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African Kings 

Representing the Abomey dynasty, Joseph Langanfin is the
president of CAFRA, the council of Abomey’s royal families. With
this title, he is considered as the official representative of the
kings of Abomey. He presided at the centenary ceremonies for the
death of King Glele, who was his great grandfather.
In 1980, Sijuwade became the fiftieth Oni (King) of Ife, one of the
most ancient African Dynasties. Formerly, during his coronation,
an Oni had to embrace the sword of justice, and enter into his
palace on a cloth stiffened by the dry blood of sacrificed men and
women. Today the Oni is a rich businessman, with several vast
properties in Nigeria and England.
Fon of Bandjun, Cameroun
The Fon (King) is the brother of courageous and powerful
animals. At night, he has the power to transform himself into a
panther, where he haunts the forest, runs through the savana and
drinks from torrents. When a panther is killed by a hunter, the
Fon from Bamileke region are afraid. Will one of them not perish
from the death of his double?
Formerly a chief administator and cabinet chief for the finance
Minister of Cameroun in 1964, Kamga Joseph is the thirteenth
Fon of Bandjun. On the day of his predecessor’s funeral, he was
stopped in the Bandjun market by two Bamileke chiefs, “the
hangmen”, in the middle of the nobles and princes who wept the
deceased King. Wearing a head dress made of sisal as a sign of
humility, he was taken to the noblemen, the “tafo meru”, where he
learned during nine weeks how to be a King.

Lamido of Bibemi
Halidou Sali, the twelfth Lamido (king) of Bibemi, received his
kingdom in 1958. He is a descendant of Aido Samba, one of the 42
Kings of Adamawa, who during the eighteenth century carried the
flag for the Jihad (holy war) of Ousman Dan Fodio.
King of Akropong-Akuapem
A graduate from the University of London and an economic
advisor for the Ghanaian administration, The King of Akropong
holds for the last sixteen years the “sacred seat” of the Akuapem-
Asona, one of the seven major Akan clans. To his right, his
“spokesman” carries the royal emblem, the elephant, a
remembrance that his kingdom was founded by force.
Sultan of Sokoto
This photo was taken fifteen days before the death of the Sultan of
Sokoto. He had reigned for more than fifty years. At the time of
his successor’s coronation, who was chosen by a council of “king
makers”, a conflict erupted. Two royal families disputed the
choice; the consequence: one hundred deaths.
According to “news watch”, a large daily Nigerian newspaper, the
power of the Sultan of Sokoto is such, that most of the Nigerians
questioned would rather be Sultan than President of Nigeria.
Abubakar Sidiq was not as rich as other soverains of this country.
He earned annually about 1 million naira ($200 000). But with
this income, the Sultan had to support his suite of eighty-six
people, and feed one hundred and fifty grand children.

King of Bana
The kingdom of Bana finds its origins in a tragedy.
In the middle of the twelfth century, several Bamileke groups,
settled in small villages around what is actually Bana. Legend says
that one of the village chiefs, Mfenge was accused of sorcery by
the others. In order to exonerate himself, he cut off his mother’s
head and had the cadaver examined by specialists. The belief in
sorcery, that it is transmitted through the “maternal womb”, was
not proven. Mfenge then demanded that mothers in others
families be beheaded. His four sons went from house to house,
sending wives and mothers to the palace, in order to be examined.
The recalcitrants were decapited on the spot. Taken by panic,
chiefs and nobles fled, and Mfenge became King of Bana.

King of Kuba
D.R. Congo
The Nyimi Mabiintsh III is fifty years old. He acquired the throne
at the age of twenty. As a descendant of god the creator, the king
is attributed with supernatural powers.
Due to his top position he is restricted by several constraints: he
does not have the right to sit on the ground, and he cannot cross a
cultivated field. Apart from his cook, no one has seen him eat.
Moreover he never travels without him, and his personal cooking
It took me three weeks to photograph the Nyimi (king) of the
Kuba in his royal apparel, the “bwantshy”. The outfit made out of
material stitched with beads and “cauris” (small shells used as
money in Africa), weighs 160 lb. It takes more than two hours to
dress the King, and two days of spiritual preparation to be
sufficiently purified in order to wear the outfit.
The weight and the heat of the bwantshy is such, that it is
impossible to wear it more than one hour. The preceding King had
only worn it three times during his entire life.
Obi of Nnewi
When Kenneth Nnaji became King of Nnewi in 1963, he was a
farmer, and his ten wives had already blessed him with thirty
Located to the east of the Niger River, in Ibo country, Nnewi is a
rich town with several millionaires. This kingdom, founded in the
fourteenth century, is composed of four large villages.
When the Portuguese’s arrived in the region in the fifteenth
century, a multitude of city-states appeared.
As with Nnewi, these cities were built on the basis of a thriving
slave trade. Born with the trade, they lived only for trade, and did
not look favorably upon the creation of a state uniting under the
same Nigerian flag, the Ibo, the Yoruba and the Hausa. Ethnic and
religious clashes erupted, starting the Biafra War.

Ekegbian of Bénin
James Inneh, seventy nine years old, was formerly a business
In 1962, he was named commander of the royal guards,
“isienwenro”, by the king Akenzua. “Asako no s’oghionba” (ants
sting the King’s enemies), was how the royal guards responsible
for the King’s security, were called.
During some rituals, they glide around the soverains, completely
enveloping him like an army of ants.

