Edo people

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Edo people
The Edo Cultural Group.jpg
An Edo children's cultural assembly
Total population
3.8+ million[1]
Regions with significant populations
Niger Delta
Edo language
Predominantly Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Afemai, Esan, Isoko, Urhobo and Akpes

The Edo or Benin people are an Edoid ethnic group primarily found in Edo State, Nigeria. They speak the Edo language and are the descendants of the founders of the Benin Empire. They are closely related to other ethnic groups that speak Edoid languages, such as the Esan, the Afemai, the Isoko,and the Urhobo.

The name "Benin" (and "Bini") is a Portuguese corruption, ultimately from the word "Ubinu", which came into use during the reign of Oba (ruler) Ewuare the Great, c. 1440. "Ubinu", a Yoruba word meaning vexation, was used to describe the royal administrative centre or city or capital proper of the kingdom, Edo. Ubinu was later corrupted to Bini by the mixed ethnicities living together at the centre; and further corrupted to Benin around 1485 when the Portuguese began trade relations with Oba Ewuare.[2]


Location of The Edo homeland (dark green)

in Nigeria (green)

Administrative Region[edit]

Edo people can be found in Nigeria's Edo State which got its name from the primary inhabitants of the region's most notable historical conglomeration, Benin City, which is also the central capital homeland of the Edo people. Edo people also have many related groups in their immediate surroundings also encompassed by the political and administrative borders of Edo state. Most of these groups have traced their history back to the historical city center off the Benin people, Benin City. Examples of such adjacent groups include various Afemai sub-groups, the Esan people of Edo state and the Akoko Edo people situated on the state's northern borders.

Edo state was formerly part of the old Bendel state of early post-colonial Nigeria, also known as the Mid-Western Region, Nigeria. This region's influence and culture reflects that of the Edo, Urhobo, Esan and other Edo related peoples.

Location of Edo state and Benin City in Nigeria
Edo cultural dressing with beaded crowns and outfits


Edo people have one of the richest dress cultures on the African continent. Their fashion accessories holds royalty and typically includes red beads, body marks, bangles, anklets, raffia work and so on.[3]

Traditional beliefs[edit]

In the traditional religion of the Edo, there exists, besides the human world, an invisible world of supernatural beings acting as interceders for the human world. Offerings are made to them in their respective shrines. Osanobua is the creator and Supreme God. His son/daughter Olokun is ruler of all bodies of water and is responsible for the prosperity and fertility of his/her human followers. Another son Ogun, is the patron god of metalworkers. The epithet Osanobua Noghodua mean God Almighty. The word Osanobua encompasses a large number of divine principles - including the divine state of being merciful, timeless, goodness, justice, sublimity, and supreme. In the Edo belief system, Osanobua has the divine attributes of omnipresence (orhiole), omniscience (ajoana), and omnipotence (udazi). The Supreme Deity is believed to be present everywhere and at all times.[4][5]

16th century ivory portrait of Queen Mother Idia

Art and architecture[edit]

Figure of Oba Oguola, an Edo king

Traditional Edo art consists of widely identifiable sculptures, plaques and masks which reflect various spiritual and historical aspects of their rich cultural traditions. Some of the most notable Edo art pieces include the mask of the Queen Mother Idia and a vast collection of historical Edo art pieces called the Benin Bronzes which can be found not only in Nigeria but further dispersed around the world.

Notable Benins in Nigeria[edit]


Ewuare II

See also[edit]

List of the Ogiso

Kingdom of Benin

Oba of Benin


  1. ^ Shoup III, John A. (2011). Ethnic Groups of Africa and the Middle East: An Encyclopedia: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 130. ISBN 9781598843637.
  2. ^ "Yoruba leaders disagree over origin, meaning of their name". Vanguard News. 2019-10-26. Retrieved 2021-02-03.
  3. ^ Okpokunu, Edoja; Agbontaen‐Eghafona, Kokunre A.; Ojo, Pat O. (2005). "Benin dressing in contemporary Nigeria: social change and the crisis of cultural identity". African Identities. 3 (2): 155–170. doi:10.1080/14725840500235506. S2CID 143668454.
  4. ^ Peavy, Daryl, Kings, Magic, and Medicine, p. 5, ISBN 9780557183708 [1]
  5. ^ Paula Ben-Amos, Flora Edouwaye S. Kaplan: Edo Religion. In: Lindsay Jones: Encyclopedia of Religion. Thomson-Gale, 2005. ISBN 002865997X

External links[edit]