“Yennenga, tree from which the Mossi people grew” Yennenga was the daughter of Madega the legendary 12th century ruler of the kingdom of Dagbon in what is now northern Ghana. A powerful warrior in her own right, Yennenga lead soldiers into battle at the age of only 14. Matchless with the bow and spear, she was a legendary horsewoman who won many battles in her father’s name. When she came of age and expressed the desire to marry, her father refused. In protest, she planted and entire crop of Okra and let it rot in the field to show how she felt her life was withering away and her time to start her own family was passing her by. Her father was unmoved, so she escaped her father’s compound disguised as a man. Upon leaving her father’s kingdom she met a young Malinke prince and elephant hunter named Riale. They fell in love and had a son Ouedraogo, who became the first Mogho Naba (king) of the Mossi empire. Though Ouedraogo was the their first king the Mossi credit Yennenga as the founder of their nation and the royal horseman of Mossiland, to this day still carry her legacy forward.
“One who Descended to the earth on the Iron Chain” “Lawgiver of The Earth” Oduduwa is the legendary first Ooni (king) of Ile Ife the ancient center of the Yoruba civilization, located in what is now southwestern Nigeria and eastern Benin Republic. The identity and even gender of this legendary figure differs depending on where in Yorubaland you hear the story. Although there are various legends surrounding this enigmatic leader, the most commonly recorded legend claims that he was one of the Orisa, ancient spirits of natural and civilizing forces, worshipped by the Yoruba people and their descendants in the Americas. In a popular legend his brother Obatala was tasked with the creation of the world, but became drunk off of palm wine and failed to complete his task. Olodumare, The supreme being then sent Oduduwa in his stead. Oduduwa descended into the world on the Iron chain holding a snail shell, and accompanying him was the rooster and the Chameleon. When he arrived on the earth he upturned the snail shell and sand poured forth. The rooster (akuko) then spread the sand to the four corners of the world and the chameleon (Oga) tested the stability of the earth with its careful steps. Yoruba historians have interpreted the legend to be a metaphor for ancient conflicts between warring dynasties vying for power over Ile-Ife and its vast resources. The story also mythologizes the consolidation of Ile-Ife into one of Nigeria’s earliest metropolises. His son’s and daughters dispersed from Ife founding the 16 ancient Yoruba kingdoms. Whichever legend you choose to believe, Oduduwa’s place in Yoruba history cannot be denied. He is so important that the Yoruba people often refer to themselves as Omo Oduduwa (the children of Oduduwa).