In the old days, when an Urhobo girl made the transition to marriage, she would go to the market to announce her transition from girl to bride. Each Urhobo village had a seven-day opha celebration, where newly betrothed and pregnant young women were feted by the village. During this time the bride would be revered and adored by the villagers. Young children from her family would serve as her messengers (ikopha). Everyone would treat her with great respect and consideration. For this period, she represented not just a new bride but also the essence of all women. To respect her was to respect the role of women in the life of the village as mothers, wives, daughters, providers and nurturers.
The first day of the ceremony would have dancing and feasting. In subsequent days, she would appear at the market square on several occasions as part of the process of announcing her new position. These brief visits to the market in a procession with her ikophas would see the opha dressed regally, complete with an umbrella, walking equally regally as the market women cheered her on and offered gifts to her and her messengers.
The artwork ‘Bride and maids’ by Bruce Onobrakpeya captures this interaction between the Opha and her Ikophas and presents the story of the bride at the beginning of her journey simply yet poignantly.