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Iya, or moat, a series of relic earthworks made of ditches and banks of the Benin Kingdom considered the largest prior to the mechanical era where only few parts are still, visible while others have either been desecrated, covered up and reclaimed by the earth. The wall served as protective fortification for the Kingdom against invaders and intruders. The walls were actually a combination of ramparts and moats, used as a defense mechanism.
Set in the rain-forest, near what was once the first city wall or moat at reservation road, connections between earth and sky are made. Drawing on the moat system and ancestral altars and staffs, Ukhurhẹ.
Presencing the ancestors, the Ukhurhẹ is a manifestation of the ancestor’s spirit, and the family will make sacrifices to the ukhurhẹ to honour and seek the intercession of their departed kin. Over generations the staffs accumulate, alongside other altar objects such as ivory tusks, memorial heads (Benin Bronzes), bells and stone celts.
Hightlighted in red, the columns will be developed as abstractions of Ukhurhẹ, a wooden staff with a rattle inside the upper arm, designed to resemble the ukhurhẹ-oho, a bamboo-like plant that grows wild near Benin City. Typically used to communicate and presence ancestors in the Igiogbẹ (family compound/hous), the Ukhurhẹ is placed on an ancestral altar, with the number of Ukhurhẹ accumulating with time. Ukhurhẹ topped by heads are standard for commoners and chiefs. Royal family members’ examples end in hands or hands holding mudfish. Only the Oba’s ukhurhẹ can be made from brass or ivory.
Inspired by the rain-forest climate and tree canopy form, the structure holds a series of columns rising up to the heavens, that will be developed as abstractions of the Ukhurhẹ that space makes at their bases for gathering, practice and active remembrance.