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Age Grade Level Of Benin Culture

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with Ambrose Ekhosuehi (Last update 25/09/2017)

Age Grades Level Stratiform of Benin Culture are age sets of squads in the age grades ceremonies.
There are about seven age squads as follows:- Oyaghiroba, kinna, Oboghironmwen, Ehonsi, Uzamete, Obokhae, Awanrhenkpen.

Among these, male populations are stratified into Iroghae, Ighele, Edion. Egharobaevbo forms great members of the population.

They are teenagers while they entered Iroghae grade as soon as they are considered strong enough to take part in the communal tasks of the grade. These tasks include the clearing of paths to farms, roads to other towns and villages, care and repair of shrines, public buildings and sweepers of highways (Ikpolo-Ughe).

They stayed in this grade for between fifteen to twenty years before their elevation to the next Age grade during the Izeki Festival.

The age-grade organizations provide wide stratified systems in the society for the associations of all men and women, so that at any point in time, the youths and men enter into age-grade according to their squads.

The celebrated age-groups are from the teenagers — Egharevbo to mainly Iroghae — young men from eighteen years old to upper limit of about thirty years of age.

Izeki is the process of graduating from one age grade to another. The Youngman graduates from Iroghae into Manhood in the Ighele groups of the seven age squad levels.

During the ancient periods, Ikpia-Oba of the Iroghae groups carried tributes — ‘Imuema” from their communities to the Benin Monarch and for their loyalty the group could be upgraded and the Ighele who lead them elevated into the rank of elder grade — Edion.

To each grade is ascribed specific rights and duties in the community. The characteristics tasks of the Iroghae are the sweeping and clearing of streets and highways. Digging of water-well (nowadays borehole) care of the community shrines and groves.

The clearing of paths leading to streams, rivers, farms, other villages and towns. The more menial tasks associated with house-building such as carrying of mud, water and other materials to the builders

The Ighele have more difficult communal duties, like the felling of large trees, the heavier and more skilful task’s involved in house building, the building and repair of shrines, construction of walls and roofs through communal efforts, including schools, churches, mosques.

The Ighele may also be instructed by the elders to assist the Iroghae in any work which proves too onerous for them; otherwise they supervise them in whatever they are doing.

The Ighele were the fighting force in Benin Kingdom before the advent of the British administration. They were the arm forces and the executive armed of the community.

In the ancient periods, the control exercised from Great Benin made inter- village warfare rare. This was reflected in the lack of specifically warrior elements in the age-grade organisation.

Any community in the kingdom might be called upon to provide men for wars and when that call was made, it was the Ighele in their stratified form that went to the fight. They did so as part of a large force, not as a village or community unit.

The age grade levels of Benin Culture could be referred to as squad mates, contingents or companies of warriors.

In about the year 1770AD during the reign of Oba Akengbuda, dispatched squads, companies of warriors — Obakinna, (Akinna) Ighizamete, under the command of Chief Ologbose and Chief Imaran, engaged in several battles marched and fought against Ugo.

In the age grade level of the Benin Culture are companies, squads or Associations of age groups starting from Ikpia — Oba — Manhood, Ikhuo — Oba— Womanhood to serve the kingdom as a servant of the Oba — Ovien Oba; hence Ovbokhan esi a kei Ia Okpia esi Captives Oghunmwun, and slave — Igbon were not regarded and were treated under severe tasks.

In the land, the order in which individuals are admitted to Iroghae grade determines their relative status with other men in the community.

Eroghae, Ighele and Edion represent the three natural stages of life through which every man as a useful member of the community should pass hence to enter Iroghae grade, the person must be strong enough and as an Iroghae, he is the servant — Ovien of his elders.

He could be assigned to any of the duties of the Iroghae age group. He must be strong and sensible enough to use machete, shovel — ovbevbe as a labourer in house building yet he is, not strong enough to be a skilled warrior.

Elevation — Izeki into the Ighele age group is very interesting because he is an adult man in the prime of his life; whose mental capacities and technical skills have matured. His physical vigour has not yet begun to desert him.

Among these useful adults, some are elevated into the Elders — Edion-groups exemplified — “A Zorodion”.
Age lends respect and obedience to its possessors, and owed to the Elders — Edion and account of their closeness to the ancestors and spirits in particular to the blessed memories of the community with whom they are identified.

The extent to which individual fulfils the ideal pattern at a particular time depends upon his personal qualities and upon his status.

The Edion are classified into lower Elders (Edion ni koto) senior elders (Edion ni karo) and upper elders or most senior elders from which the most senior becomes the Odion — owere who in his squads belongs to any of the senior age grade in the association of the age
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