The kings


The kings

The Negro does not exist. Nor does the White man.

Both must steer away from the inhumane voices that were those of their respective ancestors

in order to create true communication.

The collected symbols of the twelve kings of the Houégbadjavi dynasty of Danxomé (the Fon) are,

since the fall of the kingdom in 1900, the favourite theme of Abomey tapestry craftsmen.

The oral sources collected from their families in Abomey name King Agadja (1708-1740) as responsible for the official introduction of this art to the court. Each king had a “strong name” often taken from a proverb or a particular event that was striking and hence, easily remembered. The ways of transcribing are varied and sometimes associated. Houégbadja (1645-1685) for example is a puzzle. It breaks down into houé (fish), gbe (refusal), adja (net). The whole name means that the fish that succeeded in escaping from the net will not go back. It is represented as a fish facing a net.

Other modes of transcription of these “strong names” refer back to allegories. The kings often identify themselves as animals whose power or wisdom has always impressed man: the buffalo, the lion, the whale or the chameleon.

Others still use the picture of object s of power like the rifle, the sabre, the flint stone or the royal throne. For this wall hanging, I have used the now classical shape of the 12-rectangle check pattern. But the twelve depicted kings are my own creations, not to mock, quite the opposite, to pay tribute to these sovereigns, who knew how to develop arts of a great quality at court.


,,/ extract chapter 5 L'océan Noir William Wilson; publisher: Editions Gallimard Paris France (in french) april 2009.

ISBN : 9 782070625239            © W. A. W