Benin culture

Anthropology: Introduction to the History and Culture of Benin

Before 1975, the Republic of Benin was known as a French colony, the Kingdom of Dahomey. Three years after Major Kelek came to power in the coup, the name was changed to the People’s Republic of Benin, reflecting the new government’s Marxist-Leninist ideology. After the collapse of the Kerek government in 1989, the name was shortened to the Republic of Benin. Before the colonial era, the Kingdom of Dahomey was the name of the most powerful kingdom on the slave coast, extending along the Bay of Benin to Lagos.

Introduction to Benin

Benin culture tourism
by Wikipedia

Cultural heterogeneity within a country is due to geographical and historical factors of migration waves, pre-colonial rivalry between kingdoms, four centuries of trade relations with Europe, and the influence of colonialism. In addition to language and ethnicity, there are divisions based on occupation and religion.


The country covers an area of 112,622 square kilometers. It borders Niger, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, and Togo. There are five different geographical regions. In the south, the weevil grows in a narrow coastal area separated by a lagoon and an estuary. In the north, oil palms are made up of fertile Ferro-clay plateaus dotted with wetlands. The central part is a wooded meadow with several hills. The mountains of Togo to the northwest are the highest regions and the northeast is part of the Niger basin. Many countries have a tropical climate, with the dry season from November to April and the rainy season from May to October. Rainfall and vegetation are more abundant in the south.

Language Association

French is the national language and English is taught in secondary schools. The national language of the nation is known to be French. Moreover, you can observe that English is taught in secondary schools. Additionally, you can observe that English is also taught in secondary schools. There are about 50 languages and dialects. Most people speak at least two languages. Fifty percent of the population speaks in a hairdryer. Other notable languages include Yoruba, Adja, Minaean, Gun, Balibar, Dendi, Ditamari, Nateni, and Furfurd. About 36 percent of the population is illiterate.

Symbolic identity

The first flags raised after independence were green, red, and yellow. Green represents renewed hope, red represents the courage of our ancestors, and yellow represents the national treasure. In 1975, the flag turned green with a red star in the corner. In 1990, the original flag was rebuilt to symbolize the rejection of Marxist idealism.

The history, national identity, and ethnic relations of Benin

History of Benin art
by NY Times

Several ethnic groups are believed to be indigenous, but migrations starting from quite early on, people had already moved to the southern part of the country, where part of the kingdom was later established. The Yoruba presence in the south and central areas also dates back hundreds of years. Baliba migrated to present-day western Nigeria and founded a state group. In the northwest, some indigenous groups remain independent of Baliba’s rule. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to come into contact with Weider in 1580. Followed by Dutch, French, and British traders. Coastal communities are part of a new transatlantic trading system.

Progressive era

In the 17th century, slaves became the most important commodity and were exchanged for industrial products. Initially, it traded with the coastal kingdoms, but later the kingdom of Dahomey conquered those kingdoms. Furthermore, the Kingdom of Dahomey dominated the slave trade in the region. The merchants dealt directly with the royal family of the kingdom of Dahomey, who continued to sell slaves to Brazilian merchants after 1830. Traders and travelers wrote about the power of Dahomey’s monarch, the army. Her “Amazon” (warrior woman) and her rituals included human sacrifices.

The French presence and influence kept gradually increasing by means of trade along with missionary activity from 1840. As the rivalry between European empires increased, tensions with France increased. France waged three military campaigns against the Kingdom of Dahomey. Subsequently, in 1894, King Behanzin conceded and was thusly removed from the nation. In 1900, Baliba was defeated and a new frontier was decided. From 190  to 1958, the Kingdom of Dahomey was a colony of the French West African Federation.

