Investigation on the impact of traditional art forms, ideas and materials on coronation of Enijie in Esanland, Edo State, Nigeria
- Background to the Study
Esan people – that is Ebho Esan (Ogbenbe, 2012), are one of the major ethnic groups in south-southern part of Nigeria located in Edo Central Senatorial District of Edo State. They primarily live in Esanland and speak the Esan language. Esan people are traditionally farmers and hunters. Prior to the advent of slave trade and western civilization, they worshipped many gods represented by deities (divinities). Esan people tenaciously believe in the existence of God (Osenobula) or the Supreme Being. To them, God is the creator of all and the sustainer of everything. Hence, He must never be approached directly in supplication, being so supreme and indeed Almighty (Okojie, 1994). They considered themselves inferior before the Almighty God. Therefore, one must channel one’s worship to God through smaller divinities.
Esanland is made up of 34 kingdoms and each kingdom has an Onojie (king). According to Okoduwa and Ibhasebhor (2005), Esanland is located in the tropical zone of the northern part of the Nigerian forest region, situated on a plateau north-east of Benin City. Esan has boundaries on the north-west with Owan and on the north-east with Etsako, on the south-west with Orhionmwon and Ika, while on the south and south-east with Aniocha and Oshimili areas respectively. The River Niger terminates her eastern border. The distance from Esanland to Benin City, the capital of Edo State is about 100 kilometres (Okojie, 1994). Esanland comprises five local government areas (LGAs): Esan West, Ekpoma, Esan Central, Irrua, Esan North-East, Uromi, Esan South-East, Ubiaja and Igueben, Igueben. The most thickly populated kingdoms in Esanland are Ekpoma, Ewohimi, Irrua and Uromi. The origin of Esan is traceable to the ancient city of Benin. The founders of these Esan kingdoms were sons of the Oba of Benin. Their migration was as a result of the Oba Ewuare I’s obnoxious rule in about 1460 (Okojie, 1960; 1994).
According to Omo-Ojugo, in a (personal communication, February 18, 2009), Esan people are homogeneous and highly vibrant. The homogeneity of the people of Esan has contributed immensely in binding them together politically, socially, economically and culturally. The people are very sophisticated in artistic forms and art objects with diverse styles that have developed from creative manipulations of culture, time and practices. The artistic prowess and values of Esan people are transmitted through the process of informal type of education.
There are a number of festivals and ceremonies in Esan. The significance of festivals and ceremonies, as sources of material for reconstructing the past of traditional African societies cannot be underrated. In the absence of written records, festivals, art forms and ritual ceremonies formed a veritable medium through which non-literate Esan and African in general preserved their historical past. Among festivals and ceremonies in Esan, the coronation ceremony is given a pride of place. Coronation is known and practised in Esan as it is known and practiced in other parts of Nigeria and the world. It is synonymous to kingship as an elaborate ritual amongst Esan people. Coronation is usually an occasion for pageantry and celebration laced with solemn religious ceremonies. Coronation ceremonies in Esan form the most reliable, veritable medium of visual communication, art education and preservation of Esan cultural heritage through traditional art forms, art objects, ideas and materials.
Esan monarchical system is based on the primogeniture system where the right of succession is strictly hereditary (from father to first son) with the exception of Ukhun and Idoa Kingdoms (Okojie, 1960; 1994). Perhaps, this is occasioned by the influences of Islam and the geographical location of these kingdoms. It is a tradition and cultural legacy that the people still hold sacrosanct in the face of modern civilization. Coronation of an Onojie is not an annual celebration but an event organized by the people to install a new Onojie (king) when an old one transits. The Onojie himself witnesses this coronation ceremony once in a life time.