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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Belief, Legitimacy and the Kpojito: An Institutional History of the 'Queen Mother' in Precolonial Dahomey
Author:Bay, Edna G.
Periodical:The Journal of African History
Geographic term:Benin
Subjects:Dahomey polity
women rulers
traditional polities
History and Exploration
Women's Issues
Religion and Witchcraft
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Cultural Roles
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/183252
Abstract:This article traces chronologically the rise and fall of the office of 'kpojito', a woman of common origin, the female reign-mate of the king of Dahomey (present-day Benin). It analyses the institutional history of the 'kpojito' in the context of the religious history of the kingdom. The women who became 'kpojito' in the eighteenth century were central to the efforts of the kings to establish legitimacy and assert control over the kingdom's expanding territory. The office reached its zenith in mid-century when Kpojito Hwanjile and King Tegbesu gained office and effectively ruled in tandem, thereby solidifying an ideological model that persisted to the end of the kingdom. The model posited a balance of power between male and female, royal and commoner. By the nineteenth century, however, princes began to find alternative sources of support in their struggles for the kingship and alternative sources of guidance once enthroned. The royal family became more central in the State as princes and princesses replaced commoners in high offices. Even though alliances between princes and their fathers' wives continued, non-royal women within the palace were more constrained in their ability to wield power and the influence of the 'kpojito' fell into steep decline. Notes, ref., sum.