A guide to...
The Benin Kingdom Creation Story
How did the people of Benin Kingdom believe the world began?
According to the story, in the beginning God created the world and everything in it. When he had finished his creation, he decided to send his sons to be kings to rule over different parts of the world. Just before his sons left heaven, God allowed each one to choose a gift to take with him to Earth.
What gifts did the sons choose?
One by one, the sons made their choices. The first son chose wealth, the next selected knowledge and the next opted for wisdom. When the youngest son finally got his turn, all that was left was a dirty old snail shell containing nothing but sand. As the son wondered whether or not to take the shell, a colourful hornbill appeared by his side and whispered to him encouragements to take the shell. With hesitation, the youngest son picked up the dirty old shell and departed for Earth in his boat, just as his brothers had done before him.
What happened when the sons arrived on Earth?
As the sons arrived on their boats at the place where Benin Kingdom used to lie, they found that the world had been created with water and sky, but no dry land. They rocked back and forth in their boats, but not one of them had a place to berth. The youngest son knew what he needed to do next. He lifted his snail shell and carefully poured the sandy contents into the water in front of him. As the sand tumbled into the surface of the water, it solidified like dry land and expanded out into the distance.
What was the youngest son's reward?
God was so impressed by the youngest son that he made him king (Oba) over the land of Benin. The other brothers, who had found no place to anchor their own boats, had to ask the new king for land in exchange for each of their own chosen gifts. This is where the Benin saying ‘Oba Yan Oto Se Evbo Ebo’ comes from, which means ‘the Oba owns all of the land up to the European countries.’