Bight of Benin

Bight of Benin

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The Bight of Benin is a bight
Bight (geography)
In geography, bight has two meanings. A bight can be simply a bend or curve in any geographical feature—usually a bend or curve in the line between land and water....

 on the western African coast that extends eastward for about 400 miles (640 km) from Cape St. Paul to the Nun outlet of the Niger River
Niger River
The Niger River is the principal river of western Africa, extending about . Its drainage basin is in area. Its source is in the Guinea Highlands in southeastern Guinea...

. To the east it is continued by the Bight of Bonny
Bight of Bonny
The Bight of Bonny is a bight off the West African coast, in the easternmost part of the Gulf of Guinea...

 (formerly Bight of Biafra). The bight is part of the Gulf of Guinea
Gulf of Guinea
The Gulf of Guinea is the northeasternmost part of the tropical Atlantic Ocean between Cape Lopez in Gabon, north and west to Cape Palmas in Liberia. The intersection of the Equator and Prime Meridian is in the gulf....

. The Republic of Benin
Republic of Benin
The short-lived Republic of Benin, in Nigeria's coastal Bight of Benin, was named after its capital Benin City. It was known as Mid-Western state in Nigeria until August 1967 when it was occupied by Biafra as its forces advanced towards Lagos...

 and this bight were both named after the Benin Empire
Benin Empire
The Benin Empire was a pre-colonial African state in what is now modern Nigeria. It is not to be confused with the modern-day country called Benin, formerly called Dahomey.-Origin:...

.

On December 25, 2003, UTA Flight 141
UTA Flight 141
UTA Flight 141 was a charter flight operated by Union des Transports Aériens de Guinée.On 25 December 2003 the airplane crashed in the Bight of Benin, killing 151 of the 163 occupants, most of them Lebanese....

 crashed in the Bight.

Historical connotation of the region with both the African
African slave trade
Systems of servitude and slavery were common in many parts of Africa, as they were in much of the ancient world. In some African societies, the enslaved people were also indentured servants and fully integrated; in others, they were treated much worse...

 and the Atlantic slave trade
Atlantic slave trade
The Atlantic slave trade, also known as the trans-atlantic slave trade, refers to the trade in slaves that took place across the Atlantic ocean from the sixteenth through to the nineteenth centuries...

, was high to the point of the region become known as the Slave Coast
Slave Coast
The Slave Coast is the name of the coastal areas of present Togo, Benin and western Nigeria, a fertile region of coastal Western Africa along the Bight of Benin. In pre-colonial time it was one of the most densely populated parts of the African continent...

. Like in many other regions across Africa, powerful indigenous kingdoms along the Bight of Benin relied heavily on a long established slave trade
African slave trade
Systems of servitude and slavery were common in many parts of Africa, as they were in much of the ancient world. In some African societies, the enslaved people were also indentured servants and fully integrated; in others, they were treated much worse...

, which expanded greatly after the arrival of European powers and turned into a global trade with the colonization of the Americas.

Cultural references


The Bight of Benin is known for its fearsome tides and has a long association with slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

, its shore being known as the Slave Coast
Slave Coast
The Slave Coast is the name of the coastal areas of present Togo, Benin and western Nigeria, a fertile region of coastal Western Africa along the Bight of Benin. In pre-colonial time it was one of the most densely populated parts of the African continent...

.

An old rhyme says:
Beware, beware the Bight of the Benin, for few come out though many go in.


A variation goes:
Beware beware, the Bight of Benin: one comes out, where fifty went in!


This is said to be a slavery jingle or sea shanty
Sea shanty
A shanty is a type of work song that was once commonly sung to accompany labor on board large merchant sailing vessels. Shanties became ubiquitous in the 19th century era of the wind-driven packet and clipper ships...

 about the risk of malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

 in the Bight. A third version of the couplet is
Beware and take care of the Bight of Benin. There's one comes out for forty goes in."


The author Philip McCutchan has written a book titled "Beware, beware the Bight of Benin."

