Idia Biography, History, Politics, and Timeline.

Who is Queen Idia?

Idia was the mother of Esigie, the Oba of Benin who ruled from 1504 to 1550. She played a significant role in the rise and reign of her son, is described as a great warrior who fought relentlessly before and during her son’s reign as the Oba (king) of the Edo people. Queen Idia was instrumental in securing the title of Oba for her son Esigie following the death of his father Oba Ozolua. To that end, she raised an army to fight off his brother Arhuaran who was supposed to be the Oba by right and tradition but was subsequently defeated in battle. Esige mother became the 17th Oba of Benin

The Esigie and The Title of Iyoba

Esigie instituted the title of iyoba (queen mother) and conferred it on his mother, along with Eguae-Iyoba (Palace of the Queen Mother). Queen Idia became more popular when it was decided that her face should be used as a sculpture to represent a Nigerian Festival FESTAC 1977, that was how the face of the Queen Mother came into art till the present date. She was supposed to be killed after the then crowning of her son as the Oba, according to the then tradition but her son Esigie secretly took her to hide in a room which was to be entered by only those authorized to do so, he did this in order to protect her from being killed and it worked until he was able to make changes to the tradition which canceled that law after that Queen Idia returned freely to the palace and ruled together with her son helping him fight spiritually and physically over his enemies which helped him during look is reign as Oba, before she died, she trained her son’s wife in her ways so her departure would be met unnoticed, with this one might be able to say that she is a beautiful art to be studied.

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Victory over Igala people

Subsequently, the neighboring Igala people sent warriors across the Benue River to wrest control of Benin’s northern territories. Esigie conquered the Igala, reestablishing the unity and military strength of the kingdom. His mother Idia received much of the credit for these victories as her political counsel, together with her magical powers and medicinal knowledge, were viewed as critical elements of Esigie’s success on the battlefield.


Several artistic representations of Idia were looted from Benin City during the British Benin Expedition of 1897, and are now held in museums around the world. Alongside other Benin Bronzes, they have been the subject of calls for their repatriation.

Queen Idia ivory mask held in the British Museum became the symbol of the Second World Black and African Festival of Art and Culture FESTAC held in Nigeria in 1977.

In Eddie Ugbomah‘s 1979 film The Mask, the Nigerian hero steals a Queen Idia mask back from the British Museum.


  1. ^ “Queen Idia, Role Model,Warrior, Prominent Nigerian, Nigeria Personality Profiles” Retrieved 2022-08-27.
  2. ^ Historical Dictionary of Nigeria by Toyin Falola, Ann Genova, p.160
  3. ^ Egharevba (1968), p. 26
  4. ^ West African Journal of Archaeology, Editorial Board WAJA, p.144
  5. ^ Guinea Coast, 1400–1600 A.D. | Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  6. ^ “The Untold Tale between Oba Esigie and Iyoba Idia of Benin”The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News. 2019-06-04. Retrieved 2022-08-19.
  7. ^ “The Untold Tale between Oba Esigie and Iyoba Idia of Benin”The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News. 2019-06-04. Retrieved 2022-08-19.
  8. ^ Historical Dictionary of Nigeria by Toyin Falola, Ann Genova, p.160
  9. Jump up to:a b Hicks, Dan (2020). The Brutish museums : the Benin bronzes, colonial violence and cultural restitution. Pluto Press. pp. 196–197. ISBN 978-0-7453-4176-7OCLC 1220877111

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