Ada and Eben usually referred to as Ada vbe Eben by the Binis are symbols of authority used in the Benin Kingdom. People mistakenly confuse Ada and Eben for swords; they are not swords. Ada and Eben were introduced to Igodomigodo during the Ogiso dynasty. Benin was formerly called Igodomigodo. According to history, it was Ogiso Ere who introduced Ada and Eben.
Ogiso Ere invented the famous African kingship paraphernalia which includes the Ada (a sword of honor), Eben (a sword for dancing), Ekete (a royal stool), Agba (a rectangular stool), and Epoki (a leather box).
There have been two eras in the Benin Kingdom. The Ogiso Era and Oba Era. Ogiso literarily refers to king of the sky… continue reading about ogiso dynasty
Apart from the Introduction of Ada and Eben, the following are important facts worthy of note about Ogiso Ere:
- Ogiso Ere was the second Ogiso
- Ogiso Ere was Ogiso Igodo’s kinsman who succeeded Igodo to the throne.
- Ogiso Ere transferred the capital of Igodomigodo from Ugbekun to Uhudumwunrun.
- The son succeeding his father principle was introduced by Ogiso Ere.
- Ogiso Ere was a lover of peace.
- He was also a very resourceful king.
- Ogiso Ere brought his kingdom several innovations.
- He was the first to wear a Cowry Crown.
- He introduced the guild system of carpenters and wood carvers.
- Ogiso Ere built the first-ever Igodomigodo market, known then as Ogiso market and in modern times as Agbado market.
Ogiso Ere was simply the most dynamic and most decorated ruler of all the Ogisos in the first dynastic phase of Benin Monarchical era.
The symbolism of Ada and Eben is not just the symbolism of Benin kingdom insignia but it portrays the historical tenacity and traditional uniqueness of the Benin people.
‘Ada’ and ‘Eben’ are made by ‘Igunekhua blacksmiths’ the bras-smiths can also make brass Ada and Eben with the exclusive permission from the Oba. These two emblems are not swords, neither are they weapons for war but are weapons for authority proclamation and ceremonial.
The ADA is the superior emblem, and it takes precedence, wherever it appears, over the Eben. While both Oba and the chiefs dance with ‘Eben’‘Ada’ is only carried by the ‘Emada’ pages during public appearances of the Oba. The Oba can never appear in any gathering without ‘Ada’ nor move about even in his palace without it.
All chiefs are invested with the authority to possess the Eben. But it is only a number of them who are additionally conferred with the right to possess the Ada. Titles which have this right are called: EGIE ADA. In Old Benin an Enogie, or Ovie (in Urhobo land) could not order the execution of any of his subjects unless the right to possess the Ada had been conferred on him by the Oba of Benin.6
The Ada, in the form of its variant, the UMOZO, remained the main battle weapon of Benin, even well after the coming of the Europeans five hundred years ago.
The Egie Ada chiefs of the Ogiso Era, notably the UZAMA nobles: the Oliha, the Edohen, the Ero, the Eholor n’ire, hoisted their Ada as they made their way through the streets of Benin to the Ogiso palace, and later, with the change of dynasty, to the Oba palace at USAMA. But some seven hundred and fifty years ago when Oba Ewedo came to the throne and moved from USAMA to the Ogbe Ogiso n’Uzamakon, the present Benin palace site, he engineered the loss of that right by the Egie Ada Chiefs. Since that time no other Ada has remained aloft in the presence of the Oba of Benin with his own lofted Ada.
Once again, Ada is the sword of State(Authority) while the Eben is a ceremonial sword, the Ada must at all times be on the right side of the Oba or any king or Chiefs that have ancestral connections to ancient throne of the Benin Monarch.
For the great and tremendous contribution of Ogiso Ere, he is still remembered in Edo history and many bear names which cherish his memory. This is attested to by names such as Eresogie, Otamere, Erebo, Eresoyen Eregbowa, Eresuyi, Erediauwa, Eregie and so on.
