Trivia About Iyoba (Queen Mother) Idia, of Benin
I’m often asked about the significance of the ring and the handcrafted bangle bracelet made from the ring's image that I wear with pride. Each sterling silver piece has an image of Iyoba (Queen Mother) Idia, a renowned 16th-century warrior-queen and skilled administrator of the Kingdom of Benin, present-day Nigeria.
Idia was the mother of Esigie, the first Oba (King) of Benin to ascend to the throne with the title Esigie. He ruled from 1504 to 1550. He also was credited with being the first leader in the West-African sub-region to establish a diplomatic relationship with a European country. The actions taken by Idia, one of the wives of the deceased 15th Oba, would alter the course of history forever and change the destiny of the powerful Benin Kingdom.
Idia was instrumental in her son’s rise and reign as Oba (King) of the Edo people. She was described as a great warrior who fought relentlessly before and during his 16th-century reign as the 16th Oba of Benin. Idia’s success on the battlefield, her political counsel, and her medicinal knowledge were viewed as critical elements of her son’s success in procuring the kingdom. Keep in mind that the kingdom and the era she lived in were characterized by a deep-rooted male dominance of all things political. Over time in history, women have been either at the forefront or at the back of the scene of most major historical events. Often the feats they achieved are overlooked or less appreciated.
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To reward and honor his mother for her support in helping him secure the title of Oba (King) of Benin, Esigie created a new position, called Iyoba (Queen Mother), within the court. This position came with significant political power and prestige second only to that of the Oba himself, including a separate residence with its own staff, something no other women previously enjoyed.
The face of Idia, the 16th-century queen mother of the Edo people, was immortalized in the sixteenth century with an ivory mask. Additional information can be found at the following links: Iyoba Idia the Untold Tale, Women Leaders in African History
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