Sunday 19 June 2022

The Eʻwe-speaking peoples of the Slave Coast of West Africa by Ellis, Alfred Burdon (1890)

"The Annual Custom, whether Attoh or So-sin, is always opened by a ceremony at Kana, to celebrate the downfall of the Yorubas, to whom, until the reign of Gezo, Dahomi used to pay tribute at Kana. The ceremony is called Gezo's Custom, and is said to have been instituted by him. 

About a dozen human victims are sacrificed, and their bodies placed oh platforms from 30 to 40 feet high. The corpses are dressed in the Yoruba fashion, and placed in an erect position. One usually leads a dead sheep, and the others hold in their hands calabashes containing maize or some other country product ; the idea being to show that the Yorubas are an agricultural and pastoral people. ...

The break-up of the Yoruba kingdom, which gradually took place between 1810 and 1840, left Dahomi without any neighbour sufficiently powerful to cope with it. This break-up was caused by the conquest of the Houssa country by the Fulas, for the Houssas, driven southward, overran northern Yoruba. A war between the Houssas and Yorubas continued for years, resulting in the loss to the latter of the province of Ilorin ; and, about 1834, Eyeo or Oyo, the old Yoruba capital, was burned and pillaged. The northern Yorubas fled to the south and occupied their present territory, and the southern Yorubas formed themselves into several small independent states, the chief of which was Egba. 

Of the three great West African powers, Ashanti, Dahomi, and Yoruba, the latter seems to have been by far the most powerful ; and that it was not so well known to Europeans as the two former, was simply due to the fact that until the kingdom fell to pieces there was no exportation of slaves from any of the ports of its sea-board. The Yoruba tribute, which it seems had been regularly paid by Dahomi since 1747, was now abolished by Gezo. 

* illustration from Dahomey as it is : being a narrative of eight months' residence in that country by Skertchly, J.A. (1874).

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