By Anote Ajeluorou
As the countdown to its October worldwide premiere approaches, Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen’s epic film Invasion 1897 continues to enjoy the blessings of royalty in his native Benin Kingdom. The latest pat in the back comes no other personage as the Crown Prince, the man who will be the next Oba of Benin, Edaiken N’Uselu, Eheneden Erediauwa. Imasuen’s historical and culture grounded film has also nudged awake a certain cultural renaissance in the ancient kingdom, with a flurry of activities in the city designed to redefine and re-evaluate the rich culture for which the Edo people are renowned.
At the premiere of Invasion 1897 later in the year, Crown Prince Eheneden Erediauwa, will unveil Benin Royal Dynasty Trust, a no-for-profit and non-political organisation. It was incorporated on February 26, 2013 and designed to put Edo cultural heritage in the sun. Born in 1953 to the current Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Uku Akpolokplo, Oba Erediauwa, Prince Eheneden was Nigeria’s Ambassador to Norway and Angola and well tutored in diplomacy. He would be bringing this wealth of experience to bear in running the trust and see to the proper flowering of Edo culture, which celebration has been somewhat muted and less known to the outside world except its famous bronze works that adorn museums abroad.
Indeed, the intervention of a high profile personage as Prince Eheneden directly from the royal house of Benin might spark renewed debate about Benin stolen art. Imasuen’s film Invasion 1897 is at the heart of this issue; the oba who sacked to pave way for the looting of Benin ancient royal art, is subject of the film, Oba Ovoramwen. In supporting the film together with its planned art exhibition that will focus on the bronze works made specifically for the film, Prince Eheneden might be saddled with the task of reopening the case for a return of the stolen art of his eminent great, great grandfather.
For the Binis, Imasuen’s film will be a renaissance of lost glory. Oba Ovoramwen was such prodigious monarch; his travail, notwithstanding, he is still revered till date because of what he symbolised for the Bini people, a man who stood his ground against the thieving and murderous British in their quest for stolen lands and property. And as the last African king to resist the British, Ovoramwen is symbol of African resistance against foreign domination. Importantly, it was not until Oba Ovoramwen’s death on January 1, 1914 that the British brought together the two protectorates to declare the country Nigeria into existence.