbu with Ake. Okhuaihe repaired with Ogan to the palace and sought an audience with the monarch.

In the presence of the chiefs of the land, Okhuaihe reported to Ewuare that his mission had been a success. He got to “Heaven”, he reported, and “Osanobua” (“God”) granted him an audience. He duly delivered the invitation to “Osanobua” to visit Benin as a guest of the Oba, and “Osanohua” accepted, promising to make the journey in “seven days”.

Okhuaihe then returned to lkpe village to await the visitor so he could escort him to Benin when he arrived.

True to his promise to Okhuaihe. ‘Osanobua”, (“God”), came on a visit to Benin. The “God”, of course, was the Portuguese Colonial Governor of the off-shore Island of Sao Torne, or probably that of the nearer Island of Principe. Or he probably was a subordinate official of either of these two personages. We must assume that he was the RUY de SEQUFIRA of the history books, who was reputed to be the first European to visit Benin, a journey which he made in 1472.

That the folk story of this visit to Benin by the first human from another continent and another race is an accurate recollection of the event by the ethnic memory of the Edos, is borne out by the fact that the story, as told, is clearly seen to be influenced by, and is woven around, the geography of the Benin river and its tributaries, the roadsteads into Benin land from the Atlantic Ocean.

Ruy, de Sequeira did not come to Benin by the UGHOTON route. But before we go into the story of the visit, let us attempt to work out the reasons why Ruy de Sequcira accepted Ewuare’s invitation to visit Benin. The invitation was welcome to Sequeira because it afforded the Portuguese yet another opportunity for the exploration of the land mass of the African Continent, as opposed to the skirting along its coast-line as had hitherto been carried out by the explorers.

In 1472, Portugal was actively in the search for a sea route to India and the rest of Asia in order to break out from the containment imposed on Europe by the Moslem conquest of Constantinople in 1453. By this date the Americas had not yet been discovered. Columbus achieved this feat 20 years later in 1491 And during this period in history, Europe still believed that the continent of Africa extended continuously southwards, from the Mediterranean Sea to the South Pole, keeping the Atlantic and Indian Oceans permanently separated from each other. This was what the World Map, drawn one thousand three hundred years earlier by Ptolemy, the Egyptian geographer of the 2nd century A.D., showed. And Bartholomew DIAZ’s epic voyage of 1487 which disproved this when this explorer discovered the Cape of Good Hop, and so demonstrated that Africa had a bottom round which one could go from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, was still fifteen years away in the future.

The Benin City of Oba Ozolua, Ewuare’s son, played an important role in the triggering of this epic voyage of BarthoIome Diaz which led to this important European accomplishment, an accomplishment which finally enabled the Europeans to outflank the Moslem containment of the European continent. Oba Ozolua had sent the Ohen Olokun of Ughoton village to Portugal in 1486 as his Ambassador to the court of John II, the King of Portugal. This priest and ruler of Ughoton village was chaperoned to Lisbon by the Portuguese explorer, Affonso d’ Aveiro, and safely brought back to Benin by him. In Lisbon this Benin man was described by the court officials as “... a man of good speech and natural wisdom”’ (Alan Ryder in: “Benin and the Europeans. 1485—1897, page 30.”)

Affonso d’Avegro himself ultimately died in Ughoton, the first of the many Europeans to die in Ughoton in the course of die in Ughoton in the course of the four hundred years of the interaction between Benin and Europe before the era of colonialism.

The narrative of the Olokun priest of Ughoton village at the palace of the Portuguese king in Lisbon about the OGHENE, the Ooni of Ile Ife, to whom the Obas of Benin owed fealty, and who sanctioned every new reign in Benin, convinced John lI to identify the Oghene with the Negus, Prester John, the famed African Christian Emperor, whom Europe had long been anxious to make contact with. Using the Benin envoy’s description of the distances and the direction between Benin and the Oghene domains as a guide. the king of Portugal, at great expense. fitted out Bartholoniew Diaz’s expedition to make contact with this rumored African Christian potentate. For Europe needed all the help it could get at this time from any powerful Christian ally in her deadly, apparently never-ending struggle with the forces of Islam.

Bartholomew Diaz duly set out a year later in 147 on his African voyage. Ile discovered the Cape of Good Hope and thereby freed Europe from her Islamic containment with this discovery of a sea-mute to India and the rest of Asia from the Atlantic Ocean.

The Negus, Prester John, turned out later in history to be the Emperor of the ancient African Christian kingdom of Ethiopia.

