The Royal Palace of the Oba of Benin is a testament to the rich history and culture of the Benin Kingdom. It is located in the ancient City of Benin and has been the residence of the Oba of Benin and other royals for centuries. The palace represents power, tradition, and heritage.
The story of the Royal Palace begins with its construction by Oba Ewedo during his reign from 1255 to 1280. This initial structure laid the foundation for what would become an architectural marvel. After being destroyed in a conflict with the British in 1897, Oba Eweka II rebuilt the palace. Despite its turbulent history, the palace has remained standing, showcasing the resilience and determination of the Benin Kingdom.
In 1999, the Palace of the Oba of Benin was designated as a UNESCO Listed Heritage Site due to its historical and cultural significance. This prestigious designation emphasizes the importance of preserving and celebrating the unique heritage of the Benin Kingdom. The palace serves as a living museum, displaying the art, architecture, and traditions of the Benin people.
The Royal Palace is not only a residence but also a masterpiece of architectural innovation. Throughout its history, the palace has been at the forefront of architectural advancements in the region.
From the introduction of a shingled roof by Oba Esigie in the 16th century to the use of corrugated metal sheeting by Oba Ovoranmwen in the late 19th century, the palace has been a hub of creativity and ingenuity. Even today, under the reign of Oba Ewuare II, the palace continues to evolve with modern amenities seamlessly integrated into its design.
Symbolism plays a vital role within the walls of the Royal Palace, defining rank and status. Sumptuary laws dictate the architectural features that distinguish the monarch and privileged chiefs from others.
For example, only the Oba and select chiefs can have their walls scored with horizontal grooving, known as eken again, which signifies their elevated position. This architectural detail can be seen in both the palace’s current cement buildings and older earthen structures.