We’d only been in Cotonou, Benin for about a week when we were treated to this Vodun (Voodoo) drumming and dancing escapade by the neighborhood kids. The drumming had drawn us out to our hotel’s patio, but the show definitely made us stay.
Ironically, this performance happened on Christmas Day, which they also celebrated.
Note the drummers across the street – I believe they’re mostly one family unit. Of course, family in Benin can be quite extended, so the group probably came from multiple households. I’m speculating here, just to be clear.
On a side note, one day I needed a haircut and the family sent on of the boys to show me where the place was. He was about 10 years old. They weren’t going to just point me in the right direction, they were going to make sure I was well taken care of. It’s not that Cotonou was unsafe, after I learned my way around I walked alone all the time, it was simple hospitality that garnered me the escort.
Vodun, or Voodoo, is widely practiced in Benin, often alongside other religions in the same households. Some people are open about it, while others hide their traditional beliefs from the other religious leaders. Considering there’s a big Catholic church right across the street from the famous Python Temple in Ouidah (pronounced: wee-dah), and people are know to attend church and then cross the street to go to the Python Temple, I think it’s more like one of those secrets everybody knows.
We saw several Vodun rituals while we were here and these kids are developing a good dancing game.
Whenever people walked by, the kids, acting out their parts, ‘terrorized’ them until they received a small offering. Though I will say that in Vodun, once someone puts on the mask, they become the entity that the mask represents. Some people might actually have been scared. The kids even got a tip from a guy who paused too long on his motorbike.
We stayed watching long enough that we had to tip them several times. When we ran out of small money, we shared cookies, which I think they liked better. They didn’t have to give all the cookies to the older kids. I think the donation money from us and passresby went into the family coffers, or maybe for offering at their temple.
Benin is an interesting country with really awesome, friendly people. It’s well worth a visit unto itself, but if you’re going to West Africa, Benin-Togo-Ghana makes for a great tour.
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To visit Benin and learn more about Vodun culture: https://bit.ly/3nXiUXN