In the hope for a sea-mute from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean, through the Land mass of continental Africa. the four river estuaries of the Bight of Benin, namely the Benin river, the Escravos, the Forcados and the Ramos rivers respectively, must have been of great interest to the pioneering Portuguese exploring the West Coast of the continent. It was possible, they must have reckoned, for some of these river mouths, those of the Benin River and the Forcados River in particular, being the mouths of great African rivers flowing from the interior, to provide a passage-way for boats into the heartland of Africa. In this heartland it might be possible to discover other great rivers flowing from west to east, into the Indian Ocean, which might provide a possible sea-route for Europe to India and Asia, right across the land mass of continental Africa.

Ewuare’s invitation to him to visit Benin was therefore very welcome to De Sequeira. He might be able, by this invitation, and with the support and the local geographical knowledge of his African hosts, to help solve this one of Europe’s most gnawing problems, a passage—way to Asia. In deciding to come to Benin therefore, De Sequeira was primarily embarking on a journey of exploration for Portugal.

The trip was additionally a welcome opportunity to get to know a little more about an African State, Benin, which was a continental neighbor of the off-shore Island colonies.
Ruy de Sequeira arrived at the mouth of the Benin river in his caravel or ocean—going boat. A short distance up the river he dropped anchor, and decided to proceed upstream in the ship’s boats, taking his Navigators and his Map makers along with him.

The party got to the mouth of the GWATTO (Ughoton) creek, where the OVIA river empties its waters into the Benin river. They rowed past it, thereby missing the water-way to Ughoton. Sometime later, many kilometers up-stream on the Benin River, they got to where the ILOGI creek, carrying the waters of the Orhionmwon River, emptied ¡into the Benin River, near the modern rown of KOKO. They also rowed past it, and thereby failed to get into the Orhionmwon River, upstream of which Okhuaihe was waiting for the visitors at the Ikpe waterside village, near Benin.

De Sequeira stayed in his canoes, on the Benin River, up to where Sapele town is now situated, at the bifurcation of the Benin River into its two main tributaries of the Ethiope (Olokun) and the Jamieson (Igbaghon) rivers. He must have decided that, of these two branches, the Ethiope River was the main branch of the Benin River, and that Benin City lay along its banks further up-stream. He progressed upstream on the Ethiope river in his canoes, past the sites of the present—day EKU and ABRAKA towns, until after OBIARUKU town the river became just a rivulet, forcing De Sequeira to abandon his canoes, and to complete the rest of his journey on foot, disappointed that the Benin river did not take him right across into the heartland of the African continent.

He was told that the nearest big town, AGBOR, with her prestigious natural ruler, was only a short trekking distance from where he had to abandon his canoes. He assumed naturally that Agbor town was Benin City, where a welcome awaited him. He trekked to Agbor, with his map makers taking sightings of stars, and making other astronomical measurements to determine location, direction and distance.

Ruy de Sequcira arrived in Agbor town and suffered a second disappointment. Agbor town was not Benin City, and he was not expected by the people. The Agbor ruler must have done his best to provide victuals for the visitors, and must also have sent emissaries along with them as guides as they turned west and returned their trekking through the forest tracks to their destination of Benin City.

Because it was at Agbor that Ruy de Sequeira (“God”) made his first land-fall in these parts, the Benin people regard Agbor town as the geographical center of the Planet Earth to this day. Benin City is, of course, regarded by the people as the political center and the hub of the world, but Agbor is regarded as the geological center of the surface of the Planet because it was there that the ethereal chain on which “God” came down from “Heaven” first touched the ground.

The folklore narrates that when the ethereal chain on which ‘God” was raveling arrived in Benin City it touched down in two other places before it came finally to rest in the palace premises. These places were the sites of the Aruosa n’Erie and the Aruosa n’Akpakpava. This aspect of the story merely lends greater credence to the belief that the whole of this folklore story is about that of a European visiting Benin. The two sites mentioned were the sites where a Christian Chapel and a Christian Cathedral were built during the reign of Oba ESIGIE, Ewuare’s grandson.

The visit got underway in Benin. But it was a very hurried affair, because De Sequeira’s entourages were impatient to depart for home.

Meanwhile, Okhuaihe was at Ikpe, expecting the arrival of the visitors through Ikpe.

Ewuare was happy with himself convincing himself that his august visitor would be rather impressed with how Benin, his capital City, looked like. Twelve wide streets radiated from the center of the town, from the front of the Oba’s Palace, outwards, in a fan-like manner. A new ditch and rampart moat, many kilometers in circumference, divided Benin City into an Inner City and an Outer City. This new moat vas traversed by nine bridges each bridge had its own gate, with its own gatekeepers — (Uko n’Urho). The gales were locked at night, denying access into the inner City after nightfall.

