#DecolonizeBookshelves2022 Books Early Readers Features Genre Lifespan of a Reader Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes

[Nonfiction Wednesday] Meet Idia Of The Benin Kingdom

Queen Mother, Warrior, Healer, Dancer.

Myra here.

We are delighted to dedicate our Wednesdays to featuring nonfiction titles, as per usual. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading theme throughout the year, when we can.

This year, we hope to feature books that fit any of the following criteria:

  1. Postcolonial literature and/or [pre/post] revolutionary stories
  2. Stories by indigenous / first-nation peoples / people of colour
  3. Narratives of survival and healing, exile and migration, displacement and dispossession
  4. Books written or illustrated by people who have been colonized, oppressed, marginalized

March is Women’s History Month. Thus, I will do my best to feature lives of outstanding women while also finding narratives that fit our #DecolonizeBookshelves2022 reading theme.

Idia Of The Benin Kingdom (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Ekiuwa Aire Illustrated by Alina Shabelnyk
Published by: Our Ancestories (2020) ISBN: 1777117909 (ISBN13: 9781777117900). Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

The story of Idia, the daughter of a village elder and a warrior father and a healer mother, started off with a strange dream of a woman warrior in a battle. This woman also healed the sick when the war was over.

This dream remained in Idia’s mind for quite awhile, and prompted her to ask her warrior father for more information about what it is like to be in a battle, the significance of the “warriors’ secret ceremonies” and why wars happen in the first place.

Similar to the story that we have featured a few weeks back of Njinga of Ndongo and Matamba, Idia’s father did not dismiss her curiosity, but promised to educate her about the science and art of being a warrior, under one condition: that she does not stop dancing. Idia was a graceful dancer, known for her sense of rhythm and confidence.

Idia also asked her mother about what it is like to heal the sick, about “plants and healing, magic and medicine.” Her mother promised to teach her about all these things under one condition: that Idia performs all her chores dutifully, which she did. I truly enjoyed how Idia had to earn being an “apprentice” of her parents, indicative of her keen motivation and desire to learn, as she tries to make sense of what her dream meant.

I also liked how the story revolved more around Idia’s childhood and the training and support that she got from her parents – until she eventually became the woman that she dreamed of as an adult: a Mother Queen of the Benin kingdom, a fierce warrior, a gifted healer, and a graceful dancer.


#DecolonizeBookshelves2022 Update: 27 out of target 100

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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