Celebrating Benin Independence: 12 Intriguing Facts about Benin
Aug 01, 2020 08:00AM
By Oga Africa
On this day, August 1st of 1960, Benin declared independence from France. This West African country has an interesting legacy of political strength, slavery, wealth, female warriors and traditional African magic. FunTimes celebrates Benin independence by bringing you 12 unique facts about the country. Let’s jump right in!
1. The Dahomey Kingdom (approx. 1600-1900) of Benin is famous for its strong military and economic presence, which was built on slave labor, slave trading and conquest. The Oyo Empire is also a notable political system that was located in present-day Benin.
2. The Dahomey Warriors, or Mino (which translates to ‘Our Mothers’) were an all-female army of the kingdom. Referred as the Dahomey-Amazons by the French, these soldiers carried out countless raids, and were the only all-female soldiers at the time who were being used as combat troops.
3. Benin’s shore used to be known as the Slave Coast.
4. The ‘Dora Milaje’ female warriors in the Marvel comic and 2018 film ‘The Black Panther’ were inspired by the Dahomey Warriors.
5. The Dahomey Kingdom played a huge role in the transatlantic slave trade. War captives were sold into slavery. According to BBC South Africa, by 1750, the King of Dahomey, King Tegbesu, accrued approximately $971,000 USD a year through the selling of slaves. Ouidah, Benin housed West Africa’s biggest slave ports.
6. In Zora Neal Hurston’s novel ‘Barraccoon: The Story of the Last Black Cargo’ Cudjoe Lewis, a formerly enslaved African in Africatown, Alabama, born Oluale Kossula in Nigeria, recalls the story of being kidnapped by the Dahomey warriors and sold into slavery.
7. There are approximately 42 ethnic groups in the country, with the most dominant ethnic groups being the Fon, Yoruba and Ewe tribes. Predominant languages in the country include Fon, Ge, Bariba, Yoruba, Dendi and French.
8. Benin is known as the birthplace of the ancient African religion Vodun, which is mainly practiced by the Fon tribe. People from all around the world come to Benin in search of spiritual powers, success, riches, love, you name it! Through the transatlantic slave trade, variations of Vodun spread to many parts of the globe like New Orleans, Haiti, Brazil, Cuba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and more.
9. For many people who practice Vodun in Benin, there is a high value placed on snakes, particularly Royal Pythons. Some snakes sleep and eat with people in their homes. The Temple of Pythons in Benin, a place of worship for snakes, houses 50 pythons.
10. Beninese cuisine consists of soups, stews, fruits, cheese, meats and fried foods. Some of their dishes include yam fufu with peanut or tomato soup, akara (mashed and fried black eyed peas,) akassa (fermented corn dough) with sauce, garri (grated cassava,) akpan (corn dumplings) and alokko (fried plantain.)
11. Until 1975, Benin was known as Dahomey. The country was renamed after a large body of water in the south called the ‘Bight of Benin.’ The body of water was named by Europeans, who dubbed it in celebration of Benin City in Nigeria, after corrupting the city’s original name of ‘Ubinu.’ Benin City and the country of Benin are not related.
12. Benin is roughly the size of the state of Pennsylvania.
Happy Independence Day to Benin from FunTimes! Eat some fufu today in honor of this historic country.
#FunTimesFact The country of Benin has an interesting shape, do you know what shape it is?
Is it a. Pear shaped b. T shaped c. key shaped or d. X shaped
Comment below. The first person to answer correctly in the comments will receive a free ticket to our virtual HBCU event next weekend!