Tour to Ghana, Togo, Benin : Yam Festival
Yam is one of main ingredients of the stable diet in West Africa. In August, the population of Central Regions of Benin gather together around notables and kings to celebrate a ritual of continuity: eating together the new tubers bring two meanings. One the one hand it means thanking the gods and the ancestors for the good harvest and on the other hand it means asking for this to continue for the coming years.
We attend to a unique festival of gathering of people, performances of traditional dances and colourful markets.
Our fantastic cultural odyssey to the most remote regions of Ghana, Togo and Benin to discover lost tribal worlds ruled by traditional chiefs and ancient spirits.
Apart from the main traditional event, participants to the tour will always attend the following events:
– an interesting voodoo ceremony
– a spectacular fire dance
– an “Ashanti funeral”: festive celebration that consecrates the return of the spirit of an ancestor.
For travellers who want to get acquainted with this unique region … and love Africa!
- Duration: 13 days
- Guide: English, Italien, German
Arrival in Lome (Togo) and transfer to the hotel.
Free time to relax.
FETISH MARKET and VOODOO
Lome, city tour
Lome, the vibrant capital of Togo, is the only African city having been colonized by Germans, British and French. It is also one of the few capitals in the world to be on the border with another nation. These elements have led to the development of a special identity reflected in the life style of its inhabitants and in the architecture of the town. Lome is a cross point for people, trade and cultures, a cosmopolitan city in small size.
We will pay special attention to:
The central market with its famous Nana Benz, women who have concentrated in their hands the market of expensive pagne (=cloths) coming from Europe and sold all over West Africa (it has been partially destroyed by a fire); The colonial buildings in the administrative quarter with a flavor of colonial time; The fetish market where one can find an eclectic assortment of all the necessary ingredients for love potions and magical concoctions.
In a remote hidden village we will join 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. In this narrow village, surrounded by the magic atmosphere of the ceremony, we will finally understand what people mean when they say: “In your Churches you pray God; in our voodoo shrine we become God!”
Drive to Ouidah. Ouidah was conquered by the Dahomey army during the 18th century to become one of the main slave ports. Today Ouidah enjoys an Afro-Portuguese architecture. The laid back attitude of the locals blends in harmoniously with the thunder of the distant waves and the rhythm of the drums .By 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 cross Lake Nokwe with a motorized boat to reach Ganvie, the largest and most beautiful African village on stilts. The approximately 25,000 inhabitants of the Tofinou ethnic group build their huts on teak stilts and cover the roofs with a thick layer of leaves. Fishing is their main activity. The village has managed to preserve its traditions and environment despite the long-lasting human presence in a closed setting; and the lake is not over-fished. 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.
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. In the middle of the royal courtyard there is a temple built with a mixture of clay, gold dust and human blood.
We join a village to participate to Yam festival.
From libations on new crops to festive lunch and final dances in the afternoon.
Full insight into a village celebration.
Meeting with Celestial Church: interesting example religious syncretism mixing voodoo and Christianity. We will meet the people, the priests, attending exorcism, prophesies and trances.
Departure for a long but intense day. First stop will be at 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 will head southwards, with a stop on the way 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. Walk in the forest to discover the mysterious world of the tropical forest 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.
Krobo tribe is known for its glass beads. Krobo people produce and wear glass beads for ceremonies and aesthetic purposes. We will visit an artisan community of beads producers and even experience the process of making our own bead. The craftsmen has been producing beads following the same long lasting traditional technique for centuries. They use scrap glass that is grounded into a fine powder. The glass powder is then meticulously made into patterns and placed into hand-made clay moulds covered in kaolin. The beads are cooked then decorated, washed and eventually strung.
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.
The program includes a visit to the Ashanti Cultural Centre: a rich collection of Ashanti artefacts.
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.
In the morning continuation of the tour of Kumasi, with the visit to the Royal Palace Museum hosting a unique collection of gold jewels worn by the Ashanti court. In the afternoon visit to some Ashanti villages with traditional clothing and carving
Elmina Castle is 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 is found a wonderful fishing village and its harbor full of large colorful fishing canoes.
Every day these canoes are guided by skilled fishermen who face the strong ocean for a living. The alleys in the old town have a lively atmosphere, going back to a time when Elmina was a wild colonial town.
Accra city tour
Accra, the capital of Ghana, has maintained its unique identity despite the fast-paced development currently underway in this intriguing African city. We explore the old quarter of James Town, inhabited by the local population known as the Ga. Our tour ends with the visit to a workshop where they are specialized in building fantasy coffins. These special handcrafted coffins can reflect any shape: fruits, animals, fish, cars, airplanes…. the only limit being imagination! Started in Africa, these flamboyant coffin designs are now collected worldwide and exposed in museums.