ADA and EBEN forms the basis of which Benin is recognized all over the world and it attests the political and traditional influence Benin has over a wide range of other ethnic nationalities in which the beauty of ADA and EBEN stand aloft as it is the symbol of the greatness of our past since it was first used by Ogiso Ere about 2000 years ago.
Young boys within chiefly families often practice tossing and twirling them. The Oba uses both the Eben and the Ada, a curved, efficient-looking blade. He salutes his ancestors with the former in a solemn, dignified dance; on appropriate public occasions, Chief Ukueben holds it upright in readiness.
The Ada is carried in the Oba’s presence as a reminder of his right to pronounce death. He grants some high chiefs the privilege to use Ada within their households, but not at the palace. Ada and Eben are royal symbols in some non-Benin areas. Their appearance in Lagos, Onitsha, Owo, Warri and elsewhere testifies to past relationships, either political or genealogical.
The new chief encouraged and instructed by his more experienced colleagues, manipulates his eben in several ways. He first salutes the monarch, tipping the point of the sword to the ground several times in acknowledgment of his authority.
He then uses the Eben to recognize his family and supporters, as well as his fellow chiefs. As he proceeds through the ceremony, well-wishers shout, “Iyare!”–“May you go and return safely.” This prayer speaks to the dangers inherent in chieftaincy; while its recognition, status, and power are craved, it exposes candidates to supernatural challenges from rivals. Such competitors prefer to disgrace their victims publicly, and chiefs medicinally prepare themselves before such exposure. Festive occasions like this are occasions of both pride and anxiety for participants.
These emblems of authority were first introduced by Ogiso ‘Ere’ the second Ogiso about 16 A.D. – 66 A.D. Chief J.U. Egharevba, also confirmed that Ogiso Ere’ introduced these emblems of authority into the monarchical system of Benin.
Every titled chief in Benin are given ‘Eben’ and nor ‘Ada’. But ‘Ada’ may be delegated to any high ranking chief, such as the Uzama – kingmakers or Enigie who may have it and use it inside their domains but not to the Oba’s palace
‘Ada’ seems to be more powerful than the ‘Eben’. While both Oba and the chiefs dance with ‘Eben’‘Ada’ is only carried by the ‘Emada’ pages during public appearances of the Oba. The Oba can never appear in any gathering without ‘Ada’ nor move about even in his palace without it.
At ‘Ugie’ ceremonies, the Oba touches his ‘Eben’ to his father’s altars dancing with it thus linking himself with the ancestors through the channels cleared by ‘Eben’. The ‘Ada’ symbolizes his rights and power to take human life. ‘Ada’ was a part of furnishings and beautifying the father’s altars were it is expected to have the power of the ancestors and made it more powerful and enduring to control the cause of events. Proclamations are made with ‘Ada’. It is often feared to be very effective when an Oba uses ‘Ada’ to curse someone.
The Edos believe that the iron has the mystical power of what is called ‘Ase’ meaning ‘the grant of words coming true’ It, therefore, means that every proclamation made with ‘Ada’ in Benin must come to pass. The ancient custom that started about 16 A.D still persists today with ‘Ada’ and ‘Eben’.
‘Ada’ and ‘Eben’ are made by ‘Igunekhua blacksmiths’ the bras-smiths can also make brass Ada and Eben with the exclusive permission from the Oba. These two emblems are never swords neither weapons for war but are weapons for authority proclamation and ceremonial.
‘Ada’ was a part of furnishings and beautifying the father’s altars were it is expected to have the power of the ancestors and made it more powerful and enduring to control the cause of events. Proclamations are made with ‘Ada’. It is often feared to be very effective when an Oba uses ‘Ada’ to curse someone.
The Edos believe that the iron has the mystical power of what is called ‘Ase’ meaning ‘the grant of words coming true’ It, therefore, means that every proclamation made with ‘Ada’ in Benin must come to pass. The ancient custom that started about 16 A.D still persists today with ‘Ada’ and ‘Eben’
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do you know where I can find information on the manufacture and use of the OBA brass heads made in the early sixteenth centuries? Thanks
Excellent write up. Eloquent and precise!