Traditional Day or Fête du Vodoun
The practice of Vodun originated in Benin, which has led to the Vodun (Voodoo) festival in Ouidah, annually on January 10th
Ancestral deities which are the foundation of various forms of traditional religion are celebrated with singing, chanting, dancing, libation and speeches.
Adventure – Travelling with an organized bus full of 19 people heading to Benin was an adventure. We had to stay overnight in Togo because the Benin boarders were closed til Monday morning, due to general elections. But we entertained ourselves with stories, singing, snacking and sleeping. We stayed in Ouidah for a few days and spent the remainder 3 days in Cotonou.
The festival – There are various indigenous aspects happening in other parts of Benin, but the festival took place in the main square near the beach side in Ouidah. It was very crowded and touristy, less market vendors, more speeches and lots of media reps. There was some cultural displays of dancing and singing which was pleasant to watch.
Ganvie – village on water. Ganvie is about 45 min north of Cotonou. To get to Ganvie village, you need to board a boat at Abomey. We paid 7 cfa per person and 10 cfa for a guide.
During the 16th-18th century enslavement was active in the Fon and Dahomey Kingdoms. The Tofinu community escaped and fled onto Lake Nokoue where they found refuge and protection. There is a tale that the soldiers feared Lake Nokoue and believed a demon lived in the water. The Tofinu constructed homes suspended above the water level with sticks and natural sources. They are now subscribed as the ‘water people of Benin’.
Even after the enslavement trade, many continued to live on the lake. Their main means of living is fishing but now also tourism. There are scattered but orderly fishing sections along the bank of the river, before you reach the buildings on stilts.
The entrepreneur women row the pirogues back and forth up the lake to display and sell their goods at a floating market.
There are businesses such as hairdressers, seamstress, retail shops, a hospital, schools, religious quarters and nearby on the mainland a cemetery. There is a big old wooden structure that consisted of a very old hotel with several rooms, restaurant and an art shop.
Due to their diet many tend to live a good age even passed 100 years old. Children learn to swim from 3yrs old. It is now believed that there is a population of 40k people living on Lake Nokoue. Our guide Zegueli Jean Admel was very knowledgeable. We spent about 1hr 30mins at Ganvie village before heading back to the mainland.
Amazon Monument – A metal statue covered in bronze with an overall height of 30m now perpetuates the warrior women of the ancient Kingdom of Danxomè (Dahomey). The statue carries a machete and a rifle reminiscent of their alleged motto, “Win or Die.”
The Amazon Monument was constructed in 2022. – As a Symbol of love and commitment to the country, the Amazons knew, by their bravery to defend the country as much as men. Beninese women are our pride.
Cotonou Memories. I visited Benin in June 2019 for my birthday and to the festival in 2020, so have visited many sites. It was good to visit Ibrahim at his shop in the art centre in Cotonou, where I purchased my Mami Wata statue. As well as travelled around to many familiar spots and discover new developments whilst in Fidjrosse.
It was truly an adventure of roots and culture
Bless Sister E