Queen Mothers of Benin




Queen Mothers

   Beginnings: The Legend of Idia


   Commemorative altars

Ritual: Gelede


Gender Roles




African Art Homepage

Wives of the Oba (Benin)
Photograph by Joseph Nevadomsky

           One of the primary examples of female power in Africa is the queen mother.  Queen mothers have an extraordinary amount of power in Africa.  They have sovereign power over their subjects, are independent, have their own courts, and help the kings make decisions regarding the ruling of the kingdom.  The queen mother is like a high ranking chief.

           The future king is usually chosen from the sons of the current king’s wives, so there is considerable competition to become queen mother.  According to tradition, the woman who gives birth to the king has unique magical powers that she uses to aid her son during his rule, helping him defeat his enemies and have a prosperous reign.  (1)  Although the queen mother is not identified until her son is chosen as king,  it is believed that she was selected and predestined to become the mother of the king even before she is born. (5)