West African magic

  Magic is central to West African society. Every phenomenon, event or process is explained and enhanced by magic. This is a deeply animistic society where the traditional monotheistic religions play second fiddle to ancient animist beliefs. The Kabye blacksmiths, outstanding craftsmen famous throughout the region for forging metal with a 15 pound stone rather(…)

Benin: Brothers Grimm meet the Shire

  Travelling through the Somba country feels like a journey through a fairy tale book. The Tata Sombas which dot the countryside are tiny fortresses built by the Somba tribe, complete with high walls, little turrets and entrances which look like faces. Inside, small rooms with round openings and a network of tunnels make the(…)

Benin: Spirited Away

  Taneka could have been Michael Moorcock’s Tanelorn. A village founded hundreds of years ago by people fleeing inter-tribal wars in Northern Benin and meant to be a safe haven for all peoples. Founded by the Kabye people who were able to defeat a large enemy force with the help of a spirit army, Taneka(…)

Benin: of kings and horses

  The last stop of the Ebony Train is in Dassa, an ancient city built on 41 hills, each owned by a princely family. The families rotate to pick a King of Dassa. We meet with Hippolyte Zomahoun, the great grandson of King Adjiki of Dassa. Adjiki, in 1900, sheltered the last King of Dahomey,(…)

Benin: Death Masks

  Abomey was the capital of the ancient Dahomey empire which constantly waged war – both to grow its territory and to capture war prisoners to sell as slaves to the European powers. Dahomey was one of Africa’s most powerful and sophisticated empires covering most of modern Benin and France’s main obstacle to consolidating their(…)