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Today’s guest is Onwe Press co-founder Reni K Amayo! She’s also the author of “Andromeda,” a short story about the titular Ethiopian goddess, and Daughters of Nri, the first book in the Return of the Earth Mother series. Daughters of Nri, a young adult fantasy novel set in an ancient kingdom located in present-day Nigeria, is an enchanting story about twin sisters unaware of each other’s existence—or the fact that they are goddesses!—with beautifully handled themes centering community and connection.

Daughters of Nri by Reni K Amayo Book Cover

Why We Should All Know More About African Mythology
By Reni K Amayo

Athena was the first deity that I remember learning about in school. I knew her to be the alluring goddess of wisdom, arts and strategic warfare, and I was completely enthralled. Frankly, I still get quite a bit excited when I come across her in literature and art. As a young, impressionable and (annoyingly) enthusiastic feminist, Athena with her wit and strength appealed greatly to me. She was evidence that even back in 900 B.C. someone viewed women as wise and strategic. I put aside her terrible treatment of Medusa, a woman punished for being sexually assaulted, and her general disregard for human life, and instead focused on her display of feminine strength and power.

It took a few years before my interest in Roman and Greek mythology sparked a question that I would later discover to be one of the most important that I have ever asked — where are the African myths? For a long time, I believed that they didn’t exist. Outside of the Egyptians, ancient African mythology seemed obscure and non-existent; it stood in my mind as a blank canvas to the exquisite masterpiece that was ancient western mythology. I was so very wrong. In due time I realised that every single continent was rich with colourful and intricate mythology of its own.

From India’s Parvati, a manifestation of the all-powerful divine feminine energy of the universe, Shakti, according to Hindu mythology. To China’s Wangmu Niangniang, the goddess of happiness and longevity who could boast of a magical peach tree that kept the people who ate its fruit perpetually young. And then, of course, there’s Ala, the Igbo earth goddess who completely embodied duality, ruling the underworld while also being credited for fertility, often depicted with a baby in one hand and a sword in another. Her nature, in part, inspired me to write Daughters of Nri, the first book in the Return of the Earth Mother series. Once I discovered African mythology, I became insatiable. I dug through various texts and pieces on the subject, and soon enough, I began to piece together a picture of African history that vastly exceeded the next-to-nothing I had learnt in school.

Stephen H. Furrer once said that myths are “a kind of poetry that helps us make sense of the world and our place in it”, and I think nothing is more true. Myths have given us a medium to understand and explore civilisation in ancient Rome and Greece; we can attribute them for giving us the Olympics, the water mill and the theatre. If we could only dive more in-depth into ancient Africa, we would also discover Mali’s pioneering university systems, the earliest development of Mathematics in Eswatini and incredible medical advances still being used today, with the first known surgery performed in ancient Egypt. We would uncover a history not narrowly focused on slavery and oppression, but filled with fascinating discoveries, compelling stories and heroic feats.

I genuinely believe that we are doing ourselves a disservice by limiting our “World history” to the West. The more we know of ancient histories, mythologies and people, the more we paint an accurate picture of our past, which will no doubt assist us as we shape what could be an exceptionally better future.

Reni K Amayo Photo Reni K Amayo is a British Nigerian author and co-founder of Onwe Press, an independent publisher focused on amplifying diverse voices and express under-represented ideologies across all creative industries. Reni was born and raised in London to two Nigerian immigrant parents. She has spent many years studying the intricacies of different African, specifically Nigerian, cultures, mythology & anthropology to unearth a rich history that has been obscured and forgotten across the globe. Reni’s debut novel Daughters of Nri is set in ancient Igbo land and follows two twin goddesses who have been separated at birth on their epic journey of self-discovery as they embark on a path back to one another.