Queen Abla Pokou and the Origin of the Baoule People

Abla Pokou
Baoule mask representing Queen Abla Pokou

The story of Queen Abla Pokou (Abla Poku in English) is the story of the creation of the Baoule people of Côte d’Ivoire. She was a strong and loving queen who made a profound sacrifice for the well-being of her people, and thus was granted their deep love.

In the 17th century, King Osei Kofi Tutu I founds the Ashanti Empîre of Ghana. Given that in the Ashanti culture the law is matrilineal, when King Oseï Tutu dies, his nephew succeeds him. However, when his nephew dies shortly after, a war for the throne starts in Kumasi, the capital of the kingdom; this war opposes an old uncle of the royal family named Itsa, and Dakon, the second brother of the future queen Abla Pokou (born at the beginning of the 18th century). Dakon will also die in this fratricide war. Quickly, Abla Pokou, understanding that she and her followers will be next to die, decides to flee. Led by her, they walk for several days and nights, fleeing from those threatening to kill them. They soon arrive on the shores of the Comoé River, located on the frontier between Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. But the river is unsurmountable, its waters are dangerous, and their enemies are getting closer. After having overcome so many obstacles, and walked for days, it is impossible to stop there.

AblaPokou2Queen Pokou looks to her court wizard for advice, saying, “wizard, tell us what the genie of the river wants from us in order to cross its treacherous waters!” The wizard replies, “Queen, the river is quite irritated, and would only stop once an offering of what is most dear to us is made to it.” Thus, the women of the court start taking off their gold and ivory jewelry, and the men bring their cattle for offering. But the wizard, shaking his head sadly, states “What is most dear to us is our sons!

Looking upon her people, the queen decides to make the most difficult sacrifice ever: that of her toddler son wrapped on her back. After untying him, she says to him, “Kouakou(‘Kwaku’ in English), my only child, forgive me, but I have understood that I need to offer you to the river for the survival of our people. More than a woman or mother, a queen is first a queen!” She then stoically, without shedding a tear, offers her son as a sacrifice to the Comoé River.

Map of Cote d'Ivoire

Once the offering made, a path quickly appears within the waters of the Comoé river allowing the queen and her people to cross it. Once the river crossed, the queen finally cries, “BA OULI!” meaning “the child is dead.” This will become the name of the people “Baoulé”. Once they arrived in a good place, the tribe holds a funeral for the sacrificed child. In memory of this, the place will be called Sakassou, meaning “place of funerals.” Queen Abla Pokou will rule over her people for many years, and news of her good reign will travel very far. She will die around 1760.

Poster for the 3D movie: Pokou Ashanti Princess

Some historians claim that a big tree bent over to let the Queen and her people cross, while others maintain that a group of hippopotamuses lined up a path across the river for the queen. Either way, the story of the queen’s great courage remains the same. Queen Abla Pokou, the founder of the Baoulé people of Côte d’Ivoire, was a great queen and woman who sacrificed what she held most dear for the well-being of her people. Many African presidents would learn a lot from Queen Abla Pokou’s courage, determination, and love of her people. Today in Côte d’Ivoire, her story has just been made into a 3D movie: POKOU Princesse Ashanti. The Ivorian author Véronique Tadjo has also published a book Reine Pokou: concerto pour un sacrifice in 2005. The story of Queen Pokou and the Baoule was retold by Maximilien Quenum in his Légendes africaines. Check out the websites Naforo-Ba and Matricien.org to learn more about it.

Why Behanzin should stay in Blida

Statue of Behanzin in Abomey, Benin
Statue of Behanzin in Abomey, Benin

The article below is from 1906 giving reasons why the French government refused to return Béhanzin to his country. The English translation is brought to you by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com .


Under this title, La Petite République published an article from which we extract the following conclusions:

What will be the effect of Béhanzin’s return in his country?

The Dahomeans, who in the old days, used to raid their neighbors have been transformed under 10 years, into a population of peaceful docile peasants and easy to be led. No troops are stationed in the ancient kingdom of Behanzin and the administration is working amazingly.

Do not for one instant believe that the negroes have forgotten their old master and here is what M. Francois, ancient chief of cabinet of the governor of Dahomey, says about this in the volume he published three months ago on this colony.