Modern history

Colonialism forced the people to accept a new central management system, heavy taxes, forced labor, and strict laws. France recruited men to fight in both world wars. At the end of World War II, the economy was weak and it was difficult to deal with growing discontent. After World War II, France pursued a policy of greater representation and autonomy. During this period, the rulers of the triumvirate, who would rule national affairs for decades, emerged. In 1958, the kingdom of Dahomey chose independence and was proclaimed in 1960. Hubert Maga was elected the first president. His tenure was interrupted by a military coup in 1963. This is the first of six times in the next nine years.

National identity

Political unrest before and after independence did not favor the formation of a national identity. 17 years of experience of the Kerek administration and socialism stabilized the country under the central bureaucracy. In the early days of power, Kerekes called for the creation of a state that was not suited to France’s commercial and cultural interests. After the government adopted Marxist-Leninist ideology in 1974, national unity and “revolutionary” rhetoric pervaded the media and government propaganda, but even today, the national identity is that of the majority of the inhabitants.

Ethnic relations

In some cases, cultural groups are associated with one or more ancient kingdoms. Fong (founder of Dahomey kingdom) is the most important group. Their language is closely related to the Adja and Gun languages, and due to their shared pre-colonial history, they have close ethnic ties to these groups. The split creates an ever-evolving coalition of leaders from North, South, and Central-South competing for control of limited resources and political power.

The South African-Brazilian community descends from European and African traders living near European trading structures and from Brazilian traders and returning slaves. The educated people of the most urbanized southern regions dominated the political and economic life of the country. Teachers and civil servants assigned to the North are considered foreigners like Europeans. Benin is also home to the Fulani nomads, known locally as Puru. These nomads move cattle long distances in search of grass. Despite their tendency to sit on the bench, the Fulani still retain their unique cultural identity. Many of them served in the military.

 Urban planning in Benin

More than about forty percent of the population is known to live mostly in the urban environment of Cotonou. The city is a mixture of modern and colonial architecture. Some Cotonou residents live in high-rise condominiums, but their neighborhoods are usually permanent buildings. In small towns and villages, new houses tend to be built of concrete blocks with metal roofs, but many are built of mud bricks and thatched roofs. Major cities have both mosques and churches, and every city has at least one open-air market.

Food culture in Benin

food tourism
by bight of Benin

Food for everyday life. In many urban areas, you can cook outside or in another room or have a way of covering if it rains. Young people learn to cook, but women and girls prepare meals as a family. Most homes do not have refrigeration equipment, so most people go to the market several times a week to buy food. A basic diet consisting of basic starch prepared as a porridge can be eaten with sauces containing vegetables and meat or fish. Meals are prepared at least twice a day at noon and in the evening. Meals in the morning can include leftovers from the previous night’s dinner or food bought from street vendors.

Food habits and ceremonies

In the south, rice, maize, and cassava are the main starches. Millet, sorghum, and yams are favored by communities in the central and northern regions. Sauces may include okra, tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, eggplants, peppers, and other vegetables. Legumes can be used as side dishes. In swamps, carrots, green beans, and lettuce are included in the diet. People of Benin also eat a variety of tropical fruits. Traditionally, palm wine is produced in the south and millet beer is brewed and consumed by the people of the north. Alcoholic beverages today may be imported.

In the south, you can serve fresh, dried, or smoked fish with your meal, but in the north, beef is more popular. Goats, sheep, and poultry are found all over the country. Poor people often eat without protein. “European” food was introduced during the colonial era. Many young people perceive traditional diets as monotonous and want to eat more expensive and less nutritious imported foods. Children and adults buy light meals from street vendors. Men without a female family often dine at makeshift outdoor restaurants. In town, French cuisine is available in the restaurant.

The social structure among the people of Benin

culture tourism

In rural areas, the division of labor is often clearly defined and specific tasks are assigned to men and women. Children should help with household chores. In polygamous families, the division of labor among the shepherds is correct. The older the woman, the longer she has to pursue her business interests.

Social stratification

The social class has its roots in the pre-colonial kingdom. The southern kingdom included royalty, commoners, and slaves. At the top of the hierarchy is the Bariba dominance group, followed by the Bariba cultivator class. Then there were the Fula nomads, under whom Ghent was a slave of Wasangari. Colonization has broken the authority of traditional rulers, but social status is still partly determined by a person’s family origin. Wealth was another way to gain social status, and those who made their fortunes by trade were highly valued.

One of the most important social divisions is between the urban educated class and the rural population. During the colonial period, Beninese education in other states was forbidden. Some have found work in their original bureaucracy, but many have moved to European countries. While the career goals of many students are to become civil servants, structural adjustment programs are shrinking the civil servant sector. The objectives of the new national employment program include encouraging private sector development and the contribution of foreigners to economic development.

Symbols of social class in Benin

The clothing, manners, activities, and worldviews of the urban elite distinguish them from the rest of society, and their lifestyles are often imitated by the lower classes. People are “civilized” when they speak French, dress up, eat European food, live in tin-roofed houses, and listen to contemporary music.

Gender roles and status

Division of gender work. In rural areas, men do the heaviest jobs, such as plowing the land. Women help grow, harvest, and process a variety of foods. They also carry the plants and water and are responsible for household chores, including food and children. Furthermore, women are active in local and regional commerce. The extent to which women work as healers and ritual specialists varies by ethnic group.

 Relative roles

Women in Dahommy’s kingdom could increase their wealth and power as part of the royal palace organization and be often engaged primarily in the professions and occupations of men, but the general stereotype remains that women are socially and economically dependent on men. The 1977 Constitution granted women equal legal rights, which have been largely ignored. Currently, 65% of girls are out of school.

Marriage, Family, and Relatives

In the past, most marriages were organized by families, but personal choices are becoming more and more common, especially among educated people. Couples can perform traditional ceremonies with the citizens. The wife can join the husband’s family or a new couple can move. In particular, marriage is almost universal, as remarriage occurs shortly after divorce or the death of a spouse. Polygamy wives are expected to succeed, but jealousy is not uncommon. Marriage can involve the transfer of money or property to the bride’s family. After a divorce, you may need to renegotiate your spouse’s price, especially if you don’t yet have children. Children belong to the father because women endorse the system of descent by descent. Marriages tend to break down easily because the wife is not part of the husband’s family.

Family relationships include loyalty and duty. Except for close relatives, pedigree and clan are the most common offspring groups. Kin is expected to attend important ceremonies and provide financial support. A kinship network connects urban and rural members. Children can be placed with foster parents, who may be effective in sending foster parents from the countryside to large cities to work as housekeepers.

Cultural significance in the anthropology of Benin

Benin culture
by ipinimg

The average family consists of six people, but extended families and polygamous families can be much larger. Kinsmans, who live in the same neighborhood, often form separate households but operate as an economic unit of co-operatives.


Good manners include greeting people over time using common word-of-mouth recipes. Moreover, when entering or leaving a meeting, you need to shake the hands of everyone present. People who know each other well can kiss each other on the cheek and say hello. While romance between members of the opposite sex is discouraged, men usually go hand in hand.

Giving visitors food and drink is an important part of hospitality, and refusal is considered rude. Many people use the fingers of their right hand to eat traditionally. Eating with your left hand or giving to others with your left hand is considered bad.

Religious Beliefs in Benin

About 15% of the population is Muslim, 15% is Christian and the majority are Catholic. The rest of the population follows the indigenous belief system. Voodoo was introduced to Brazil and the Caribbean by coastal slaves. Some voodoo souls are borrowed from the Yoruba religion and voodoo is associated with divination and possession. These supernatural forces help believers deal with illness and infertility and give them a view of life.

Indigenous belief systems consider ancestors to be part of the afterlife community. Temples worship their ancestors and make offerings to “feed” them. In particular, a circular metal sculpture is made for each deceased with a stick called arsenic and stored in a family complex. Furthermore, in some communities, funerals include a series of rituals before the person is considered to be fully converted to an ancestor.


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