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Statue on King's Square (Ring Road) in Benin City
Statue on King's Square (Ring Road) in Benin City
Benin City, is a city (2006 est. pop. 1,147,188) and the capital of Edo State in southern Nigeria. It is a city approximately 25 miles north of the Benin River. It is situated 200 miles by road east of Lagos. Benin is the centre of Nigeria's rubber industry, but processing palm nuts for oil is also an important traditional industry.
The mythic origins of Benin state that the city was originally under the rule of Ogisos, meaning "Kings of the Sky". When the last Ogiso died, the nobles and chiefs disagreed over who would be the next Ogiso, so the Benin sent a message to Ife to the Ooni of Ile-Ife. Oba Oduduwa, the mythic ancient first king of Ife. The Benin pleaded with him to send them a king; eventually Oduduwa sent to them his grandson, prince Oranmiyan. When Oranmiyan came to Benin, he struggled with the culture and customs of the Benin people. Because of his own difficulties acclimating to his new kingdom, Oba Oranmiyan changed the name of the city to Ile-Ibinu (1180-1897) which in the Yoruba language means the "Land of Vexation," and decided to leave the city. However, before leaving Benin, Oranmiyan had a son, Eweka, by princess Erewinde who could not talk. When Oranmiyan heard of this, he sent to him seven marbles for the child to play with. One day, as the prince was playing, one of the marbles broke. He immediately said "owomika!" or "eweka!", meaning "I succeeded!" He immediately became the first true Oba of Benin, Oba Eweka I. Oba Eweka was the first to reject the title of the native Benin "Ogiso" and took the title "Oba," meaning 'king' in the Yoruba language. Allegedly Oba Eweka later changed the name of the city of Ile-Binu, the capital of the Benin kingdom, to "Ubinu." This name would be reinterpreted by the Portuguese as "Benin" in their own language. Around 1470, Ewuare changed the name of the state to Edo. This was about the time the people of Okpekpe migrated from Benin City.
The Portuguese visited Benin City around 1485. Benin grew rich during the 16th and 17th centuries due to trade within southern Nigeria, as well as through trade with Europeans, mostly in pepper and ivory. In the early 16th century the Oba sent an ambassador to Lisbon, and the King of Portugal sent Christian missionaries to Benin. Some residents of Benin could still speak a pidgin Portuguese in the late 19th century. Many Portuguese loan words can still be found today in the languages of the area.
On 1 February 1852 the whole Bight of Benin became a British protectorate, where a consul represented the protector, until on 6 August 1861 the Bights of Biafra and Benin became a united British protectorate, again under a British Consul.
On 17 February 1897, Benin City fell to the British. In the "Punitive Expedition", a 1,200-strong British force, under the command of Admiral Sir Harry Rawson, conquered and razed the city after all but two men from a previous British expeditionary force led by Acting Consul General Philips were killed. Alain Boisragon, one of the survivors of the Benin Massacre, includes references to the practice of human sacrifice in the city in a firsthand account written in 1898 (one year after the Punitive Expedition). James D. Graham notes that although "there is little doubt that human sacrifices were an integral part of the Benin state religion from very early days," firsthand accounts regarding such acts often varied significantly, with some reporting them and others making no mention of them.
The "Benin Bronzes", portrait figures, busts and groups created in iron, carved ivory, and especially in brass (conventionally called "bronze"), were taken from the city by the British and are currently displayed in various museums around the world. Some of the bronzes were auctioned off to compensate for the expenses incurred during the invasion of the city. Most of these artifacts can be found today in British museums and other parts of the world. In recent years, various appeals have gone to the British government to return such artifacts. The most prominent of these artifacts was the famous Queen Idia mask used as a mascot during the Second Festival of Arts Culture (FESTAC '77) held in Nigeria in 1977 now known as "Festac Mask".
The capture of Benin paved the way for British military occupation and the merging of later regional British conquests into the Niger Coast Protectorate, the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria and finally, into the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. The British permitted the restoration of the Benin monarchy in 1914, but true political power still lay with the colonial administration of Nigeria.
Following Nigeria's independence from British rule in 1960, Benin City became the capital of Mid-Western Region when the region was split from Western Region in June 1963; it remained the capital of the region when the region was renamed Bendel State in 1976, and became the state capital of Edo State when Bendel was split into Delta and Edo states in 1991.
Benin City is home to some of Nigeria's institutions of higher learning, namely, the University of Benin located at Ugbowo, the College of Education Ekiadolor, Igbinedion University, the Benson Idahosa University and wellspring university - renowned for its advancement in information technology, entrepreneurship and leadership development. Benin City also has some of the best secondary schools in Nigeria and these include, Edo College, Western Boys High School,Garrick Memorial secondary school.. Asoro Grammar School, Eghosa Grammar School, Edokpolor Grammar School, Niger College, Presentation National High School, [http://www.iccoba.com/members.htm Immaculate conception College, Idia College, University of Benin Demonstration Secondary School, University Preparatory Secondary School, Benin Technical College, Headquarters of Word of Faith Group of Schools,Lydia Group of schools, Nosakhare Model Education Centre and Igbinedion Educational Center, Federal Government Girls College, Benin City Paragon Comprehensive College, Itohan Girls Grammar School. Some of the vocational schools in Benin City include Micro International Training Center, Computer Technology and Training Center, etc.
Attractions in the city include the National Museum Benin city, the Oba Palace, Igun Street (-famous for bronze casting and other metal works for centuries). Other attractions include various festivals and the Benin Moats (measuring about 20 to 40 ft), the famous King's Square on Ring Road and its traditional markets.
The Binis are known for bronze sculpture, its casting skills and their arts and craft. Benin city is also the home of one of the oldest sustained monarchies in the world. Various festivals are held in Benin city yearly to celebrate various historic occasions and seasons. Igue festival is the most popular of the festivals where the Oba celebrates the history and culture of his people and blesses the land and the people. It is celebrated at a time between Christmas and New Year.
The Bini people have four market days: Ekioba, Ekenaka, Agbado and Eken, following the Urhobo calendar.
Since Adams Oshiomole assumed office in August 2008, the city has embarked on construction of new roads, ringroad beautification and job creation. A bustling commercial centre has developed. Economic and efficient buses were bought by the current administration to ease traffic congestion.
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