Cowry shells, native to the Maldive Islands and used as currency across West Africa, were often used to create decorative patterns on ceramic vessels.The Ouidah Museum of HistoryCowry shells, native to the Maldive Islands and used as currency across West Africa, were often used to create decorative patterns on ceramic vessels.Cowry shells, native to the Maldive Islands and used as currency across West Africa, were often used to create decorative patterns on ceramic vessels.Cowry shells, native to the Maldive Islands and used as currency across West Africa, were often used to create decorative patterns on ceramic vessels.
HOMESite Francais Contact Us

A "sacred" python:  the kingdom of Dahomey adopted worship of the python from the Xwéda kingdom, and python veneration is continued in Ouidah to this day.
About the Museum
Themes
Portuguese Fort
  Xwéda Kingdom
 
  Slave Trade
  Vodun
  Benin and the Diaspora
History of Ouidah
Visiting the Museum
Visiting Ouidah
Resources
Dahomey

The history of the Kingdom of Dahomey , with its capital Abomey, is rich and intense, and the authority and influence its kings had over their subjects and the kingdoms they subsumed are indisputable. The kingdom had a greater degree of centralization and militarization than previously dominant area kingdoms, and its conquests and traditions are notable for their violence. When King Agadja of Dahomey defeated the kingdoms of Allada and Xwéda in 1724 and 1727 respectively, thousands of the defeated were either killed or sold as slaves. Through these conquests Dahomey gained control of the slave trade with the Europeans at Gléwé (now Ouidah).

Click to Enlarge: Ceramic vessel "drum", used only at the death of the king of Dahomey.
Dahomean sacred
drum
 

Extreme reverence for the kings of Dahomey is an important part of Dahomean culture. Traditionally, each king is represented by a symbol, and each king's symbol is displayed collectively on an appliquéd quilt. Though kings were not deified, they did have great religious significance. Dahomean tradition is marked by elaborate regularly-staged ceremonies, often involving human sacrifice.

In 1894, France sent troops against Dahomey , and though Dahomey was victorious in several notable battles including the battle at Dogba (at which the chief of the French army was killed), Dahomey was eventually defeated and became a colony of France . King Béhanzin was exiled to Martinique, and King Agooli Agbo ruled until his exile to Gabon in 1900. However, the power of Dahomey was not extinguished: in 1961 when modern-day Bénin gained its independence from France , the name given to the new country evoked past glory: Dahomey .

Click to enlarge: Image of the flag of Dahomey, sent to the king of Portugal by the king of Dahomey.  Small circles represent decapitated heads of Dahomey's enemies.
Flag of Dahomey

Museum collections incorporate many objects most closely associated with the culture of the Kingdom of Dahomey, including an appliquéd king quilt and traditional drums. Images from ceremonies and from the war between France and Dahomey illustrate moments in Dahomean history.

Shield adorning the entrance to the old Portuguese Fort, now the Ouidah Museum of History.
Typical decorative pattern on Xwédan ceramic artifacts.Typical decorative pattern on Xwédan ceramic artifacts.