|Types of Art: The Urhobo produce
numerous art forms, including freestanding sculptures (Ivwri), a type of
wooden sculpture that is popularly associated with the cult of the hand, and
masks and masquerading.
History: Although the exact origin of the Urhobo peoples is not known, they
are closely related to their immediate neighbors based on linguistic and
cultural similarities. Urhobo oral history is contradictory in that it
claims that their origins are related those of the Bini, but at the same
time indicate that they are not Bini people. Other connections are made to
the Igbo, Isoko, and Ijaw. Since the Bini, Igbo, and Ijaw all have cultural
systems, which are distinct from one another, the notion that the Urhobo
somehow emerged from all three seems doubtful.
Economy: Living in the tropical rain forests has helped to shape the
economic choices of the Urhobo. They practice slash and burn farming that
requires frequent crop rotation for soil preservation. Fishing and hunting
are also important sources for subsistence. They also gather palm nuts and
process them into oil, a commodity which is eventually traded on the
Political Systems: Urhobo political authority is based on kinship groups,
age-grades, and title associations. At one time Urhobo leaders (ivie) were
officially installed by the Oba of Benin. Those who had achieved sufficient
status within their community would travel to the Oba, who would endow them
with ceremonial swords and insignia that would add weight to their quest for
power among their kin's people.
Religion: The Urhobo recognize the existence of a dual cosmological system:
the spirit world and the physical world. It is believed that everyone in the
physical world has a replica in the spiritual world and that these two
worlds have great influence over one another. Power, however, seems to be in
the hands of the spirits, who are constantly making demands on and causing
problems for the living, who in turn must appease the spirits through
sacrifice. Every ten years the Urhobo hold a large masquerade ceremony for
the entire community to honor the spirits (edjor).