So I was lurking a really awesome blog (http://nigerianostalgia.tumblr.com/) when I came across this photo of Oba (King) Akenzua II of Benin Kingdom. Being a proud Benin girl myself, I was naturally fascinated by this photo. Thought it was a long shot but I called my mom over and asked her if she recognized this King who reigned from 1933-78. To my surprise she to confirmed that she recognized him, and nonchalantly revealed that she spent a lot of time in his palace as a young girl. Apparently my late grandfather was closely related to the Oba, and he used to bring my mother and her siblings along on his visits.
Now, this is the place where I was planning on inserting a corny joke about officially changing my name to “Izegbuwa Mischa I Warrior Princess of Benin Kingdom”, but instead I’d like to use this opportunity to share a little bit of my culture with you. :)
Oba Akenzua is remembered for his groundbreaking efforts to restore Benin back to it’s pre-colonial glory. In 1936, he began the movement to return back to Nigeria the Benin Bronze artwork that was stolen by the Europeans in the Benin Expedition of 1897. During his reign, only two of the 3,000 royal court bronzes were returned.
I’m so blessed to have descended from such a rich culture. We aren’t a very populous tribe, but trust me when I say that nobody can mess with the Benin Empire! We are world renowned. Our bronze artwork was so exceptional that the Portuguese and British settlers decided to steal it (and have the audacity to hang it up their modern museums) -_-
But I’m proud to say that even after the imperialist vermin infiltrated our kingdom we continued to fight back in every way we knew how. Today the Benin monarchy is very much alive and well.
Queen Ohan Akenzua, royal wife of Oba Akenzua II (Omo n’Oba n’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo), on trip to London, England Photographer unknown, c. 1956. Chief S.O. Alonge Collection.
Alonge copied historic photographs by other photographers on glass plates to maintain an archival, visual record of significant persons and moments in the history of Benin. Shot by an unknown photographer, a young Queen Ohan Akenzua has wrapped herself in a striped textile to keep warm while visiting England. The chimneys of London are visible in the background.