Photos An Eghaevbonogbe chief seated at the Igue ceremony wears a collar of agate beads above a layer of many coral necklaces.A senior Eghaevbonore chief salutes the king with a ritual sword called Eben.The leopard-skin throne of the Oba is carried by his royal courtiers to the dais, where he will sit in state for the Igue ceremony.Seated on his throne, the Oba is surrounded by his three wives (right), the Ewaise chief (left), and royal courtiers (far left).Three wives of the Oba of Benin at the Igue festival, Nigeria.As the senior chiefs enter the Oba’s compound they ritually pass under a bamboo pole. Their red ceremonial costumes with scalloped edges represent the protective scales of the pangolin, which, according to our royal protector, Enotie Ogbebor, “eats all ants and cannot be stung through its hard skin.”After passing under the pole, the most senior chiefs throw their symbolic Eben swords into the air and pray for peace and prosperity for the Oba and the kingdom.Oba Erediauwa of Benin sits in state surrounded by his court. Standing to his right is the high priest Isekhure. The Oba was educated in both Nigeria and England before he was crowned in 1979 as the thirty-ninth traditional head of state of the Benin kingdom. In 2016 the Oba joined his ancestors.During the Igue ceremony, seven large bulls are slaughtered and the blood used to anoint the head, hands, and feet of the Oba in order to bless the Oba and protect the kingdom for the coming year.A masked Ekoko n’Uteh dancer wearing a red feathered headdress comes from the Uteh community to pay homage to the Oba of Benin.The Ekoko n’Uteh masquesaders wear rafia pods wrapped around their legs which rattle as they dance.Chief Obasogie, head of the Iron Guild in his coral necklaces and a tall pangolin hat. Worn by the Oba and people of high standing, coral is believed to possess magic and contain the power of the sea god, Olokun. The Oba says to his coral beads, “Oh corals, when I adorn myself with you, endow me with wisdom and keep me apart from evil spirits.”Eghaevbonogbe chiefs, identified by their style of skirt, bared chests, coral and agate necklaces, and tall fringed red hats, arrive to greet and pray for the Oba and renew their allegiance.Hanging from the waist of each Eghaevbonogbe chief is a Benin bronze hip mask with magical powers that represents the Oba and alongside, a set of large five-fingered Abuwa, symbolizing wealth and prosperity.The Igue festival concludes with the Ugie Ewere ceremony in which ebe’ewere leaves symbolizing joy and prosperity are resented to the Oba and to each of the chiefs. It commemorates the marriage of a historical Oba to Queen Ewere. Young Benin women wearing coral-colored bead headdresses carry the leaves and present them to Chief Obasogie. The ebe’ewere leaves are considered a New Year’s gift to all Edo people.A young Edo girl wearing a tradtitional coralcoloured headdress sings to the accompayment of her shekere, a rhythm shaker with a beaded net covering the gourd.The Esogban of Benin sitting in state in his palace, Benin City, NigeriaA bronze statue of the High Priest Isekhure of Benin holding a staff and a golden bell outside his shrine.Ancestral shrine filled with powerful deities protecting the Edo Royal Kingdom and the Oba of Benin.Inside the royal shrine of Olokun, god of the sea, stands a priestess named Evbakhavbohun, who dances into a trance to the accompaiment of drums, rattles, and iron gongs. She sprinkles chalk onto the altar of the Oba of the water. Seated nearby a priestess blows a horn to call on the spirits. The priestesses have passed through seven years of initiation, during which time they choose their own name.