Tour to Ghana, Togo, Benin: Millet Festival and Egun dancing masks
- The celebration of the Millet Festival, among the Krobo people, is an incredible feast,rich in colours and jewels, taking place every year during the harvest season.The Egungun is a very powerful masks secret society, intensively coloured masks are coveredwith a multitude of pieces of cloth of many red shades.Apart from these specific festivals, a journey in these lands is a fantastic cultural odysseyto discover lost tribal worlds guided by ancient spirits.Along the coast, in the heart of voodoo country, we visit practitioners, we watch trance-dancesand we learn about the great influence voodoo spirits still have on people.
Heading inland through northern savannah, we discover the Taneka tribe on a rocky mountain, then
the Tamberma with their fairy-tale clay castles and finally we enter the Ashanti kingdom in Kumasi.
We end our tour exploring the former Slave Coast, with its haunting European forts.
Indeed one of the most complete and spectacular tours in West Africa.
Great experience combined with the choice of good accommodation.
For travelers who want to get acquainted with this incredible region in a very special moment!
- Duration: 13 days
- Guide: english speaking
Arrival in Accra
Upon arrival at the Accra airport in Ghana, you will be assisted with your baggage and transferred to your hotel.
Accra, the capital of Ghana, has maintained its unique identity despite the fast paced development currently underway in this intriguing African city. The program includes a visit to the National Museum, we explore the old quarter of James Town, inhabited by the local population known as the Ga. Our tour ends with the visit of a workshop where they specialize in building fantasy coffins.
Lomé, the vibrant capital of Togo is indeed a cross point for people, trade and cultures, a cosmopolitan city in small size. We will visit: the central market with its famous “Nana Benz”, women who control the market of the expensive “pagne” (=cloths); the colonial buildings in the administrative quarter where the flavour of colonial time is still very present; and the fetish market where we can find an eclectic assortment of all the necessary ingredients for love potions and magical concoctions.
In a remote hidden village we will join in a Voodoo ceremony: the frenetic rhythm of the drums and the chants of the adepts help calling in the voodoo spirit who then takes possession of some of the dancers. They fall into a deep trance: eyes rolling back, grimaces, convulsions, insensitivity to fire or pain.
VILLAGES ON STILTS
We reach Ganvie, the largest and most beautiful African village on stilts. The village has managed to preserve its traditions and environment despite the long-lasting human presence in a closed setting. Life unfolds each day around the canoes that men, women and children guide with ease using brightly colored poles. It is with these canoes that men fish, women deliver goods to the market and children go to school and play.
Drive to Ouidah who enjoys an Afro-Portuguese architectur and the python temple faces the Catholic Cathedral. The laid back attitude of the locals blends in harmoniously with the thunder of the distant waves and the rhythm of the drums – a timeless atmosphere very well described by Bruce Chatwin in his book “The Vice-Roy of Ouidah”. On foot we visit the Python Temple and the Portuguese Fort, now a museum on the history of Ouidah and the slave trade. We end our city tour by following the “slave road” to the beach, the point of “no return” where slaves used to board ships
We move to Abomey where we visit the Royal Palace. The walls of the palace are decorated with bas-reliefs representing symbols of the ancient Dahomey kings. Now a museum listed on the Unesco World Heritage List, it displays items belonging to the ancient kings: thrones, cult altars, statues, costumes and weapons.
Egun dancing masks. The Egungun is a very powerful masks secret society. Egun masks are the reincarnation of deceased people and are known and feared for their aggressiveness and their unpredictable way of moving around. They emerge from the forest and form a procession through the streets of the village, leaping towards any foolish spectator who dares getting too close. And nobody wants to be touched by the Egun because any contact carries the danger of death. Better watch out! When the masks arrive they perform a kind of bull fight designed to scare the crowd but in truth they are actually greeted with bursts of laughter!
