Queen EwereQueen Ewere

Ubi, Ewere, Oyoyo

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Last Update July 28, 2020

The reign of Oba Ewuare marked the beginning of the celebration of one of the most historical and most colourful festival in Benin kingdom. No concrete analysis can be made on this great event without mentioning the reign of three Queen Sisters (Ubi, Ewere, Oyoyo) who were wives of Oba Ewuare and their lives affected the kingdom so much.

They also brought about new developments to the Igue festival, which has become very important to the People. Oba Ewuare the great is considered as one of the most successful Obas that ever ruled the Benin kingdom because at every point in time there were some women who always influenced and affected his life, both positively and negatively. From his relationship with them, he gained wisdom on how to handle issues that came his way. He i also the Oba that has immortalized the mimes or personality of’ some women during his reign.

The story of Ubi, Ewere and Oyoyo is that of good triumphing over evil. These names are very significant to the Benin People as they all represent different things to the Benin Nation. According to traditions, Ubi, Ewere, Oyoyo, were the daughters of .chief Ogieka of Benin-Ughoton road these maidens were said to have been very beautiful and the news of their beauty got to Oba Ewuare ne Ogidigan (the great) Ewuare, without making inquires about the girls, sent message to chief Ogieka to marry his first daughter, Ubi to him. Ubi was said to have been a very wrong choice for the Oba, She was proud, arrogant, and full of herself and her beauty, and she was so independent and had no regard for anyone, both old and young. When the chief from the Oba came to request for her hand in marriage, the father wished the Chief had asked for his own opinion on whom to marry among his daughters because he was scared that Ubi was going to bring shame to his family if allowed to go to the palace. But the emissaries of the Oba were specific on who the king wanted and that was Ubi.

This gave chief Ogieka no choice, but to perform the king’s will. Ubi on the other hand refused to be one of the numerous women in the harem of the Oba She felt marriage to the Oba was not her idea of marriage. She was, however, persuaded by her mother who made her to understand that marriage to the Oba was the best thing that could ever happen to any Benin woman. She, however, went to the palace just to please her parents and therefore refused to live up to expectation.

A well trained Bini woman was expected to be humble, respectful to her elders and men around her, she is to address her husband as enoyawen no yan ehiwem meaning, ‘my lord and controller of my destiny’ (or the owner of my life and my soul). She is to be full of sobriety, but in the case of Ubi at the Palace of Oba Ewuare, we see a ruthless and disrespectful woman who did not regard the leadership in the harem but choose to have the Oba to herself alone” . Oba Ewuare on the other hand was blinded by her beauty, he tried without success to tame her, but she refused to change and continued in her evil ways, She tormented the other women, by not allowing them have access to their husband as she monopolized Ewuare’s bed chamber. She did not regard any of the other women because she believed they were ordinary citizens while she claimed nobility because her father was a chief. She was bated by all, both the chiefs at the palace and women in the harem. Although she also had her own loyalty, her cup became full when it was discovered she was bed-wetting. This was forbidden or contrary to the Benin custom ‘or an adult woman to be bedwetting.. The Oba then angrily ordered her to be sent away from the harem, the women who hated her with passion were glad to descend on her with burning lire wood crying Ubi rie, Ubi rie, Ubi rie meaning Ubi go, Ubi go, Ubi go;. that was what brought to an end the reign of terror by Ubi in the palace
Ubi wanted to question the Benin culture and traditions which made women lesser being. She was not comfortable with one man marrying so many wives; she wanted her own husband to be for her alone. She, however, had the wrong character and attitude to change the status quo. Instead of making an impact, she ended up making a mess of her name and personality. Traditions have it that the name ‘UN’ was under a curse and that was why it was doomed for evil. This is the reason it could not prosper even in the palace. In the present day Benin, Ubi represents evil, evil forces or something that can destroy.

According to Egharevba, the exit of Ubi brought about the reign and emergence of Queen Ewere. Although some other accounts claim that Ewere met Ubi at the palace. Whatever the case may be the reign of Ewere is remembered for peace, prosperity, health, concord and progress in the kingdom. She was totally different from her sister, she was respectful, diligent, humble, honourable and a peace loving person. The Oba, the women and maids in the harem loved Ewere dearly and they were ready to palace her at anytime. Ewere, however, was not happy during her early stay at the palace as she dearly missed her younger sister, Oyoyo, who was very close to her. Her unhappiness was noticed in the harem by the other women, whom she told about how she desired to see her younger sister again. This issue was reported to Oba Ewuare, who immediately sent message to chief Ogieka to release Oyoyo, his daughter, to the palace in order to visit Ewere and keep her company. This request was promptly granted by chief OgĂ­eka. At Oyoyo’s entry to the palace harem, the women and maids began to sing to welcome her to the palace.
The visit of Oyoyo brought so much joy to Ewere and the women. Ewere was very pleased to see her sister and they chatted and laughed together. But Ewere was unwilling to let her sister return back home, so Oba Ewuare deckled to marry her as well. Oba Ewuare ended up marrying three sisters whose life and activities made history. They are very significant to the Benin people and historiography; one cannot critically discuss Ewuare and his reforms without discussing these women. Oba Ewuare made a decree that all evil, evil spirit and wicked deeds will be described as Ubi and must be ejected out of the land through burning tire wood on the night preceding Ugie Ewere. On the other hand, Ewere became synonymous with good luck, favour and preservation while Oyoyo represent joy or happiness.

Traditions have it that throughout the reign of Oba Ewuare; on a yearly basis, he celebrated the anniversary of his happy and prosperous marriage to Ewere at the lgue festival, by sacrificing goat, leopard, cows and other offerings Iike kola-nut and coconut to his head, which is meant for his good luck. In this, his chiefs and the people of Benin use to take part. Four days after this, everyone would celebrate his own Igue in his own house. Igie Ewere (Celebration of Ewere) would take place on the fifth day in the palace. This has been kept up by every reigning Oba to the. Present day. This is the most interesting event of Igue festival as it is celebrated with a lot of pomp and pageantry, the event is usually very colourful, the People celebrates the triumph of good over evil. They also rejoice that they have been able to see the end of another year. At ugie Ewere, the people danced with ebe Ewere, Ewere’s lucky leaves’ and since that time it has been the prayer of the Benin people is not to make a journey on Ubi day, that on Ewere day so that the journey might be as happy and

prosperous as that of Ewere Be that as it may, it is interesting to note that finite and irrelevant women were able to make such impact in their societies that their very names have been integrated into the cultural language of the people It is, however, imperative to note that Ubi, Ewere and Oyoyo were women of special qualitis as they made themselves relevant in the kingdom of Benin at a period when women could not oven be heard. Although Ubi is regarded as an evil Queen because she stood on strange ground by daring to question the Benin traditions, at the same time she was a woman that spoke when others kept quiet, she was fearless and ruthless, she was a woman that stood for her belief not minding the toes she might step on. The only problem with her was that she had the wrong attitude and perhaps her failure must have been as a result of her name, which was- already under a curse before she was born. Ewere on the other hand was able to capture the heart of the Oba and the people through what she believed, which was love and the inner beauty of the heart. With these attributes, she has become one of the most celebrated women in Benin cultural history. Igue festival was not a very big event until the introduction of Ugie Ewere, which has lingered on till this very day. Oyoyo on her part completed the joy of the people and the Oba by bringing joy to Ewere and even going as far as marrying the Oba just to please her sister, This is the reason she represents joy till this day, for sacrificing her own freedom and life in order to bring joy into the life of her sister and the people.

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