Thursday, April 12, 2012
Thursday April 12 approaching Togo The days are so busy, they just fly by, and sometimes it is difficult to find time to write. Yesterday we had a full day in Cotonau, Benin, the land of Voodun. Voodoo is completely misrepresented in the US. It is a religion that reveres ancestors. Trance and spirit possession are a part of the religion. "Christians go to church to speak to God, the Voodun got to temple to become God." Dancers and drummers were on the pier to greet us. We went to the largest village in Africa in a lake. When we arrived on the shore of the lake, there was a large fish market. Long wooden pirogues were constantly arriving and departing, and women were carrying baskets and buckets on their heads. The pirogues that we rode in we're considerably larger than the ones we rode upriver in Cameroon. The lake is shallow, and the houses are built on stilts. Children often do not set foot on the mainland until they go to school. The fisherman use hand thrown nets. The we're floating markets for fruits and vegetables,as well as clothing. As we pass houses on the main waterway in the village children would wave from windows and doorways. 33,000 people live here. Most families have 3 boats. One for the man to fish, one for the woman to go sell fish, and one for the children to get to school. The people paddle the boats, but when there is a breeze they set small square sails made of plastic in a variety of colors. On a small island we were entertained by a professional brass band. Brass bands are a legacy of the colonial era, and they are terrific. Later in the day we went on the slave trail in Ouida. Slaves were gathered here, kept in a fort for as long as 2 weeks, before being loaded and shipped off to Brazil, Cuba, and Haiti. The old Portuguese Fort is now a museum. Slaves were take to "the tree of forgetfulness," so that they would lose their memory of Africa. On the beach was the "Gate of no return.". Our guide, Kiki, emphasized that it was Africans who were complicit in slavery. The slave trade was the largest diaspora in history, with an estimated 11 million Africans transported to the Americas. Many more went to Brazil than to the US. From Ouida we went to the sacred forest. One day a king went into the forest and didn't return. Legend has it that he. Turned himself into a tree. We were greeted by dancers drummers, and told to wait until the voodoo priest and his entourage arrived to pour a libation on the ground before we could enter into the most sacred part of the forest. There were many statues representing voodoo gods. In a tree at the far edge of the forest were thousands of flying foxes,their chittering filling the air. On the return trip to the port the street scene in each village was a riot of color, with markets, and street side shops, zillions of motorcycles and always many people walking. New day, new country. Togo awaits.