Animals are prominently ubiquitous in the Benin peoples' cosmologies. These philosophies associate animals with the transformation of the primordial chaos into a livable world, human beings, and the supernatural. In this context, specific animals are used in religious rituals to express the concepts of authority, supremacy, and nobility. Metaphorically speaking, the Oba (monarch) who rules over other monarchs is an Ekpen (leopard). Ekpen is an integral part of Benin's worldview and recurrently compares the Oba (ekpen-n'owa, the house-leopard personified) with the ekpenn'oha (wild leopard). Yet, studies in African Religion undermine the symbolic representation of the Oba as ekpen-n'owa. This article explores the place of animals in Benin's worldview and its tripartite composition: animals, humans, and the supernatural. It analyzes the meaningful status of ekpen-n'owa vis-à-vis the ekpen-n'oha. It theorizes that ekpen signifies the Oba's dread and concludes with the potential reasoning behind the Oba's signification as a living deity.
Idumwonyi, Itohan. “Ekpen-n’owa: Conceptualizing the Human-Animal Relationship in the Benin Peoples’ Worldview.” Concilium 4 (2022): 113–23.