The City vas large in extent, as large as it ever had been until the late twentieth century. One hundred and fifty years after Ewuare, in April 1694, one Lorenzo Pinto, a Portuguese sea captain was still able to write that Benin City was bigger than his own Capital City of Lisbon.

Ruy de Sequeira brought gifts to the king of Benin. The most memorable were CORAL heads. Sea-products obtained by the Mediterranean peoples from the coral reefs of the seabed of the Mediterranean. Coral beads in Benin are therefore inseparably associated with Ewuare and his reign. Olokun, the god of the sea, from whom Ewuare was said to have obtained the coral beads, was, of course, Ruy de Sequeira.

The Edos were already adorning themselves with beads before the coming of the first European. But these beads were agate beads, stone beads, Obtained from the rocks of the continental hinterland of what is now known as Nigeria. The beads were coloured rock. Pieces of the rock were broken up by the bead artisans and shaped into gems. The iron-Impregnated pieces of rock, which were the commonest type of coloured rock, were brown. They were called IVIE. The Copper-impregnated varieties were blue and, these Edos called EKAN. Other varieties, impregnated with sulphur, were yellow in colour. Depending upon the element which dissolved in the rock while the rock was still molten brilliant hues were obtained, producing gems like sapphires, onyx, jasper etc.

Of the many types of these precious rock beads two, namely the IVIE, the brown variety, and the EKAN, the blue variety, were the bead ornaments the Edos had. They were obtained as trade articles from the hinterland. They were called.

Ivie egbo: “Beadsfrom the hinterland”

Then Ruy de Sequeira came a-visiting. He brought to Benin the coral variety of bead, and the Edos promptly labeled this variety:

Ivie ebo: “the European bead”

The Ivie ebo was regarded as the more precious variety of head, and much of it which came in the holds of European ships trading with West Africa, was destined for the palace of the Oba of Benin.

Ewuare’s reception of his European visitor was straight forward. Uncomplicated and without any assumed airs. The king accepted, and with gratitude, that he was physically in the presence of”God”, an opportunity vouchsafed, as at that time, to no other mortal in Benin. This therefore was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to obtain solutions to some of those intractable problems which, even he, with his absolute and unrestrained powers, could not find answers to. Therefore the interaction between both personages took the form of a supplicatory, request-and-response, conversation.

There were especially three worrisome problems that Ewuare desired solutions to. Therefore, after the welcoming ceremony was concluded the king launched into his series of requests. He asked that his Visitor should arrange that henceforth the rains should fall only during the night-time hours, and never during the day-light hours. The arrangement would ensure that the labour of men in the farms, in the markets, and in the journeying from one place to another, would be uninterrupted by bouts of rainfall. This would prolong the time available to man to devote lo productive labour, resulting in a great increase in the prosperity of the land. During the night time, after man had ceased from his labours and was taking his rest, rain could then fall, to moisten the earth and replenish its abundance, to soften time soil for man’s labour at the break of time next day.

Ewuare’s request was refused. Toil was time constant and unvarying condition of life, and it went on during time day, as well as during the night, said “God”. It was true that human toiled during the daylight hours to sustain life and living. When humans retired to their beds at night other powers and imponderables would come on to the scene. These in turn would toil through the night hours, to repair the world, and ensure its equilibrium. Were rains to fall only at night these imponderables would be interrupted in their complementary labour, and time balance which kept the world on an even keel would be disturbed.

Ewuare made a second request, a request which came directly from the heart. In one terrible day awhile back, Ewuare had lost his two sons, prince Kuoboyuwa, the Edaiken of Uselu and crown prince of the Kingdom, and the Edaiken’s younger brother, prince Ezuwarha, the Enogie of lyowa Village, near Oluku. A quarrel had arisen between the two brothers, and their respective communities of Uselu and Iyowa went to war against each other. The two rulers fell in the battle.

Ewuare asked that his Visitor should make it impossible henceforth for children to pre-decease their parents. When a son or a daughter died before their parent did, that. parent lost the cardinal benefit of procreation, the cardinal reward obtained by the parent at his or her own death when his off-spring would inter him, and then give him the customary ritual burial. The burial ceremony transformed the dead parent into a deity, which was henceforth worshipped and propitiated by the offspring. The propitiation items brought to his altar by his children were what his spirit fed upon. They were what provided the nourishment which kept him going in his after-life. These were benefits denied the dead with no surviving children to give them the ritual burial which transmuted them into gods.

This request was in turn refused by Ewuare’s Visitor. The visitor explained that each human being was ultimately completely, supremely alone. Shorn of the frills and fillies, the ballast of family inter-connections which accompanied a person into the world, each person stood alone in life, an individual unit of creation. Each unit of creation had a trajectory, a course which he ran in life. The course was pre-determined with the Ehi, the alter ego, of the concerned individual before birth, before the journey of life was begun. And the trajectory, once determined, was immutable, incapable of being influenced by the whims or the considerations of parents who, in any case, had their own individual courses along which each was separately running.

