In the ancient city of Benin, there are certain statutes that have been put in place in commemoration of Madam Emotan. The two major ones are the Emotan primary and secondary schools and the shrine where a tree was planted in her name, where indigenes of the kingdom pay regular homage.


The great historians have dated her life and times to be in the 15th century around the 1440s. she is said to be a petty trader who traded at the very spot where her shrine stands today. Some historians also say she was a woman who took care of other people’s children in the absence of their parents. And so she has also been termed THE WOMAN WHO OPENED THE FIRST DAYCARE CENTRE IN BENIN.

The Benin kingdom was then ruled by Oba Uwaifiokun who was not the rightful heir apparent to the throne. He is said to have double crossed his elder brother, Prince Ogun with the help of his enemies to assume power and send his brother to exile. In his exile, Prince Ogun secretly visited the kingdom, mostly at night and his ally when he was a petty trader called Emotan whom this article is about. She was of immense help to him because she usually provided him with accurate information on how things were being run in the King’s cabinet, which member of the elders he was to and was not to let know of his occasional presence for fear of it not being exposed.  It however happened that one day, the prince was detected in the kingdom and his brother King Uwaifiokun sent the soldiers to fish him out. It was in the haven of Emotan that he found refuge. She was brave enough to hide the king in her house notwithstanding the penalty of death threat if she had been found to harbor him.


Image of madam Emotan’s sculpture


Years after that incident, Prince Ogun was able to successfully overthrow his brother, Uwaifiokun and claim the throne which rightfully belonged to him. He assumed the title, Oba Ewuare the great and went on to become a very great king of reverential repute. He did not forget the woman who was his ally in the dark days of struggle. He bestowed certain privileges upon her in the kingdom and she became a favoured citizen. When she died later in the century, a public mourning was declared in the whole kingdom and a tree was planted, in honour of her, at the very spot where she plied her trade. Four hundred years later, during the reign of the 33rd king Oba Osemwende (1814-1848), the commemorative tree is dsaid to have fallen and  another Uruhe tree planted there by the king himself. In 1951, a British colonial official is said to have injected a poisonous substance to the tree which cause it to wilt. This led to mass protest which almost got out of the hands of the authority. The 37th King, Oba Akenzua II (1933-1974) protested the sabotage of the 500 year old shrine and the Colonial administration bowed to the pressure for a replacement. A model from the work of  professional brass caster from Igun-Eronmwon known as Enomayo was used in casting a life sixe statue by Mr. J. A Danfor. The life size statue of Madam Emotan was unvewiled by the Oba on March 20th 1954.