Ketu (Benin)

Ketu is a historical location in present day Republic of Benin. It is one of the oldest capitals of the Yoruba speaking people, tracing its establishment to a settlement founded by a daughter of Oduduwa, also known as Odudua, Oòdua and Eleduwa. The regents of the town were traditionally styled "Alaketu", and are believed to be related to the Egba sub-group of the Yoruba-speaking people in present-day Nigeria.

Ketu is considered one of the seven original kingdoms established by the children of Oduduwa in Oyo mythic history, though this ancient pedigree has been somewhat neglected in contemporary Yoruba historical research, which tends to focuse on communities within Nigeria. The exact status of Ketu within the Oyo empire however is contested. Oyo sources claim Ketu as a dependency with claims that the Ketu paid an annual tribute and that its ruler attended the Bere festival in Oyo. In any case, there is no doubt that Ketu and Oyo maintained friendly relations largely due to their historical, linguistic, cultural and ethnic ties. [Law, R 1977, "The Oyo Empire", Clarendon Press, Oxford, p.141]

The kingdom was one of the main enemies of the ascendant kingdom of Dahomey, often fighting against Dahomeans as part of Oyo's imperial forces, but ultimately succumbing to the Fon in the 1880s as the kingdom was ravaged. A large number of Ketu's citizens were sold into slavery during these raids, which accounts for the kingdom's importance in Brazilian Candomble. Ketu is often known as Queto in Portuguese orthography.

Ewe connection

Ewe traditions refer to Ketu as "Amedzofe" ("origin of humanity") or "Mawufe" ("home of the Supreme Being"). It is believed that the inhabitants of Ketu originally belonged to the Oyo people of Nigeria and were pressed westward by a series of wars between the 10th and the 13th centuries. In Ketu, the ancestors of the Gbe speaking peoples (Fon, Aja, etc.) separated themselves from other refugees and began to establish their own identity, but were pressed even further westward by the Yoruba during the 14th and 15th centuries.

* c.1500 - Yoruba state moved its capital to Ketu.
* 1886 - Conquered by Dahomey.
* 1893 - Restored by France under protectorate.


*Parrinder, E.G. The Story of Ketu: An ancient Yoruba kingdom. Ibadan, Nigeria , Ibadan University Press, 1956.

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