Behanzin_18 Juillet 1906
The original article from La Petite Republique, in French

The people of Dahomey have kept the memory of Kondo (Béhanzin). The name of our courageous adversary still exerts a magical power on his old subjects. The population remains certain of his return. They say, Kondo was defeated by the whites, Kondo is imprisoned on an island by his enemies and this despite the ancient law which guards the Kings of Abomey from seeing the sea, but anyhow, Kondo will transform himself into a small bird and will come back to his capital.

As for the chiefs, here is, from the same author, an anecdote which shows their state of mind:

“The old Alloan who used to command the Dahomean army when Béhanzin was not here, and who today is a worker on the Sudan railroad, was telling one of the engineers, “We know well that we could easily make you disappear, you and the other white people who are in the Dahomey. It would not even be necessary to kill you, it will suffice not to bring you any food for a few days. But what will be the point of this? You will come back, by the thousand, with guns which fire all at once and traverse palm trees. Moreover, if it wasn’t you, it will be the British or the Germans.” And he politely added, “better if it is the French.”

One can see that the loyalty of the chiefs holds onto a fine thread, an occasion, a possibility, to rid their land of the whites.

It is undeniable that the return of Béhanzin will provide this anticipated occasion.

Muhammad Ali: Integrity and Africa

It is important to cultivate integrity in all our actions. Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay, was a man of great integrity. What do I mean by that? When drafted to go to war, he said NO. He said he could not understand why he was being made to fight a people who had done nothing to him. He thought, how could he, a Black man in America with newly acquired rights, could go kill people (the Vietnamese people), who were victim of the white man’s greed? He probably thought, “they did nothing to me, why should I kill them? Who gives me the right to kill them?” He stood his ground, and refused to serve. For this, he was punished, banned for 5 years. For many, this could have been a descent into depression, alcoholism, drugs, etc… for he had lost his source of income; he was eventually arrested, found guilty of draft evasion charges and stripped of his boxing titles. He successfully appealed in the US Supreme Court, which overturned his conviction in 1971, by which time he had not fought for nearly four years—losing a period of peak performance as an athlete. Many thought he was arrogant, but he stood for his beliefs. Instead of falling down, he stood up, he became an activist, and worked tirelessly to end the war in Vietnam… he rallied masses.

Muhammad Ali was also the first international boxer of his stature to fight in Africa. Who has not heard of “The Rumble in the Jungle” the 1974 fight which took place in Kinshasa, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo)? This was a historic game not only because it was deemed the fight of the century, and featured Ali vs. Foreman, but also because it took place on African soil. It brought in representatives from all over the continent, and singers from around the world. In the emission on the Origin of Rumba, the late Papa Wemba clearly stated that he had been at that game and met several legends of music James Brown, Celia Cruz and the Fania All-Stars, B.B. King, Miriam Makeba, Johnny Pacheco, and it had been an experience like none other.

So let us remember Muhammad Ali, a man of integrity, who inspired so many by his spirit, strength, determination, and courage. So long Ali… the Greatest.

Chaînes de Bernard Dadié /Chains by Bernard Dadie

Bernard Dadie (Abidjan.net)

Today, I thought that this poem by Bernard Dadié will be very appropriate. We wear a lot of chains, and the oppressed people of this world may want all the gags removed. Enjoy!


 Quelles sont lourdes, lourdes, les chaînes,

Que le Nègre met au cou du Nègre.

Pour complaire aux maîtres de l’heure.


De grâce n’arrêtez pas l’élan d’un peuple !

Brisons les chaînes, les carcans, les barrières, les digues.


Pour inonder l’univers en eaux puissantes qui balaient les iniquités.


Quelles sont lourdes, lourdes les chaînes

Que le Nègre met aux pieds de Nègre

Pour complaire aux maîtres du jour !


Lourdes, les chaînes,

lourdes, lourdes,

les chaînes que je porte aux mains.


Que tombent tous les baîllons du monde !!



 They are so heavy, heavy, the chains,

That the negro puts on the neck of the negro.

To please the masters of the hour.


Please do not stop the momentum of a people!

Let us break the chains, the shackles, the barriers, the dams.


To flood the universe with powerful waters that will sweep away iniquities.


They are so heavy, heavy, the chains

That the negro puts on the feet of the negro

To please the masters of the day!


Heavy, the chains,

Heavy, heavy,

The chains that I wear on my hands.


May all the gags of this world fall!