Coronation, King of Whydah (Ouidah), Dahomey, April 1725

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This record was last updated on 27 Dec 2012

Image Reference

Jean Baptiste Labat, Voyage du Chevalier des Marchais en Guinee . . . fait en 1725, 1726, & 1727 (Amsterdam, 1731), vol. 2, after p. 57, In Thomas Astley (ed.), A New General Collection of Voyages and Travels (London, 1745-47), vol. 3, plate 4, facing p. 41. (Special Collections, University of Virginia Library)

Shows courtyard of king's palace, king on throne, retainers and onlookers; see Astley, pp. 41-42 for a description of this ceremony. The coronation was witnessed by Marchais. The image in Astley is reversed from the one in the French edition (Labat 1731, vol. 2, after p. 57). Moreover, the French edition provides far more details on what is depicted, and numbers on the illustration identify the different groups and personages. For example, in the upper right of the compound, with their backs to the fence, are the directors of several European companies (French, English, Dutch, Portuguese); to their immediate left are the King's dwarfs; in the center background the King is seated on his throne; directly in front of him are his two dwarves; to the left of the throne are seated the King's wives; a group Nobles is in the right foreground; on the left, in the front row, the drummers and trumpeters. In the center, a small conical structure hides a snake about ready to give birth, and immediately to the left is another snake. The defining characteristic of the religious system found in this area was the worship of serpents as earthly embodiments of the serpent deity Dangbe. For a description of this scene and its historical context, see Robert Harms, The Diligent: A Voyage through the Worlds of the Slave Trade (Basic Books, 2002), pp. 153-154.