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Itsekiri History & A Visit to the Olu of Warri's Palace

Hey Guys!

I’m Oluwalanu and welcome (back) to my blog on African cultures.

For the past few weeks, we have talked about Itsekiri culture. Today, I’ve decided to touch on a little Itsekiri history for people who may not know.

I wrestled with whether or not to tell this story on the blog. The history of the Itsekiri people is an interesting tale but I never like talking about the history of any ethnic group because so much is contested. However, with the Itsekiri, most of what I have learned about their history has been somewhat consistent so I am comfortable enough to talk about it. So let’s get into it!

The Warri kingdom was established in the 15th century by the first Olu of Warri, Olu Ginuwa. A lot of people say the Itsekiri people came from the Benin people. Even I, have made this mistake a few times but what is accurate is that the Itsekiri royal family are direct descendants of the Benin royal family not the entire Itsekiri tribe. Here’s the story….

It all started in the Benin Kingdom in the late 15th century...

The crown prince of the Benin kingdom, Prince Ginuwa was unpopular with the chiefs in Benin. The chiefs believed Prince Ginuwa to be proud and arrogant so they didn't want him to become the Oba. His father, Oba Ozolua believed the chiefs would kill his son so he tricked the chiefs into sending all their firstborn sons on a religious voyage with Prince Ginuwa. However, the voyage was actually a way for Prince Ginuwa to escape Benin with an entourage.

Prince Ginuwa and his entourage traveled for many years, settling in different places for short times. On their journey, Prince Ginuwa married and had children. They later settled in Ijala, where Prince Ginuwa established his own kingdom and became the first Olu of the Iwere Kingdom. This is where he also made first contact with the Portuguese and they introduced cassava to the Iwere Kingdom. Prince Ginuwa passed away in Ijala and was buried there. This is why till today, all Olus are buried in Ijala.

Later on, his son, Prince Ijijin became Olu and moved the people to Ode-Itsekiri, which is now known as the hometown of the Itsekiri people. Since then, twenty people have served as the traditional rulers of the Itsekiri people. At the palace, I saw a list detailing the different rulers expecting the present Olu. Today, the 21st Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse III sits on the throne of the Iwere Kingdom.

Now let's get to the palace visit! The Olu of Warri has two palaces, one in Ode-Itsekiri and one in Warri. I visited the palace in Warri to see what it was like. The first thing I noticed was the palace gates. I loved the depictions of the Olu and chiefs on the gate. The compound was huge with wide paths and nice green gardens. I was a bit surprised at the size of the compound but at the same time, I thought, “well it’s a palace”. The compounds were very clean and everywhere looked so well maintained and taken care of.

After enjoying the view, I went to the palace office to meet the secretary. I explained that I was exploring and researching Itsekiri culture and would love to take a tour of the palace. The staff said some parts of the palace were closed but they could show me two parts.

Firstly, the home of the Olu. The home is currently being renovated so the Olu isn’t currently living there. However, the Olu still entertains important guests, there. Afterward, they showed me the hall where the Olu has large meetings with community leaders and with other bigger parties.

You can watch the mini tour of the palace here:

As always I hope you enjoyed today’s post!

See you again soon,



Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I am a writer and illustrator from Lagos, Nigeria.


In 2015, I started a company called IheartLagos with the aim of showcasing Lagos culture in a unique and fun way.


That journey took me down an exciting path, discovering and learning so much about Nigeria.

Let the posts
come to you.

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