We stop at the Dankoli Fetish, an important place for the Voodoo cult: thousands of little sticks are pushed in the fetish as testimony of the countless prayers for a good harvest, a happy wedding, an easy delivery, success at school etc. In the afternoon we discover old Taneka villages located on a mountain with the same name. The villages are made up of round houses covered with a conical roof protected at the top by a terra cotta pot. The upper part of the village is inhabited by the young initiated and by the fetish priests who only cover themselves with a goat skin and always carry a long pipe
We enter the land of the Somba & Tamberma who live in fortified dwellings. Similar in form to medieval castles, they are one of the most beautiful examples of ancient African architecture. Their strong tradition beliefs are proved by the presence of big shrines – of phallic form – at the entrance of their homes. With the permission granted to us by the inhabitants we enter their homes to better understand their way of life.
In the evening, fire dance. At the centre of the village a large fire lights up the faces of the participants, they dance to the hypnotic beat of the drums eventually leaping into the glowing embers, picking up burning coals, passing them over their bodies and even putting them in their mouths … all this without hurting themselves or showing any sign of pain. It’s difficult to explain such a performance. Is it matter of courage? Self suggestion? Magic? Maybe it really is the fetishes that protect them from the fire.
We stop in Atakpame, a typical African town built on hills where all the products coming from the nearby forests can be found. Through their skilled work on small weaving looms, men of the region make the large brightly coloured fabric called “Kente”.
From Atakpame we move to the tropical forests surrounding Kpalime, a town with a rich colonial past which is now an important trade center. Visit of the market and of the arts center.
At night, walk in the forest to discover the mysterious world of the tropical forest in the darkness and so meet with the majesty of the tropical trees, the sounds of tam-tams and the echoes of wild animals. Under the guidance of a local entomologist, we will learn about endemic butterflies and insects.
The Monkey Sanctuary of Tafi Atome was created to protect a community of sacred monkeys living in the forest. We will take a lovely walk in the forest lead by a local guide to encounter this great community of Monas and Colobus monkeys.
The area of Krobo is famous all over the world for its beads. Here they are produced and used for cults and aesthetic purposes. We will visit a factory specialized in the production of those beads and even follow the process of making one!
A day fully dedicated to enjoy the incredible atmosphere of the spectacular Millet Festival, a celebration full of colors and jewels.
The festival consists in seven days of religious and social celebration during which people renew their love, unity and solidarity and express their gratitude to God for all the blessings received (good harvests, abundance, good health and protection from enemy).
This festival also provides youth with the opportunity to learn their culture, make friends and choose spouses.
Traditional chiefs arrive with their entire court and are dressed in their most beautiful attires; an enthusiastic crowd surrounds them and the parade is accompanied by the rhythm of the drums.
The friendly behavior of the crowds will give us a unique opportunity to feel part of a real African ceremony
Kumasi is the historical and spiritual capital of the old Ashanti Kingdom. The tribute paid today to the Asantehene (=King) is the best evidence of their past splendour and strength. With nearly one million inhabitants, Kumasi is a sprawling city with a fantastic central market, one of the biggest in Africa. Every type of Ashanti craft (leather goods, pottery, Kente cloth) is found here, along with just about every kind of tropical fruit and vegetable.
In the afternoon we participate – if available – in a traditional Ashanti funeral, attended by mourners wearing beautifully red or black togas. We say “funerals” but it means a “festive” celebration: the deceased in fact is believed to be still with his/her family and through this ceremony he/she becomes an ancestor. Relatives and friends gather, socialize and celebrate his/her memory. The chief arrives surrounded by his court under the shade of large umbrellas while drums give rhythm to the dancers whose intricate moves are highly symbolic.
Drive to the coast and visit of Elmina Castle, the oldest European building in Africa. At different times the castle has been used as a warehouse to trade gold, ivory, and eventually slaves. The castle we visit today is the result of successive extension works and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Outside the castle, a wonderful fishing village with lots of large colorful fishing boats – every day these canoes are guided by skilled fishermen across strong ocean waves and currents, “fighting” to earn a living.
In the morning, we will experience the thrill of a “canopy walk” right in the deep forest of Kakum National Park: one of the world highest suspended rope bridges held by steel cables. Perched 37 meters (120 feet) above the earth, you will enjoy a stunning view of the rainforest – instead of unveiling their trunks, trees will reveal their tops!
In the late morning drive to Accra and in the evening transfer to the airport for the flight out.