Sultan of Fumban and Mfon of the Bamun
Eighty years old, the sultan Njoya has been on the throne for more
than fifty years.
At the age of twenty nine, he inherited the famous Bamun throne ,
founded in the sixteenth century. He was chosen, by the
kingdom’s council of wisemen, among one hundred and seventy
seven of his father’s children , the famous Sultan Njoya.
His father, an enlightened soverains, spent twelve years to invent
his own alphabet, made of eighty symbols. He wanted to be able
to write in the Bauman language the kingdom’s history. At this
time, the oral tradition dominated.
In 1913, while Cameroun was still a German colony, Sultan Njoya
equipped himself with his own printing house.

King of Abomey
Dedjlani, a former policeman, waited six years to retire, and then
proceeded with his secret coronation ceremonies.
“Officially”, there is no longer a king in Benin. But on september
30, 1989, Dedjlani put on his royal shoes, and at the age of fifty
four became King of Abomey.
Being monogamous, he was obliged to marry two more wives to
take care of his royal household. When he goes out, tradition
requires that he be sheltered under an umbrella with his emblem.
One of wives must always be next to him, carrying the royal
spitting bowl. The King also has to wear his scepter in
permanence. Holding it in his hand or hanging on his shoulder,
more than a symbol, the scepter is the King.
The silver dust protector worn on the nose, dates from the
nineteenth century, and was inherited from the King Gbehanzin.
It protected the King’s nose from the dust, during the royal
processions in Abomey.
King of Zulu
South Africa
King Goodwill Zwelethini is a descendant of the famous Shaka,
founder of the Zulu kingdom.
At the beginning of the ninetheenth century, Shaka was the chief
of a small insignificant clan among the Bantu people. Thinking
that the survival of the Zulus depended inevitably on the
subservience of the other clans, Shaka submitted the natal region
to blood and fire. Between 1815 and 1828, he annihilated all tribes
that were opposed to him. This troubled period referred to as
Mfecan (terror), was accompanied by famine and exodus of a
large part of the Bantu population. Shaka’s cruelty became

Emir of Katsina
The Emir of Katsina is a passionate follower of polo, and his
family has contributed many champions to Nigeria.
In the twelfth century, Katsina was a Hausa village, governed by
the Durbawa, which was a royal dynasty that had emigrated from
a region whose name tradition has lost. One of the Durbawa
kings, Janzawa, married a Daura princess from another Hausa
state. The Queen Katsina, gave her name to the village which
became the terminal of the commercial transsaharien route from
Tripoli (Lybia).

Oba Erediauwa of Bénin
On march 23, 1979, prince Salomon, a graduate of Cambridge
University, was crowned Oba (king) of Benin. He suceeded his
father Akenzua II, and became the thirty-eigth king of a dynasty
dating back to the thirteenth century.
“The large chalk stick is broken”, was the metaphor used to
officially announce the death of Akenzua. Immediately
afterwards, the Edo of Nigeria, England and America, shaved
their heads. The new growth of the hair signified the rebirth of the
kingdom, and the re-establishment of the harmony between man
and the elements, that had been broken for an instant by the

Sultan of Rey-Bouba
The Baba (sultan) of Rey-Bouba rules over fifty five thousand
subjects, and his territory is as large as Belgium and Luxemburg
reunited (35 000Km2).
It is wrong to call him Lamido, because he was never a vassal to
A former parliamentarian in the Cameroonian Assembly, Bouba
Abdoulaye had to leave everything and renounce modern life in
order to suceed his father. His great-grand father, Bouba Ndjidda
came from Mali in 1799, with his Fulani warriors, and decided to
settle on the borders of Adamawa, at the edge of the Mayo-Rey
river. He placed a white flag, a silver drum, a sword and a basket
containing the royal secrets, and built a palace with a surrounding
wall that was 800 meters long and seven meters high.
Today these walls shelter one of the most traditional soverains of
Africa. He exercises an invisible and permanent power. He is only
allowed to go out three times during the year. The Baba is the
center of the world and the kingdom. He knows everything, and
has to know everything. Hundreds of agents keep him informed of
all the movements and acts in his kingdom.
Lamido of Adamawa
One day, Adama who was also called Modibo, heard that a great
Marabout (moslem leader) by the name of Ousman Dan Fodio,
had proclaimed the Jihad (holy war) in Gobir and the Hausa
At Adama’s death, his immense territory became Adamawa, which
actually covers a part of south-west Nigeria and all of northern
Today the Lamido has sixty children, and is the chancellor of
Amadou Bello University at Zaria, one of the most prestigious
universities in Africa.


Olowo of Owo
Six hundred years ago, Olowo, the King, fell in love with Orensen,
a very beautiful woman. Unfortunately for the King, she was a
goddess who could not live with a human. She was forbidden to
see women pounding spices, draw water, or throw a bundle of
wood to the ground.
Because of his love for the goddess, and in order to marry her, the
King promised her that his other wives, in front of her would
follow these same restrictions. After several years, the King’s
wives became jealous and revolted. They did everything they were
not supposed to do in front of the goddess, who then cast a spell
upon the entire kingdom. The goddess promised that people of
Owo, would die of famine or sickness if the King and his chiefs did
not celebrate every year a ceremony in her honor. The drums
should beg her pardon and sing her praises. One also had to offer
her a sacrifice of a man and a woman.
This ceremony, Igogo, still exists, but the human beings have been
replaced by a sheep and a goat.

About auhor, Daniel Laine.


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