The Story of Idia



The story of Idia


Power of the Queen Mother


-The Palace
-Iyoba and Oba heads



-Royal Kente cloth

-Gold Stools




African Art Home




                  The Queen Mother plays an important role in West African cultures.  Before the 15th century in most West African kingdoms Queen Mothers did not exist.  They were in fact established because of the need to pick the next ruler in the Benin kingdom. A heated debated erupted after the Benin king Oba died with two sons waiting to take the throne; Arhuaran and Esigie.  At the time Arhuaran ruled Udo and Esigie was the ruler of Benin city.  Conflict arose over who would take the throne and rule the entire kingdom.   It is said that mother Idia protected the Benin kingdom from neighboring people who saw the weakness of having no one ruler within the kingdom. Mother Idia also help Esigie win the war against his brother saving the Benin Kingdom.  Thus Esigie was made king of Benin.  Customary tradition is to behead the mother of the current King to prevent her using witchcraft to harm the King or the Kingdom.  Esigie asked for his mother to be saved so she could help him conquer his brother.  She was saved however; he was told he could never come in direct contact with her again.  Thus the Queen Mother in Benin cultures can not come into direct contact with her son once he becomes king. (1)

This is an image of an Original Ivory mask of Idia dating back to the 16th century. Similar masks are usually worn by the Kings during ceremonies that celebrate and honor the Queen Mother of Benin.  It is made out of ivory which is a material symbolizing royalty.