At least one non-Edo Nigerian visitor to the IYARE! preview knew...
Hearing there would be Benin dance at the public opening, he said eagerly: "With handkerchiefs?"
But of course! Benin ladies have been dancing with handkerchiefs since the Portuguese first brought them in the late 15th century. Like their Itsekiri neighbors, they employ them in smooth, graceful performances.
Male dance can be far more vigorous, with stamping motions and expansive arm gestures.
Chiefly dance has limited steps, but is highlighted by the tossing of the eben ceremonial sword--come see it in the IYARE! exhibition's videos!
Handkerchiefs are also essential non-dance accessories for the monarch himself, as well as his wives, chiefs, and chiefs' wives. Covering the mouth is polite, particularly in a public occasion. "No one sees the teeth a deity eats with."
Photo by Jennifer Chiappardi