Culture, Traditions, History And Origin Of Edo

Nuelson Penuel Sunday, February 18, 2024 Basis



Edo State, located in southern Nigeria, is a region steeped in history and cultural richness. Its captivating journey from ancient kingdoms to colonization and eventually independence has left an indelible mark on its identity. In this blog post, we will delve into the intriguing history and origin of Edo State, explore its pre-colonial era, examine the impact of colonization and subsequent independence, discover its ceremonial customs and traditions, unearth the unique Edo language, marvel at its remarkable landmarks, and explore its boundaries.

History and Origin:

The history of Edo State is deeply intertwined with one of Nigeria's greatest ancient empires - the Benin Kingdom. The kingdom traces its origins back over a millennium to the 10th century and was known for its advanced political system, remarkable bronze casting, and thriving trade networks. The Benin Kingdom's influence extended far beyond its borders, leaving a lasting legacy on the region.

Pre-Colonial Era:

During the pre-colonial era, the Benin Kingdom flourished as a powerful and sophisticated empire. It evolved into a well-organized political structure with skilled craftsmen, impressive artistry, and impressive military prowess. The kingdom's rulers, known as Oba, were revered as divine figures and custodians of tradition. The region was a hub of trade, attracting merchants from Europe and across Africa.

Colonial Era:

The arrival of European explorers in the 15th century marked the beginning of the colonial era for Edo State. The British established a presence in the late 19th century, leading to the incorporation of the Benin Kingdom into the British colonial territory. The invasion of the kingdom in 1897 infamously resulted in the looting of precious artifacts, though much has been recovered and restored over time. British colonization transformed the socio-political landscape of Edo State, introducing Western institutions and intrinsically altering indigenous customs.

Post-Colonial Independence and Creation:

After Nigeria's independence from British colonial rule on October 1, 1960, Edo State, then known as Mid-Western Region, became one of the federating units within the newly formed Nigerian Republic. The Mid-Western Region was created on August 9, 1963, following a plebiscite that was held in the region to determine its independence from the Western Region. The creation of the Mid-Western Region was a significant milestone in Nigeria's post-colonial history. It was a result of demands from the people of the region who sought to have more autonomous control over their affairs, separate from the Western Region, to which they had been previously attached. The Mid-Western Region comprised several ethnic groups, including the Bini, Esan, Afemai, Ora, Akoko-Edo, and Etsako, among others. These diverse groups came together under the new region, bringing with them their distinct languages, cultures, and traditions. The creation of the Mid-Western Region provided the people of the region with greater opportunities for self-governance and development. It allowed them to have a say in local decision-making processes and enabled the region to focus on its unique needs and priorities. In 1976, during a nationwide reorganization of Nigeria's states, the Mid-Western Region was further divided into two states: Bendel State and Midwest State. Later, in 1991, Bendel State was again split into two separate states: Edo State and Delta State. Thus, Edo State as we know it today emerged from these post-colonial reconfigurations. With Benin City as its capital, Edo State continues to evolve and grow, playing a vital role in Nigeria's political, economic, and cultural landscape.

Customs and Traditions:

Edo State boasts a vibrant and distinct cultural tapestry, with its customs and traditions deeply rooted in the ancient Benin Kingdom. The coronation of the Oba, the Igue Festival, and the Ugie-Emobo Festival are major cultural events that celebrate the kingdom's rich heritage. Traditional ceremonies, such as the New Yam Festival and the Igue-Osagie, showcase the importance of agriculture in the region and honor ancestral deities. The Edo people also have a proud tradition of intricate beadwork, brass and bronze casting, and distinctive dance forms such as the Bini royal dance.


The Edo language, also known as Bini, is spoken by the majority of the Edo people. It is a Niger-Congo language with unique tonal characteristics, preserving the linguistic history of the region. Although English is widely spoken, the Edo language remains essential in maintaining cultural identity and heritage.


Edo State is home to an array of remarkable landmarks that tell the story of its cultural heritage and architectural brilliance. The magnificent Benin City Walls, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, were built by the ancient Bini people to protect the kingdom from external threats. The National Museum in Benin City houses an extensive collection of ancient artifacts, including the famous "Benin Bronzes" - exquisite works of art that reflect the artistic legacy of the Benin Kingdom.


Edo State is bordered by Kogi State to the northeast, Delta State to the south and west, Ondo State to the northwest, and Anambra State to the east. These boundaries reflect the region's position as a cultural crossroads, shaping the interactions and exchange of ideas between various neighboring communities.

Ethnic Groups

In Edo State, several ethnic groups coexist, each with its unique cultural practices, language, and traditions. The dominant ethnic group in the state is the Bini people, who are the direct descendants of the ancient Benin Kingdom. However, other ethnic groups also contribute to the diverse cultural fabric of Edo State. Let's take a closer look at these ethnic groups: 1. Bini: The Bini people are the indigenous inhabitants of Edo State and are known for their rich cultural heritage. They predominantly reside in Benin City, the capital of Edo State. The Bini language, also known as Edo, is widely spoken by this ethnic group. The royal palace, traditional religious practices, and traditional festivals such as the Igue Festival are significant aspects of the Bini culture. 2. Esan: The Esan people are one of the major ethnic groups in Edo State. They are predominantly found in Esanland, which consists of three senatorial districts: Esan West, Esan Central, and Esan North-East. The Esan people have a unique language called Esan, which is mutually intelligible with the Edo language. The Esan people are known for their agricultural practices, arts, and craftsmanship. 3. Afemai: The Afemai people inhabit the northern part of Edo State. They are spread across four local government areas: Etsako West, Etsako East, Owan East, and Owan West. The Afemai people have a rich history and are known for their traditional customs and festivals, such as the Ekaba and the Agenebode Festival. The Emai language is spoken by the Afemai people. 4. Ora: The Ora people occupy the southern part of Edo State, primarily in the Owan West Local Government Area. They have several subgroups, including the Isi and the Egu. The Ora people are renowned for their vibrant cultural festivals, such as the Ekuechi festival celebrated every two years.

Wrapping up:

Edo State captivates visitors with its rich historical and cultural heritage. The journey from the ancient Benin Kingdom to colonization and eventual independence has left an indelible mark on its customs, traditions, language, and landmarks. Exploring Edo State offers an opportunity to appreciate the resilience and creativity of its people and delve into a captivating era of Nigeria's history. As Edo State continues to grow and evolve, it remains a treasure trove of fascinating stories and captivating experiences for those willing to explore its glorious past and embrace its vibrant present.

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