The third request made of his Visitor by Ewuare the king was that the Visitor should confer on him. Ewuare, the gift of immortality, so that he would not suffer death.

The Visitor was taken aback by the audacity of this request, with Ewuare wanting to acquire one of the unique attributes of God Himself. Yet the Visitor assured the supplicant that what he had requested was possible of being granted to him. But he warned that the rights of passage to immortality involved some difficult steps for the initiate, steps which were not to be embarked upon by the faint-hearted. If Ewuare insisted on the acquisition of this gift, then he, the Visitor would arrange that. it be given to him But arranging it would entail another visit to  “Heaven” by Okhuaihe.

The Visitor was anxious to turn home-wards. The main reason for the hurry to end the visit was the inadequacy of the feeding arrangements made by the Edo for the entourage of Ruy de Sequeita. When Okhuaihe had returned from his visit to the coast, and had reported the concurrence of his host to Benin, he had reported that every house-hold in the City should be involved in the provision of the victuals with which the visitors were to be fed. But most of the people were skeptical that Okhuaihe did indeed succeed in visiting “Heaven”, and yet contrived to return safely home:

çAi mien ose no y’ Erinmwin

“It never happens that anybody returns alive, from the nether world”.

So his advice that every household should procure quantities of food- stuffs, and put the food out by the front door of the house, was not taken seriously, and therefore went largely unheeded. The half-hearted attempts which were made proved inadequate to meet the needs of the occasion

Eggs, hen’s eggs, constituted the one item of foodstuff which was completely acceptable to the European visitor in Benin. Cultivated fruits were largely unavailable in Benin. But there were eggs to be obtained, with each individual household chipping in a few eggs obtained from the few hens of the household. The Edo people had quickly realized the importance of this item of foodstuff in the hosting of their European visitors during the subsequent centuries of interaction between Benin and Europe:

They say:

Eken okhokho Ero z’Ebo ren Edo:

"The availability of hen’s eggs was what attracted the European to Benin city’
Then they re-iterate: Ta ze omwan ren omwan,
Ere eken adiye
na ze Ebo ren Edo:

“Introducing one person to another person requires the services of a third person:
Hence hen eggs introduced the Whiteman to Benin.”

And this romance between the European in Benin and hen’s eggs is well-documented, even up till as late as the end of the 19th century. During Captain H. L. Gallwey’s visit in 1892, Oba Ovonranmwen fed him with hundreds of hen’s eggs during the three days he spent in the city to sign his Treaty. And District Commissioner, Stuart Crewe Reade’s tendency to fart demonstrably and loudly even during public meetings with the chiefs of the land in the conquered Benin City of the early 2O’ century, was of course the result of his excessive consumption of hen’s eggs.

Therefore another important aspect of Benin’s attraction for the exploring Portuguese during these early years of contact was the fact that the City was the best known center of population and of organized government in this portion of the West African coast, and was therefore a likely place where victuals for the ships of exploring sailors could be obtained.

The other reason for the Visitor’s impatience to begin his home-ward journey apart from the inadequacy of the feeding arrangements made for his entourage in Benin was the inordinate amount of time already spent in the making of that detour through Agbor, coupled with the great physical exertion involved in the trekking from Umutu village to Agbor, and then trekking from Agbor to Benin, made more arduous by the crossing of the six rivers and streams which separate Benin from Agbor. There probably could also have been a medical reason urging the visitors return home, perhaps the prevalence of  fevers amongst the entourage brought on by malarial attacks.

While the request –and response session was going on in Benin between Evuare and his guest Okhuaihe was far away in lkpe village. He was in his country home in Ikpe tending his farm and awaiting the arrival of his invitee from the sea-coast. He had naturally assumed that Ruy de Sequeira would come by the Orhionmwon River to Ikpe, from where he, Okhuaihe, would escort him to Benin. It probably did for occur to him that De Sequeira would fail to get into the mouth of the Orhionmwon river at the Ilogi Creek which would have brought him up-river to lkpe.

De Sequeira had already arrived in the City before messengers were dispatched post-haste to lkpe to inform Okhuaihe that the visitors he was waiting for in lkpe had already arrived in the town. As the folklore tells it, Okhuaihe was at home in the village in the company of his two wives when the messenger from the palace arrived. At first he did not believe the messenger taking it for granted that there was no other riverine route to Benin from the Benin river except through lkpe. When he finally accepted that the message was true, he cut himself free of the coquettishness of his wives and hurried posthaste to Benin.

