Of Warrior Women and Enemy Heads, Benin, February 2023

The next part of my journey has taken me to the Republic of Benin. From the 1600s a sprawling complex of palaces were built for the successive dynasty of Kings who ruled the Dahomey Kingdom in current day Benin. The kingdom prided itself on its fierce tribal warfare with the enemies’ heads brought home swinging from wooden poles. For ceremonies the king sat atop an ornate carved throne with the base held up by 4 enemy skulls. As trade with the Europeans increased in the 18th century enemies were spared and sold instead as slaves with many attacks now centred on capturing the new trading commodity.

The Dahomey Kingdom was also infamous for its sizeable regiment of female warriors called ‘Agojie’. As ruthless as the men they were trained in archery, hand to hand combat with clubs and knives, as musketeers and in the elephant cavalry. As clashes with French Imperialists increased in the late 1800s firsthand reports made their way back to Europe of these ‘Amazon women’ on the battlefield. Ultimately they were no match for the more modern European firepower.

Betamaribe Tribe Woman

Seemingly a step backwards for women’s rights the French deemed the practice of female warriors ‘uncivilised’ and under French  Colonial rule they were forced to assume more ‘gender-appropriate’ roles. History will bear witness that African cultures have a much better record when it comes to gender equality and attitudes about roles in society. Another story the lion wasn’t able to tell!
This entry was posted in Benin and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Of Warrior Women and Enemy Heads, Benin, February 2023

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *