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Twelve Kings of Dahomey – Royal Fon Dynasty Banner

Updated: Aug 17, 2021

Twelve Kings of Dahomey – Royal Fon Dynasty Banner

Cotonou, Benin


Royal Cloths and Totems of Benin (Dahomey).

A traditional fabric banner depicts symbols related to the Royal Fon Dynasty of Abomey in Benin (Dahomey) 1620-1900. The signs also represent the history of the kingdom and some characteristics and particularities of the rulers. All traditional banners are hand-sewn, creating patterns from the superposition of small pieces of colored fabric sewn on top of each other. The fabric sewers are called Tisserand in Benin.

King GANGNI XESU: 1600-1620 (Do-Aklin or Gangnihessou)

A bird and a tam-tam drum symbolize it. This bird is called Saswé and is renowned for its greed: he leaves nothing to his opponent (as the prince done).

King DAKO DONU: 1620-1645 (Dakodonou)

A jar of indigo symbolizes it. The pot refers to a historical event where Dako Donu surprised his enemy Aizo who was then preparing indigo. He killed him, put his body in the jar, and carried it out. The core message refers to the idea of domination.

King HWÉGBEADJA: 1645-1685 (Houégbadja)

It is represented by a fish trapped in a fishnet. This representation refers to when he was still a prince and had escaped a trap in which he was caught.

King AKABA: 1685-1708

It is symbolized by a chameleon and a boar or pig. The chameleon symbolizes the long wait the king had to endure to gain the throne.

King AGADIA: 1708-1732 (Agaja)

It is represented by a sailboat. During King AGADIA’s reign, the Kingdom of Abomey had its first contact with European sailors arriving on the land of Dahomey.

King TEGBESU: 1732-1789 (Tegbessou)

A dressed buffalo represent it. A dressed buffalo is challenging to undress. This symbol refers to an attempted poisoning scheme that was done by poisoning his clothes.

King KPENGLA: 1774-1789

It is represented by either a rifle or a bird and refers to a battle within the Kingdom of Kpengla.

King AGONGLO: 1789-1797

It is represented by a pineapple, symbolizing the prudent and conservative nature of this king. According to him, anything that is small is not an easy target to reach.

King ADANDOZAN: 1797-1818

His rule ended with a coup by his brother Ghezo who then erased Adandozan from the official history resulting in high uncertainty about many aspects of his life.

King GUÉZO: 1818-1858 (Ghézo)

A buffalo or a ram represents it. A Buffalo is a powerful and robust animal with a reckless character. Therefore, one should avoid encountering them. It was King Guezo’s way of warning and keeping enemies away from his kingdom.

King GLÈLÈ: 1858 -1889

The lion symbolizes it because he was a fearless and fierce king.

King BÉHANZIN: 1889-1894

A shark and an egg represent it. Our world has produced an egg, and only the earth feels the weight. The motto means: “Here is the awaited king that will achieve great things.”

King AGOLI-AGBO: 1894-1900

It is represented by a leg hitting a rock. Abomey struggled with its independence but did not surrender to the French. This king was put on the throne by the French, who helped him beat his predecessor. This symbolism was made to show his gratitude to the French.



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