He arrived in the Oba’s palace when the visit was already virtually over. “God” was already on his celestial chain, ready to depart for “Heaven”. Okhuaihe fell on his knees and earnestly implored “God” to give to Ewuare the ISEMWENRIGHO, the totem which God was holding in His hands. This artifact was of ponderous potency, a totem imbued with the power of instant wish-actualization, instantly bringing to pass any wishes pronounced whenever the totem was held in the hand.

The ISEMWENRIGHO was actually the Captain’s baton, or Governor’s baton, the emblem of the authority of the leader of the group. It had its own casing where it rested when not in use. The Edos called this casing the:

Qkpan ¡semwenrigho
Okpan Ise.

The Visitor assented to Okhuaih’s supplication and handed the baton aver to Ewuare, along with his casing.

Ewuare and the Obas of Benin of the succeeding centuries made full use of this Isemwenrigho totem. Whatever law, or pronouncement or wish the king made when holding the Isemwenrigho in his hand became immutable and un-alterable. And if it was a wish, it came to pass.

Many of the bronze statues of the Obas of Benin can be seen holding the Isemwenrigho in the right hand, and another totem in the left hand. The monarchs did this whenever there was a pronouncement of great import to be made.

The original De Sequeira’s isemwenrigho which he handed to Fwuare, plus the telescope which Captain James Welsh gave to Oba Ehengbuda in 1590, in addition to the Holy Bible written in Latin, and sent to Oba Esigie by the king of Portugal early in the sixteenth century- these three artifacts were just a few of the important historical objects destroyed by the burning down of the palace by the usurper prince Ogbebor in 1816, in his struggle for the throne with his elder brother, prince Erediauwa, later Osemwende, Oba of Benin. A facsimile of the Isemwenrigho totem subsequently had to be made by the Igun Eronmwon brass casters, for use by the monarchs.

Encouraged by the success which attended his first, request. Okhuaihe launched into another importuning of the Visitor on behalf of Ewuare. But De Sequeira’s entourage became impatient to leave and would accept no further delay. They began to move out. As the folklore narrates it, ‘God” was already on the celestial chain, and the chain was being pulled up into the firmament. In order to delay God a little longer for still more of his blessings on Oba Ewuare, Okhuaihe grabbed at the end of the fast-receding chain. The last three links of the celestial chain separated into Okhuaihe’s hands, and then the rest of the vehicle disappeared with “God” into the skies.

It is said that this three-link portion of the celestial chain is still to be seen today in Okhuaihe’s temple at EVBIEKOI village, the citadel of Okhuaihe’s worship. But the chain remnant is now much longer than the original three links which it was composed of. This is because another link is said to be added to the chain when a new Oba of Benin ascends to the throne on the demise of his father.

The chain, therefore, ought to be twenty eight links long as of today, since Fwuare was the 13th Oba of this ruling dynasty when he ascended the throne.

Folklore does not help in throwing light on the possible route De Sequeira took on his return journey to the Coast at the end of his visit to Benin. But taking into account the subsequent history of visits to Benin by Europeans, it would be safe to suggest that it was De Sequeira who opened up the Benin Ughoton route, which became the only route of approach to Benin by Europe for the next four hundred years.

When De Sequeira finally arrived in Benin by the circuitous overland route through Agbor, the map-makers in his entourage were thus able to determine fairly accurately the exact geographical location of Benin City, as it relates to the Benin River and the sea. They must have done this by deploying, there at the Unuogua, the early navigational and astronomical instruments in their possession. These were the instruments which enabled these explorers to navigate the trackless oceans without getting lost, determining accurately their position on the earth’s surface at any point in time, in relation to the North Star and the other galaxies visible to them in the night skies north of the Equator.

This astronomical exercise, meticulously carried out by these European Visitors in Benin City, must have led them to deduce that some of the riverine tributaries of the lower Benin river, flowing into the main stream from its west bank, must be flowing from the southern environs of Benin City, and would therefore constitute the shortest riverine route to the city from the Benin river and the sea.

It is not any surprise, therefore, that a royal guild, the IWE UKI (Iwoki) — “The Moon Gazers”, — sprang up in Benin City, created by these early contacts with the Europeans. The guild is still very much alive and operational in the service of the palace. The guild is responsible for the health of the MOON, our planetary satellite, for the immutable regularity of its appearances and disappearances in the sky, in its growth to a full disc arid it’s waning into a crescent. During eclipses of the Moon, the Iwoki guild does things to ensure that this celestial body, which has been “eaten up” as the bulk of the earth passes over it, and hides it from view. is restored whole. The guild members were the “astronomers” of old Benin, tasked with watching the skies, and labouring to ensure that only good descended there from to bless the Oba and the people.

