Porto-Novo

Porto-Novo is the official capital of the West African nation of Benin, and was the capital of French Dahomey.

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CountryBenin

Porto-Novo (also known as Hogbonou and Adjacé) is the official capital of the West African nation of Benin, and was the capital of French Dahomey. The commune covers an area of 110 square kilometres and as of 2002 had a population of 223,552 people.[1][2]

Porto-Novo is a port on an inlet of the Gulf of Guinea, in the southeastern portion of the country. It is Benin's second-largest city, and although Porto-Novo is the official capital, the city of Cotonou is not only larger but also more important, culturally and politically: Cotonou is the seat of government. The region around Porto-Novo produces palm oil, cotton and kapok. Petroleum was discovered off the coast of the city in the 1990s, and has become an important export.

History

Porto-Novo was once a tributary of the Yoruba kingdom of Oyo and there continues to be a sizable Yoruba community in Porto Novo today. The city's name is of Portuguese origin, meaning "New Port." It was originally developed as a port for the slave trade.

In 1863, the British, who were active in nearby Nigeria, bombarded the city, which persuaded the Kingdom of Porto-Novo to accept French protection. The neighboring Kingdom of Abomey objected to French involvement in the region and war broke out between the two states. In 1883, Porto-Novo was incorporated into the French "colony of Dahomey and its dependencies." In 1900, it became Dahomey's capital city.

The kings of Porto-Novo continued to rule in the city, both officially and unofficially, until the death of the last king, Alohinto Gbeffa, in 1976. From 1908, the king held the title of Chef supérieur.

Many Afro-Brazilians settled in Porto-Novo following their return to Africa after emancipation in Brazil. Brazilian architecture and foods are important to the city's cultural life.

Demographics

Porto Novo had an estimated population of 234,168 in 2005.

Population trend:

  • 1979: 133,168 (census)
  • 1992: 179,138 (census)
  • 2000: 210,400 (estimate)
  • 2002: 223,552 (estimate)
  • 2005: 234,168 (estimate)

Administrative divisions

  • 1st arrondissement
  • 2nd arrondissement
  • 3rd arrondissement
  • 4th arrondissement
  • 5th arrondissement

Landmarks



Mosque in Porto-Novo

  • The Porto Novo Museum of Ethnography contains a large collection of Yoruba masks, as well as items on the history of the city and of Benin.
  • King Toffa's Palace (also known as the Musée Honmé and the Royal Palace), now a museum, shows what life was like for African royalty.
  • Jardin Place Jean Bayol is a large plaza which contains a statue of the first King of Porto-Novo.
  • The da Silva Museum is a museum of Benin history. It shows what life was like for the returning Afro-Brazilians
  • The palais de Gouverneur (governor's palace) is the home of the national legislature.

Other sites of interest include a Brazilian-style church, which is now a mosque, and the Institute of Higher Studies of Benin. The Stade Municipale and the Stade Charles de Gaulle are the largest football stadiums in the city.

Porto-Novo is not far from the living history town of Ouidah. It is also near to Nigeria and to Cotonou, and is not far from Pendjari National Park, a natural habitat for many African animal species.

Adjogan

Adjogan music is endemic to Porto-Novo. The style of music is played on an alounloun, a stick with metallic rings attached which jingle in time with the beating of the stick. The alounloun is said to descend from the staff of office of King Te-Agdanlin. The music is played to honor the King and his ministers. The music is also played in the city's Roman Catholic churches, but the royal bird crest has been replaced with a cross.

Notable people

  • Anicet Adjamossi, footballer, was born here in 1985[3]
  • Kamarou Fassassi, politician was born here.
  • Samuel Oshoffa who founded the Celestial Church of Christ was born here in 1905.[4]
  • Paulin Soumanou Vieyra, director and author
  • Romuald Hazoume, artist

Economy

Porto-Novo has a cement factory. The city is home to a branch of the Banque Internationale du Bénin, a major bank in Benin, and the Ouando Market.

World Heritage Status

This site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on October 31, 1996 in the Cultural category.[5]