On the way back from our tour today, our guide, Mark (or Kwame, as he told us is his African name – because he was born on a Sunday), led us in a song – “I will never forget Togo”, and for sure we never will. People of Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast typically name their children after the day of the week they were born.
West Africa is a place that most people never get to visit, and it has been extremely interesting and educational, if you go as an explorer and not a tourist. We have heard people saying things like “why did they take us to this country?”, “this tour was a rip off”, and even heard the story of one supposedly educated person who was convinced she got colitis from being at a voodoo ceremony!
Well, we have really appreciated visiting this part of the world, with all of its poverty, some countries’ corruption, unusual practices, delightful people and more.
Today was no exception. First, we were greeted by dancers and people in all sorts of costumes and three characters on stilts.
Then we continued our day at Togo’s capital city of Lomé which is the birthplace of the largest Voodoo market in the world – a kind of super supply store for fetishes, charms and anything else one might need for a ritual. The Akodessewa Fetish Market, or Marche des Feticheurs, is a place where you can find anything from leopard heads and human skulls to Voodoo priests who bless and create fetishes or predict the future and make medicines to heal whatever ails you. Mark said that they don’t actually sacrifice the animals, but they die of natural causes and are then brought to the market. In the practice of Voodoo every single creature is potent and divine, whether alive or dead, and in the Akodessewa Fetish Market you may find them all – monkeys, alligators, goats, leopards, gazelles, porcupine skins, snakes, hundreds of birds and many, many more – in various stages of decay and stacked up in macabre piles for blocks. Very unusual and for sure we won’t forget it.
Although the population of Togo is largely Christian, many of the people remain faithful to its religious ancestry of voodoo. Most of the items here are ingredients that traditional healers use for rituals or to make magic charms and potions, including herb-garnished animal parts. We even saw cages of live rats. (I don’t know what they use those for).
Want to know more? Click to read all about how this “white magic’ works. Click here
We then went on to a rural school. Although today is Sunday, they knew we were coming and the children were waiting, some in their classrooms reciting lessons or singing, and some outside. One guest brought balloons and the children delighted in seeing him blow them up and send them afloat – they all tried to catch them. Another guest brought lollipops. We were discouraged from giving the children money – in fact, adult guards were there to send the children away from us if they begged for money.
The big hit was my iphone! Every time I took a picture, the children swarmed around to get their pictures taken and then just loved seeing the pictures of themselves. They loved swiping the screen to look at all the shots. I have hundreds of pictures but will share just a few. We did leave a donation for the school Primary education of 6 years in length is mandatory here. The children go to school from 7:30 – 11:30 AM, go home for lunch and a rest and then come back from 3 – 5. Parents are not allowed to keep their children out of school.
We had two security guards on our bus, but there was never a hint of any problem at all. Our last stop was a rural village where we went to the ceremonial grounds and met the village’s royal court – a distinguished group that introduced us to the local monarch. We watched a folkdance performance to traditional drum music. I bought a necklace and bracelet made by the local women (in fact, one of them sized the bracelet for me while I waited.)
Again, the beautiful children here delighted in having their pictures taken and then looking at all of them. It was really fun to see the happy faces.
Yes, we will never forget Togo. I do hope we see some of the colorful fabric tomorrow in Ghana or on Tuesday in the Ivory Coast.
By the way, I didn’t mention that our artist in residence this segment is Anna Smith, the wife of David Smith who was our photography lecturer on the first segment of the tour. He is back as a lecturer and she is doing the art classes. She is a specialist in fabric art. I have made my very own voodoo doll, done fabric transfer from photos, made a wine bottle apron and more. Lots more projects to come.