This study examines the Oba of Benin Royal Ugie ivie festival, which is an annual religious and cultural event celebrated by the Benin speaking people of Edo State, Nigeria. As a communal and spiritual activity, the Oba and people of Benin kingdom mark the Ugie festivals with Musical and dance performances. Within this context, the study adopts the historical and participant approaches as its method of contending that some events during the Oba of Benin Royal Ugie festival ceremonies are colorful theatrical performances. The organizational structure of the Oba of Benin Palace as it relates to the observance of Ugie festival ceremonies is also discussed in this research. This study also examines the role Ewini music plays in the various Oba of Benin Royal Ugie festival ceremonies, thereby looking at its origin, socio-cultural context, formation procedure, instrumentation, and organizational set-up. This work takes an overall look at Ugie (festivals) ceremonies in the Royal Court of Benin, and shows in chronological order the various constituents of the Ugie ceremonies. The project is broken into four distinct chapters for segmental appraisal of the subject matter.
Chapter one takes a general view at the topic term “Ugie” in an introductory note, as well as the statement of problems, objectives, scope, significance, limitation of the study and the organization of the study employed for the study. Chapter two x-rays the Benin palace as it relates to these Ugie ivie festivals in terms of structure, composition, societal groupings and their functions. And it also looks at the political organization and the administration of the Benin kingdom.
Chapter three examines and analyses the festival in terms of content, music, song, dance, audience, costumes, extent of participation and theatrical contents, such as the Ugie ivie rituals and plotting. Chapter four is conclusion.
Background of the study:
Every community has its own cultural norms and values that are imbedded in its beliefs. Within each cultural lies a set of values and norms that are ingrained and inculcated as religious acts through which particular people attempt to relate to the Supreme Being. The Benin’s are no exceptions in that they have within their culture and customs rich festivals that make them quite an interesting cultural group. One such ceremony that has remained with them for quite some time is the Oba of Benin Royal Ugie festivals that have continued to be a phenomenon and experience where traditional beliefs are at play and have withstood the test of time.
The various Ugie ceremonies commemorated by the Benin people sees the blending and marrying of the traditional religion and significant cultural practices in an attempt to relate these to the distant ancestral being; the ancestors though so distant, yet ever present in this life, are recognized as the sustainers of all things. There is no doubt that the religious functions attributed to the Ugie Igue-Oba festival itself are quite inspirational to the adherents as well as enriching as humanity attempts to relate to the divine being using the human’s cosmological experiences. Festivals are common features in world religions and cultures. They are occasions for commemorating certain events which are of vital importance to the celebrating community. The Benin’s religiously observe the Ugie ivie festival ceremonies as part of the physical attempt to communicate to their ancestors seeking for blessings, good health and prosperity. Benin people should not be disregarded for their own attempt to relate to god through the various Ugie ivie festival of beads. Rather such festival as part of ancestral veneration is in itself central to their life and worldview that will go a long way in enriching the discourse of African traditional festivals. Festivals in general are joyous occasions celebrated with specific aim or aims in view and, as such, they have beliefs attached to them. In African festivals and their celebrations, the connection between sacred symbols of culture, myths and ritual are put into practical expression. Some festivals occur at specific periods and follow certain calendar of event.
Rites and rituals of festivals are expressions of the people’s deep religiosity which is culturally transmitted in the process of celebrating festivals.
Ugie ivie festival is important in the life of the Oba and the people of Benin kingdom, the Oba’s continued health and prosperity as well as that of the people, which are firmly enshrined and founded on the various Ugie sacred ceremony and rituals. The focus of the Ugie feast is entrenched in the core foundation of ancestral reverence that can be best described as the
religious life of the Benin people.
Ugie is a general term in Benin kingdom for royal or palace ceremonies or festivals. At the end of each year the Oba (king) of the Benin kingdom celebrates Ugie ivie festivals in accordance with the Benin custom. As a religious and cultural festival, it is celebrated with pomp and grandeur; it marks the end of the Benin year and ushers in a new year with renewed hope for peace and prosperity. Of all the important royal Ugie ceremonies, the Igue-Oba ceremony is not only considered as the most acclaimed. It is one singular event that creates a general sense of participation for all Edo people. The Igue-Oba activities do not only involve members of the palace societies, but also the whole Benin community.
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