It is said that the IWOKI guild attained its heyday, or was even probably created, during the reign of Oba Esigie, Ewuare’s grandson, five hundred years ago. This was the period when determined attempts were made by Rome lo convert Benin into a Christian City. The study of the movements of the starry constellations by the Roman Catholic priests in Benin must have formed an important aspect of their religious duties. For they had to strive to determine when to celebrate the important Christian festivals like Christmas and Easter and Corpus Christi, especially Easter, on their own. Isolated as they were for long periods from communication with Rome, or even with the nearby Sao Torne Church, the priests had to determine, by astronomical observations and calculations here in Benin, when these festivals were due.

It has been postulated elsewhere that the Corpus Christi procession or the other pubic Christian processions, regularly carried out in Benin during the reign of Oba Esigie gave rise to the Ekponmwen Orere procession carried out by the citizen who is ennobled by the Oba of Benin.

These calculations of the approximate dates of [he Christian festivals by a recourse to astronomical observations by the Portuguese priests in Benin helped to found the Iwoki guild. But the seeds of the creation of [he guild were probably sown by De Sequeira’s epochal visit to Benin, through the efforts of this Visitor to determine the shortest route from Benin City to the Benin river and the sea.

Ewuare must have helped in the determination of this route, an exit route to the sea, by sending emissaries to accompany the Visitor to the EKALADERHAN country, to Ughoton Village, in the direction of which De Sequeira’s map makers must have been pointing. Ewuare was confident that the ruler of Ughoton village, the Ohen Olokun, who was one of the over-arching priests of the Olokun deity, the god of the sea in Edoland, would be able to give more accurate geographical information to the visitors as they sought re-connection with the sea.

It is probable, therefore, that it was during this first visit to Benin by a European that the Ughoton route was decided upon as the best approach to Benin from the sea. In subsequent centuries this route became the Benin door-way to the outside, non-African, world. Along this route, for fully four hundred years, flowed to Benin an enriching traffic — in ideas, in trade, in weaponry and in money. The new ideas, the new wealth derived from the trade, the weapons of war — all these contributed to the enhancement of the civilization and the sophistication of the kingdom. The money improved the liquidity of the economy of the kingdom. And the manilla high-denomination currency provided the bronze metal which Benin melted up in the furnaces of the Igun Street brass casters to record the history of the kingdom for posterity.

Ughoton village sits on the banks of the OVIA river, in the lower reaches of the river as the river approaches the BENIN River, into which it finally empties its waters — as all rivers in the Benin kingdom ultimately do.
At Ughoton village itself, the track which led to the beach. to the river-side, was

called the: Oke n’ Alubode.

At the beach itself, two or three wooden jetties led into the water where Europeans trading ships would be at anchor.

These ships patiently rode at anchor for considerable periods, probably weeks in some cases, collecting, in drips and drabs, the merchandise with which to fill the ships’ holds, before departing Ughoton for Europe. The merchandise usually consisted of pepper, cam-wood, ivory, woven and dyed cloths, and slaves.

The full name of the track from the village to the Ughoton river beach, and of the beach itself was:

Oke n’Alubode N’Erinmwin la yowa:

“The Alubode Hill, Through which the heavenly Beings Return home."

The river itself, the GWATTO (Ughoton) creek, leading from
Ughoton village to the Benin River and the sea was called:

Eze n’lmimikpe N’Erinmwin la yowa

“The Imimikpo River, On which the Heavenly Beings Return Home”

The “Heavenly Beings” were the European sailors. The “Heaven “to which they returned in their ships was the Atlantic Ocean en route Europe.

Frequently, the sailors on board the ships, there at anchor at the river beach, would come out on deck, or down to the sandy beach itself And to kill the boredom of their having to Walt interminably for cargo to trickle in to fill the holds of their vessels, would link hands and dance the jigs, and sing the oo-lee songs of their native European lands.

The Edo locals, listening to these white sailors dancing and singing on the sandy beach, would say:

Oke  n’ Alubode,
N’Erinmwin na gb’Okele!

“The Alubode Hill,
Where the Heavenly Beings
Dance their jigs!”

The Ughoton Oke n’AIubode was, in old Benin, the equivalent of tite Apapa or Tin Can Island Ports of modern Lagos.

Say the Edos:

Ebo ma dunmwun
Ohanmwen gh’ Ughoton

“When European ships do not arrive and dock in Ughoton,
The village goes hungry.”

It should also be remembered that the first storey building in Edo land was built on the beach of this Ughoton water-side, this Oke n’Alubode, in 1718,by the Dutch, The storey building was the beach house, or the so-called “factory” of the Dutch Trading Company, a  company whose country, Holland, was trading with Benin during that period. The building ante-dated, by nearly two hundred years, the first storey building in Benin City, the Egedege n’Okaro, in ERIE Street, built in 1906.

