Nigerian Women In History

A Brief History Of Queen Idia – The First Queen Mother Of Benin Kingdom


Queen Idia is described as the symbol of women’s liberation!

History explained that she exuded power, skill, loyalty, and feminine beauty and there are artistic works that portray her as both a warrior and a mother.

Idia was the first Queen Mother of Benin Kingdom and she paved the way for Nigerian women of yesteryears and present times to have their part in decision-making as touching the political issues.

There are many sculptures of her face, which heralds the Benin Carving culture which the West envies.

SEE ALSO: A Brief History Of How Mammy Ochendu Founded Mammy Markets At Army Barracks

These masks went on to be the Signature of African culture and arguably the most common face in the History books of African Culture.

Between 1450 to the 1530s, the kingdom of Benin was in disarray after the death of Oba Ozolua.

Oba Ozolua left two powerful sons to dispute his succession. His son Esigie controlled Benin City while another son, Arhuaran, was based in the equally important city of Udo about twenty miles away.

Queen Idia was said to have mobilized armies around her son, Esigie, who defeated his brother, thereby restoring the unity and military strength of the kingdom.

Idia also went to battles with her son, conquering his enemies and bringing victories home.

Idia received much of the credit for Esigie’s victories as his political counselor. Her mystical powers and medicinal knowledge were viewed as the reason for Esigie’s success on the battlefield.

 To reward and honor her, Esigie created a new position within the court called the Iyoba or “Queen Mother,” which gave her significant political privileges, including a separate residence with its own staff.

Apart from these, Queen Idia was a woman of many firsts. Below are some of the things she achieved as listed by

1.     The first woman to earn a title from the Benin Empire as “IYOBA” also represented as “The Queen mother”

2.     First woman commander [mother of the king] to have led soldiers/warrior to fight and win a war in defense of her nation.

3.     First woman to have produced one of most enlightened prince relating with the Europeans in their early encounter. 

4.     First woman to have witnessed one of the highest diplomatic ties between Black Africa and Europeans in her time.

5.     The first woman to have taken up the mantle of leadership in terms of socio – economic development of the Old Benin Empire, that was later invaded and burnt down by the British military on the Benin punitive expedition 1897 to finally exile Oba Ovonramen to Calabar. A time when some of the finest bronze of Benin were made and exported to Europe.

6.     First woman to have introduced the gladiator’s spirit and high virtues of feminism in the history of Black African civilization

7.     First black African woman to have earned such world recognition, respect, and dignity in the west African sub-region, a great work of art whose presence [sculpture and art work] continue to show in every media and publications far and near. The popular Ivory Mask, the face of African culture and pride of the black race.



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