The Story Of Emotan Of Benin

Nmesoma Okwudili


March 25, 2024

Once upon a time, in the bustling heart of the ancient Benin Kingdom, there lived a woman whose name would echo through the corridors of history – Emotan, known fondly as Uwarraye. She was not of royal blood, nor did she wield any political power, but her influence stretched far beyond the confines of her modest existence. Emotan was a market woman, her days spent amidst the colorful chaos of the Oba Market, where the rhythm of trade danced in harmony with the pulse of the kingdom.

However, Emotan was not merely a trader. In a world frequently veiled in darkness, she served as a beacon of kindness. She welcomed the innumerable young people who came into her care, even though fate had denied her the opportunity to have her own children. Emotan raised all of them, from apprentices to orphans, teaching them the virtues of hard work and compassion.

Yet, it was not merely her nurturing spirit that immortalized Emotan in the annals of Benin’s history. It was her unwavering loyalty to Prince Ogun, later known as Oba Ewuare the Great, during his time of greatest peril. When treachery cast him into exile and threatened to extinguish the flame of his rightful claim to the throne, it was Emotan who provided sanctuary amidst the chaos of the market.

Prince Ogun found comfort and security in the shadows of her modest home because Emotan became both his confidante and his guardian. She became his eyes and ears, foiling the plots of those who wanted to see him fall, thanks to her sharp wit and solid connections within the city. Her cunning allowed her to discover the usurper Oba Uwaifiokun’s scheme to offer sacrifices to the gods in an effort to maintain his rule.

Prince Ogun moved quickly to reclaim his birthright under Emotan’s leadership, facing his brother in a crucial duel that would determine the future of the kingdom. In the crimson tide of that decisive battle, Prince Ogun emerged victorious, casting aside the shadow of uncertainty that had plagued the kingdom’s succession.

As he ascended to the throne, Prince Ogun bestowed upon himself the title of Ewuare, signifying the end of turmoil and the dawn of a new era. But amidst the jubilation, there lingered a sober note, for Emotan, the silent architect of his triumph, had passed from the realm of the living.

Oba Ewuare the Great vowed that she would never be forgotten. As a result, her ultimate burial site became a consecrated area in the shadow of the revered Uruhe tree, a monument to her lasting impact. Her memory was perpetuated for generations, and every succeeding ruler showed her respect and veneration.

Though time weathered the branches of the Uruhe tree, and storms claimed its towering form, the spirit of Emotan endured. In the modern age, her likeness was immortalized in bronze, a corroboration  to the indomitable spirit of a woman whose love and loyalty transcended the ages. And so, the story of Emotan, the market woman who became a legend, continues to echo through the corridors of time, a testament to the enduring power of compassion and courage.


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