A short story
Short story
A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas and novels. Short story definitions based on length differ somewhat, even among professional writers, in part because...

 by Elizabeth Coatsworth
Elizabeth Coatsworth
Elizabeth Jane Coatsworth was an American author of children's fiction and poetry. Her novel The Cat Who Went to Heaven won the 1931 Newbery Medal....

, "The Forgotten Island" (1942), deals with a treasure from Benin. A variation of the rhyme is also mentioned.

In Patrick O'Brian's
Patrick O'Brian
Patrick O'Brian, CBE , born Richard Patrick Russ, was an English novelist and translator, best known for his Aubrey–Maturin series of novels set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars and centred on the friendship of English Naval Captain Jack Aubrey and the Irish–Catalan physician Stephen...

 novel The Commodore
The Commodore (novel)
The Commodore is an historical novel set during the Napoleonic Wars, written by British author Patrick O'Brian and published by HarperCollins in 1995. It is the seventeenth volume in the Aubrey-Maturin series. The novel features the adventures of naval commander Jack Aubrey, and his friend, ship's...

 (1996), Dr. Maturin recites the rhyme when he learned of his ship's destination. Commodore Aubrey checks him, telling him it is bad luck to say that out loud on the way in.

The rhyme is also partially quoted in chapter Context(6) of John Brunner
John Brunner (novelist)
John Kilian Houston Brunner was a prolific British author of science fiction novels and stories. His 1968 novel Stand on Zanzibar, about an overpopulated world, won the 1968 Hugo Award for best science fiction novel. It also won the BSFA award the same year...

's novel Stand on Zanzibar
Stand on Zanzibar
Stand on Zanzibar is a dystopian New Wave science fiction novel written by John Brunner and first published in 1968. The book won a Hugo Award for Best Novel at the 27th World Science Fiction Convention in 1969, as well as the 1969 BSFA Award and the 1973 Prix Tour-Apollo Award.-Description:A...

. The Bight of Benin (as well as the fictional republic of Beninia) is mentioned throughout the novel.

In 2007, a collection of short stories entitled The Bight of Benin: Short Fiction by Kelly J. Morris was published by AtacoraPress.com. The stories are set in Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria.

Avant-garde
Avant-garde
Avant-garde means "advance guard" or "vanguard". The adjective form is used in English to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics....

 musician Buckethead
Buckethead
Brian Carroll , better known by his stage name Buckethead, is a guitarist and multi instrumentalist who has worked within several genres of music. He has released 34 studio albums, four special releases and one EP. He has performed on over 50 more albums by other artists...

's song "The Bight of Benin" off the album Albino Slug
Albino Slug
-Trivia:* The drum track of the song "The Redeem Team" is used on the song "Broken Mirror" from the 2009 album A Real Diamond in the Rough.-Credits:* Buckethead – Guitars and slug decoloration* Dan "Brewer" Monti – Programming & production...

(2008) is named after this area.

History


On 1 February 1852 the British established the Bight of Benin British protectorate
Protectorate
In history, the term protectorate has two different meanings. In its earliest inception, which has been adopted by modern international law, it is an autonomous territory that is protected diplomatically or militarily against third parties by a stronger state or entity...

, under the authority of Consul
Consul (representative)
The political title Consul is used for the official representatives of the government of one state in the territory of another, normally acting to assist and protect the citizens of the consul's own country, and to facilitate trade and friendship between the peoples of the two countries...

s of the Bight of Benin:
Term Protectorate
May 1852–1853 Louis Fraser
1853 – April 1859 Benjamin Campbell
April 1859–1860 George Brand
1860 – January 1861 Henry Hand
January 1861 – May 1861 Henry Grant Foote
May 1861 – 6 August 1861 William McCoskry (acting)


On 6 August 1861 the Bight of Biafra protectorate (see there for their common further history) and Bight of Benin protectorate were joined as a united British protectorate, ultimately to be merged into Nigeria