The Oke n’ Alubode was, of course, also the Benin equivalent of the “GOREE Island” of Senegal, the Route of No Return, through which passed the multiples of thousands of people who were sold as slaves to the Europeans in Edo land during those four centuries. It was the beach from where these slaves departed for ever from the African continent to servitude in the Americas

he village of Ughoton today looks nondescript, diminutive and unimpressive because it has not recovered, in any degree, from the destruction it suffered at the hands of the British army during the Benin/British War of 1897, eleven decades ago.

Ughoton was invaded twice by the invading British army February 1897. And troops from five British warships were involved in the operation. The warships were the PHILOMEL, the BARROSA and the WIDGEON during the first attack on 10 February 1897. The invading troops landed in and destroyed Ughoton, but were subsequently driven out of the village back to their warships by the Benin army, led by their leader Ebeikinmvin, the Commander of the Ughoton Front during the war.

The British re-attacked and re-captured (Jghoton six days later on 16th  February. having been re-enforced by troops from two other warships, the St. GEORGE, the flagship of the whole of the expedition, and the THESEUS. The village was then systematically destroyed with artillery fire, and leveled to the ground.

The victorious troops remained in occupation of Ughoton for a further twelve days, and then departed to their warships on 27 February, leaving a contingent of the Niger Coast Protectorate Force to garrison the destroyed village, and to link up later with the larger body of troops garrisoning the fallen City of Benin. (See Robert Home’s “The City of Blood Revisited, Pp 71 and 92.)

Folklore narrates the attempt by “God” to acquiesce in Ewuare’s third request: that it should be vouchsafed to him to live forever, never to suffer death God ordered Okhuaihe to pay a second visit to Heaven” for instructions on what Oba Ewuare should do ta attain this state of immortality.

Okhuaihe duly journeyed a second time to “Heaven”. He was again granted audience by “God” who sent him to the god of Thunder, the Avan N’Ukhunmwun., summoning this personage to attend “God” at Court.

“God”knew that the Avan n’Ukhunmwun would attempt to destroy Okhuaihe, and that would be the end of the matter of Ewuare’s attempt at achieving immortality.

Okhuaihe duly arrived at the abode of the god of Thunder, and when he crossed the threshold into his premises, the Avan n ‘Ukhunmwun in anger began to hurl thunderbolts at him in great fury and with a frightening hubbub. But as each thunderbolt got to him to destroy him, Okhuaihe fielded the missile like a cricketer, catching it deftly, and then putting it in his magical hold-all bag, the agba-vboko to take home.

When the god of Thunder realized it was futile to attempt to destroy Okhuaihe, he stopped in his attempts and agreed to listen to what Okhtiaihe lhad to tell him. Okhuaihe delivered “God’s” summon to him.

“God” was impressed that Okhuaihe was able. successfully, to deliver his summons to the Avan n’ Ukhunmwun When the latter arrived in Court, “God” instructed him to journey to “earth” ¡.e Benin City, and confer the gift of immorality on Oba Ewuare.

The god of Thunder spelt out to Okhuaihe the terms which Ewuare would have to meet to receive the gift. He then sent him back to Benin to prepare for his coming.

Okhuaihe arrived in Benin and briefed Ewuare on the results of his journey. “God” had agreed to confer the gift of immortality on Ewuare,he reported, and He had already detailed a messenger to carry out the assignment. The messenger would arrive in Benin in “seven days”.

To prepare to accept this gift, Okhuaihe reported, Ewuare should sit on his ERHE throne, immobile for all of the seven days prior, neither eating nor drinking, or getting up from the stool During all of the seven days prior, Ewuare must not speak or blink his eyes. He should act faithfully the part of a carved statue until the gift was conferred. Failure to meet with these conditions would be Ewuare proving himself ineligible for immortality.

Ewuare accepted all the conditions stipulated, egged on enthusiastically by Okhuaíhe. He down on his throne, the ERHE a stool without a back-rest, elaborated many centuries earlier by the Ogiso kings. He took the ADA scepter from the Omada, and laid the scepter across his thighs. He then remained immobile, with his hands resting on the blade of the Ada, and with Okhuaihe dancing around him solicitously, anxious that the Oba should keep his own side of the bargain, and so achieve deathlessness.

The ordeal had gone on for five days when a call came to Okhuaihe to visit his farm at lkpe. He left, promising to return the following day, and await Avan n’Ukhunmwun’s coming. He duly arrived back in the city and the palace early on the seventh day.

