Sons of the soil and conquerors: The historical construction of the Dendi border region (West Africa)
This article discusses the historical construction of Dendi, a border region now located across Niger, Benin and Nigeria. On the basis of colonial literature and mythological accounts collected in the cities of Gaya, Malanville and Kamba, the paper shows that the Dendi identity is based on the binary opposition between “indigenous people” and “conquerors”. Urban foundation myths traditionally present the former as “sons of the soil”, worshippers of the earth and land, while emphasising the aristocratic origins of the latter, “who came on foot”. In this, Dendi is comparable to other West African socio-political entities such as Borgu in Benin-Nigeria, Yatenga in Burkina Faso and the Hombori Mountains in Mali; it is however rather different due to the importance of the contemporary borders, which introduced different colonial rules and paths of development.
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