Traditional festivals in Benin
Gelede, Traditional Festival of the Fon and Yoruba people in South Benin
Gelede is a cult dedicated to Mother Earth. It is celebrated by the whole community to promote fertility of both the people and the soil. Each mask is sculpted and represents a different character but only the initiates know the true nature and secrets of those symbolic characters. The masks are brightly painted and move like puppets linking myths and moral stories through mime. It is both educational and quite hilarious. The delighted crowd laugh and clap their hands as they watch in appreciation. It is a fascinating mix of street theatre and magical theatre.
Egun, traditional Celebration of the Fon and Yoruba people in South Benin
Egun masks represent the spirits of the deceased and according to the locals; they "are" the deceased.
The men wearing the masks representing Egun are initiates of the cult. Dressed in brightly multicolored clothing, they emerge from the forest and form a procession through the streets of the village, leaping towards any foolish spectator who dares to get too close. You don’t want the Egun to touch you because if he does; there is a danger of death, so watch out! Some people touched by the Egun immediately collapse but fortunately they recover instantly. When they arrive, the masks perform a kind of bull fight which is designed to scare the crowd but instead is greeted with bursts of laughter!
Zangbeto, traditional Celebration of the Fon in South Benin
The Zangbeto mask is very tall and covered with colored straw. It represents wild non human spirits (the forces of nature and of the night that inhabited the Earth before human beings). The mask wearers belong to a secret society and keep their identity hidden as the non-initiated cannot know who they are. When Zangbeto comes out, it is a big important event for the village. Its performance guarantees protection against bad spirits and malicious people. The spinning movement of the mask symbolizes the spiritual cleaning of the village and Zangbeto also performs miracles to prove its powers.
Voodoo, a traditional religion on the Gulf of Guinea Coast
All along the coast of Benin and Togo, Voodoo, an animist religion, gathers a lot of followers together. Passed down by
Each year, January 10th is a special day in in Benin. Everybody celebrates the ancestral cults..
In particular, on January 10th, all the Voodoo’s adepts meet in Ouidah.
A long procession of the adepts, some by foot, some by motorbike, some by taxy brousse, moves to the Door of Non Return. All are dressed in traditional costumes , white is the dominant colour along with the colourful beads.
The festival has its peak with the arrival of the Dagbo Houno, the chief feticheur of Ouidah.
Dances, libations, masks (some official speech) feature the morning.
The first part of the festival ends at about 15h00 and then it continues in the city.
Peoples are never tired to exalting their voodoos. All of them reach a large square where the Eguns masks come togheter. Masks come for dancing, chasing away the bad spirits , and playing with people like a kind of "corrida".
In the evening Ouidah is exhausted but not yet fully satisfied. The festival goes on in the depths of the courtyards, waiting to meet again the next year so renewing the faith in Voodoo.
International Festival of the Dahomean Cultures - 10th edition from 8th to 16th Dec. 2012Dahomey King - author: Bruno Zanzottera
The international celebration of the Dahomean Cultures or Dahomey Festival is an event created by the City Council of Abomey in order to highlight the rich cultural diversity of the country and to enjoy a vibrating city 10 days a year in December!
It is from 8th to 16th December 2012 that the 10th edition of this great festival will take place, thus giving you the opportunity to experience the noble and rich culture of the ancient Kingdom of the Dahomey through songs, rhythms, dances and many other enchanting events.
Gandaxi Ceremony – Nov. 2012 – Mar. 2013
This is the most important ceremony performed by the King of the Dahomey. Each King has to organize a Gandaxi Ceremony at least once during his reign with the aim to show his people the extent of his wealth as well as the greatness of his mystic power.
The power of the king is based on two dimensions: a temporal dimension and a spiritual one represented by the voodoo religion.
The next Gandaxi will take place – after the last one was held 30 years ago – from November 2012 to March 2013 and will be divided into two periods lasting 4 ½ months altogether. The first month will be entirely devoted to organization and closed to the public. Then, great surprises will be waiting for us!!!