Soon afler Okhuaihe arrived, there was a blood-curdling thunder - clap, and a section of the roofing of the hall where Ewuare was sitting gave way. Through the opening in the roof thus created, which was directly above the sitting king, there appeared an enormous cauldron of boiling, molten brass. The cauldron tipped. The boiling liquid metal poured out of it like the fiery lava of an erupting volcano. The fluid cascaded down towards the sitting Ewuare to cover him and convert him into a bronze statue, which would of course exist forever.

Ewuare looked up, saw what was coming at him, and his resolve failed him. In the nick of time he bounded off from his erhe stool just as the hot molten metal arrived. The metal covered up the erhe in molten bronze. The handle of the Ada which Ewuare was holding flat across his thighs also did not completely escape the stream of liquid metal. It got covered in the molten bronze.

Ewuare had failed the test He failed to endure the rites of passage to his immortality. Yet., Okhuaihe approached the rapidly cooling splattering of the molten bronze lying all over the floor around the now bronzed stool. He futilely dabbed his hands and fingers into the now cooled splattering of metal, and with these hands palpated Ewuare all over the body, wishing the king the blessings of health and of longevity. The immortality aspect of the folklore recollection of this first visit to Benin of a European contains some hints which link Portugal and the bronze metal, eronmwon, with Benin.

It is known that brass-casting was an established art in Benin well before the first Europeans visited. Bronze-casting was also said to have been a well-known art in some of the northern kingdoms which had sprung up in the general area of the confluence of the two great rivers, the Niger and the Benue. Some of these kingdoms were those of the Jukuns, the Nupes and the Igallas. The Bronze-casting activity also extended down the lower Niger river to the lgbo-Ukwu region.

Benin was said to have acquired the art of working in bronze from Ife., the original lfe which scholars nowadays situate in the same general area of the Niger confluence.

Since Benin was already working with bronze before the coming of the Europeans. it could be said that the great difference made by the advent of the Europeans as regards the activity of bronze-casting in Benin was that the art received a great boost, a great encouragement, from the resulting easy availability of the raw material – the brass or bronze metal . This mental was brought to Benin by the Europeans as money, as currency. The money was in the form of the MANILLA, the Iguanran The manilla was the high-denomination money with which the Benin - European trade was transacted. The COWRIE was the low-denomination portion of the currency.

The MANILLA, of brass or bronze, was FALSE GOLD, in that the metal had the yellow colour of gold, even though it was base, or cheap. It was an alloy of copper and zinc (brass), or copper and tin (bronze), which the Europeans made in their foundries at home, and shaped into semi-circular pieces as items of currency.

In West Africa the Portuguese did obtain the TRUE GOLD. They obtained it from the Ashanti of Kumasi, in the Gold Coast, now Ghana. They paid for this Ashanti gold with African slaves whom they had purchased from other parts of the West African Coast, paying for these slaves with the manilla, the false gold, which they had brought from Europe in their ships.

The Ashanti gold miners put their new slaves to work, to produce still more true gold for sale to the Europeans.

This trade in the Ashanti gold, this “Guinea’’ gold, was so lucrative to the Portuguese that the Portuguese King. John II, in 1486 built a castle on the Gold Coast to protect his monopoly of this trade in the true gold. He appropriately named this castle:

Sao Jeorge da’MINA, ‘the St George of the MINE. “This more than 500 years old edifice stands there to this day, in the Republic of Ghana, and is called Elmina Castle.

The brass or bronze manilla, the false gold, he eronmwon. soon became the currency in which the Euro - African trade was transacted all over the West African Coast, and especially in Ughoton in Benin.

With the introduction by Portugal of the the manilla iguanran, eronmwon as a currency in her trade with Benin, the activities of the brass-casting guild picked up in tempo. And this tempo was maintained throughout the four hundred years of Benin’s overseas trade with Europe, until the advent of colonialism a little more than a hundred years ago. The products of this centuries long brass-casting activity today adorn the collections of most of the important museums of Europe and of the Americas.

The Edo people closely associate the water-side village of IKPE with the Okhuaihe deity and his worship. They say: Omwen emwin n’lkpe Khin n’Qkhuaihe:
“The Ikpe waterside village is peculiarly intimately important to the Okhuaihe deity’’
the yearly IKPOLEKI festival in celebration of the Okhuaihe deity is brought to its conclusion in Ikpe village.

Here, the Okbue Osuan from Igbekhue village meets the Ikpoleki celebrants, fraternizes with them, and then proceeds to Benin to meet the chief, OSUAN. This meeting of the Okhue Usuan and chief Osuan in Benin is the signal for the commencement of the yearly EHO festival the end of the agricultural year for the Edos.

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