AfricaAfrican Kingdoms and EmpiresCôte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)Figures

The Queen Abla Pokou

History of the Queen of Baoulé People

Abla Pokou (or Aura Poku, or Abra Pokou) is an African queen who, around 1770, led the Baoulé people from Ghana to Côte d’Ivoire. Legend has it that she would have sacrificed her only son to cross a river. The word “Baoulé” by which we now designate the descendants of the people she led comes from the episode of the sacrifice of her only son. After the immolation of her offspring, she declares “Ba-ouli”, which means “the child is dead”, hence the name “Baoulé”.

Born at the beginning of the 18th century, Abla Pokou is the niece of King Osseï Tutu, founder of the Ashanti Confederation of Ghana. On the death of the latter, his nephew succeeds him on the throne, under the matrilineal law, that is to say the law of succession by maternal line. Indeed, among the Ashanti , the child born of the sister of a deceased king is more likely to succeed the latter than the child of a brother of the said king… Also, on the death of the nephew of Osseï Tutu the son of his sister, therefore, a war of succession broke out between Itsa – an old uncle from the ruling family – and Dakon, the second brother of Abla Pokou.

So, in the capital of the kingdom, Kumasi, a fratricidal struggle begins, during which Dakon is killed. Therefore, Abla Pokou understands the terrible fate that awaits her, if she stays. She must therefore flee to the northwest with her family, her servants, her loyal soldiers and all those of the people who recognize themselves in her or in Dakon. She crosses the Comoé river.  She then reorganizes its people, shortly before dying.

According to legend, Queen Abla Pokou and her supporters were trapped in their travel by the roaring Comoé river, a natural barrier between their former lands located in present-day Ghana and the territory that has since become Ivory Coast. Winter rains flooded the river, making it impassable.

The pursuers being only a few kilometers from them, a solution must be found. We then consult the manna. In desperation, Queen Abla Pokou raises her arms to the sky and turns to her soothsayer: “Tell us what the genius of this river requires to let us pass!” “And the old man replied:” Queen, the river is irritated, and it will not calm down until we have given it as an offering our most valuable gift. ».

Immediately, the women stretch out their ornaments of gold and ivory; men advance who their bulls, who their rams. But the soothsayer rejects all these offers and says, more and more sad: “Our dearest thing is our sons!” ” But no one wants to offer their child as a sacrifice. From then on, Abla Pokou understands that only the sacrifice of her own unique son can satisfy the geniuses of the river. Abla Pokou lifts the child above her, contemplates him one last time and precipitates him into the rumbling waves… Immediately after this irreversible gesture from the queen, the troubled waters of the Comoé calm down and withdraw to the knee , as if by magic, and the whole tribe crosses the river without hindrance.

After crossing, the queen turns around and whispers in a sob: “Ba wouli”, which literally means: “The child is dead. This sentence would later have given the name of the Baoulé people (ba wouli). Thus in memory of this child, the tribe of Abla Pokou would have been called “Baoulé”, and that the cradle of the Baoulé people received the name of Sakassou, in other words, “the place of the funeral”. From her birthplace in Ghana to her country of exile in Côte d’Ivoire, this queen remains celebrated in oral and written literature.

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