Kpan – the powerful bench of the Ede

The Kpan is a long wooden bench of the Ede people on which gong and drum performers sit. The Ede consider the Kpan a symbol of rich and powerful families.

A Kpan, essentially a wooden plank 5 to 15 meter long, 70 to 90 cm wide, and 8cm thick, takes up to 11 to 13 days to make. The home owner prepares meals for all the villagers during this period. Before chopping down a tree, the villagers bring home a piece of the bark and ask the genies for permission. On the day they chop down the tree, the village may not have a funeral.

To prepare for the tree-cutting, a group of three boys and three girls dance around the tree. They wear traditional costumes: the girls with embroidered dresses and the boys with loincloths. A shaman then worships and makes the first axes to the tree to pray for a beautiful Kpan without any crack or break to be made.

Then 7 strong men take turns chopping the tree before other villagers can help. The home owner and the shaman walk on the tree 7 times to chase away bad spirits. The 7 selected men then fashion the log into a boat-shaped Kpan bench.

When the bench is completed, a Kpan procession is held like a ceremony to welcome a new member to the Ede’s family. The Ede people believe that any Kpan also has a soul, so when moving home it must have new blankets and clothes. 

Family members stand on two sides of the house and greet the Kpan with applause. The shaman places a spearhead on one end of the Kpan to chase away evil spirits.

The Kpan is placed on the western side of the house. No one is allowed to sit on it before the shaman, holding the owner’s hand, has him walk on it 3 times to affirm his ownership. To the accompaniment of gongs, the shaman performs a ritual to inform the genies that the Kpan has a master.

Following the ritual there is a feast which must include jars of wine. The Ede people also believe the Kpan is an ancestral chair – a symbol of friendship. Sitting on a Kpan, hatred and class gaps are removed, only sincere feelings remain.

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