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The Sound Kitchen

Jinabo Cyrille Fointama’s “ordinary” hero

Audio 16:29
David Franklin/Getty Images/A Terrade

This week you’ll hear the answer to the question about the West African kingdom where the Amazons lived and fought.  There’s an essay from Cameroonian listener Jinabo Cyrille Fointama on the theme “My Ordinary Hero”, great music, and of course, the new quiz question. Just click on the arrow in the photo above and enjoy!


Hello everyone!

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Here's the text for today's listener essay.

This week’s quiz: On 1September, I asked you about a group of warrior women in the West African country Benin, whom Europeans nicknamed “Amazons” after the women warriors in Greek mythology. There are still some Amazons in Benin; the current Queen – Queen Hangbe - is a descendant of the first Amazon. My question to you was: what is the name of the kingdom in Benin where the Amazons, the women warriors, lived and fought?

The answer is: The Dahomey kingdom. The Dahomey kingdom was a West African empire that existed from 1625 to 1894.

No one is quite sure how the Amazons came to be … were they originally elephant hunters? Had they been the bodyguards of the first Queen Hangbe, who was deposed by her brother? At any rate, by the early 19th century they were incorporated into the regular army by King Ghezo, who ruled over Dahomey from 1818 to 1858. Part of this was a practical decision – the population had been ravaged by the slave trade. But it also had its basis in the society’s religion. The creator of the universe was Mawu-Lisa, a male and female god who came together to create the universe. Therefore, in the society’s institutions – political, religious and military – men would have an equal female equivalent. Of course, the king reigned over all. Rather amazing, isn’t it?

The winners are: Henry Ngum Zong, from Bamenda, Cameroon – who knows his history! Henry wrote:

“The tribal kingdom of Dahomey in West Africa was ended by French colonial occupation in 1894, after they took control during the Dahomey War of 1892-1894. The state was granted autonomy as the Republic of Dahomey in 1958, followed by full independence in 1960. A period of instability followed, mostly consisting of governmental musical chairs with various coups taking place and presidents being appointed by the military. Along the way Marxism-Leninism was adopted as the official ideology, but economic crisis at the end of the 1980s forced this experiment to be abandoned in favor of parliamentary democracy.

Today this country of almost eleven million people is one of Africa's most stable democracies.

The country continued to bear its old name until 1975, when it became the Republic of Benin”.

Thanks for that lesson, Henry.

On with the winners: there’s Bernard Egbe from Abuja, Nigeria and two RFI Listeners Club members: Amadu Nuhu from Accra, Ghana and Vamuyan Kromah from Monrovia, Liberia. Last but not least, Paresh Hazarika, a member of the United RFI Listeners Club in Assam, India.

Congratulations winners!

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: Rimsky-Korsakov: “The Flight of the Bumblebee” and “She’s a Brick House”, written and performed by The Commodores.

Do you have a musical request? Send it to

This week’s question ... You'll have to listen to the show to participate. You have until 19 November to enter this week's quiz; the winners will be announced on the 24 November program. When you enter, be sure you send your postal address in with your answer, and if you have one,  your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

Send your answers to:


Susan Owensby

RFI – The Sound Kitchen

80, rue Camille Desmoulins

92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux



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