Ethnic Edo (Bini) groom and his bride in their weeding attire and wearing precious Edo beads at their traditional wedding ceremony at Benin in Edo State, Nigeria. The Edo people are the ancient Kwa language Bini-speaking ethnic groups who occupy South/Mid-Western Nigeria now called Edo State. The Edo/Bini-speaking ethnic groups include the Esan, the Afemai, the Isoko, the Urhobo among others. They are the descendants of the people who founded the ancient and mighty Benin Empire. The generic term “Edo,” therefore, refers to these peoples who have shared historical origin as well as political and cultural similarities. These peoples are called the Edoid peoples.
However, these days the Esan, the Afemai, The Isoko, the Urhobo and others see themselves as distinct ethnic group though they are all of Edoid origin. As a result, the Edo (proper) now occupy seven out of the 18 Local Government Areas of the Edo State which constitute 57.54% while others Esan (17.14%) Afemai compirising of Etsako (12.19%), Owan (7.43%), and Akoko Edo (5.70%). However, the Igala-speaking communities exist in Esan South East, Igbira related communities in Akoko and Afemai Areas as well as Urhobos, Izons, Itsekiris and Yoruba communities in Ovia North East and South West Local Government Areas especially in the borderlands.
Coral beads worn mostly by Edo women of Nigeria are symbolic of power, prestige, wealth, royalty and beauty. They are worn mostly during Edo traditional weddings and cultural events. Historically, In Edo royal symbolism, beads figured prominently, but but the richest beads were made from red corals, not from glass or stone. The striking red coral beads were used for everything from royal veils to full length royal cassocks. They were held to contain power – ase- to transform things, to effect outcomes.
Precious corals seems to grow in the bush-like formations in the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Japan. Oba Ewuare in the 1400’s A.D. is credited in oral tradition as the man who brought them to Benin when he stole them from the ” goddess of the Sea ” at Ughoton ( Gwatto ). Since Ughoton was the gateway to Europe in those days, the White man, specifically the Portuguese and the Spaniards may have brought them to Benin. The Portuguese influence on Edo culture is very great especially in the area of costume and clothing.
Ivie and Ekan are members of the Coral beads family. CORALS ( Phylum coelenterata ) or ( Cnidaria ) are mined from coral stones in oceans and polished as jewelry. EKAN looks like a stone and is grayish in color. IVIE is another specie of coral beads, an important type of jewelry worn by Edo chiefs. This kind is described as precious coral. It has a hard core that can be polished to bring out beautiful red, rose, or pink colors. The use of Ivie and Ekan is controlled by the Oba of Benin. There are some shapes you can not wear without being a chief. Corals beads used in Edo speaking areas are very different from those got from the North of Nigeria, in Yoruba land and the Eastern part of Nigeria.