The Story Of Uwaraye Alias Emotan:

After his ouster by his brother; Prince Ogun (Oba Ewuare) had found his way to the house of the beautiful woman opposite the market place in the city. She was a powerful mystic and childless. She hailed from Eyaen village in the present day Oduwawa cattle market area on the Benin-Auchi Road.

The name her parents gave her was Uwaraye. As a young woman she married Chief Azama of Ihogbe district, as his second wife. Uwaraye was considered indolent by her husband because she could not cook. She could not get pregnant either. Azama´s first wife, Arabe, handled the domestic chores and gave birth to all the children of the household. Azama soon nicknamed Uwaraye, Emitan, corrupted to Emotan, meaning lazy bones. She had a redeeming feature, though. She was good at helping to (nurse) or take care of the brood of the household. Emotan who could make evbarie´ (a soup seasoning condiment made from fermented melon seeds), and spin threads from cotton bolls, began taking these plus some herbal products to sell at a stall opposite the city market (present day Oba market) When her husband died and she could not return to her parents home because they too had died in old age earlier on, she set up a hut to live in at her trading post opposite the market place. Her hut soon became a popular make-shift nursery for the children of families patronizing the market. She attended to the childrens health and other needs flawlessly without charging fees and the kids parents soon could not have enough of her services. It was in her nature, therefore, to agree to have Prince Ogun as her guest and to help him take his throne. During Prince Ogun´s first night at the hut, the Royal army raided the market neighbourhood, searching possible hideouts, including Emotan´s hut. He was invisible again.

As soon as the army moved their search from the hut to other areas in the vicinity, Ogun sneaked out, avoiding the path of the army, and headed straight for the palace where he killed his usurper brother, Oba Uwaifiokun. The news of his action soon spread around the city. Ordinary citizens were supportive of his action, insisting that it was Ogun´s right to do what he did and expressing joy and hope that the tragedies of the recent past would soon end because justice had prevailed.Emotan sent word to Ogun to stay put in the palace and consolidate his hold while she continued spiritual work outside to win empathy and love for Ogun. Within a few days, the Edion´isen had come round in support of Ogun, eventually crowning him as the Omo N´ Oba Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare. Iha divination´s title choice of ´Oworuare,´ alias Ewuare, could not have been more apt because it means, after the heat, the cooling effect of rain. Oba Ewuare appointed Emotan as the Iyeki (that is the leader of the authorized Ekpate guild), tasked with security matters in the market and with enforcing market rules. Emotan died not too long after Ewuare´s ascension, so the Oba decreed that she should be buried in her hut. Later the grave was marked with an Uruhe tree and her deification as the conscience of justice was ordered by the king. Every celebratory procession in Benin pays homage to the burial site. T

he first Uruhe tree (marker) survived for some three hundred years before it fell. The replacement Uruhe tree survived for about one hundred and fifty years before an Iroko tree was planted to support it. A severe storm fell both trees on their, around one hundred years anniversary together. Oba Akenzua II, in cooperation with the British Colonial authorities commissioned in 1954, a life size bronze statue of Emotan as a young woman, sculpted by Mr. John A. Danford, in his Chelsea, London, studio in 1951, from a miniature model cast by Igun Street artists.

Leave a comment...