''Explorer's Africa'' Voyage 7107 Day 16

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Day 16 - April 9, 2011 - Lomé, Togo

By Juan Carlos Restrepo, Geologist

Co-ordinates: N 06º08’30”, E 001º17’04”
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: 29ºC


Lomé, the capital of Togo, stretches along the coast for about 12 km between the Ghanaian boarder and the new Port of Lomé. During colonial times, eastern Togo was controlled by the French (it gained independence in 1960) and the western strip of the country was occupied by the British who annexed the territory to Ghana. This explains why the Ghanaian border is on the edge of Lomé.

This morning after spending the night alongside, we toured the city of Lomé, and today the theme of our excursions was Voodoo. Vodun or Voodoo (spirit in the Fon and Ewe languages) is a traditional organized religion of coastal West Africa from Nigeria to Ghana. In Vodun all creation is considered divine and therefore contains the power of the divine. This is how medicines such as herbal medicines are understood and explains the ubiquitous use of mundane objects in religious ritual. Voodoo talismans, called “fetishes” are objects such as statues or dried animal parts that are sold for their healing and spiritual rejuvenating properties

In this region, the religion of voodoo is still widely practiced as part of traditional daily life, and Lomé’s Fetish Market is the world’s largest single source for the ingredients needed to create the charms and potions the Togoan people believe provide good health, prosperity or protective powers.

Voodoo is often maligned or misunderstood as evil, yet its principles have commonalities with many native groups such as that all elements and creatures of nature – rocks, trees, animals – have spirits. For this reason, we saw many animal bones and skins as well as herbs at the Fetish Market and each guest will have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase their own “juju” – a specially selected talisman that a voodoo priest blesses to have spiritual powers or bring good luck. I had to get my own talisman of course, and from now on I shall not need to worry when traveling...

Following our visit to the Fetish market, we drove inland for about 45 minutes to a small village where a Voodoo ceremony was taking place. It was indeed a small village and when we got there the drummers were playing in full swing. Elders, young and children were congregated under a shade, and many of them were dressed up in their ceremonial outfits dancing and inviting us to dance. It was very interesting to watch the ceremony and the locals welcomed us warmly.

Since they knew we were coming, they had prepared for us a quite fancy outhouse, which was a tarp encircling a good old “Letrine” (hole in the ground) with a plush wooden seat in a metal tubing structure. Quite impressed. Outside there was water, soap and towels, which were greatly appreciated by many.

The ceremony went on for over an hour and we were all glued to the action -or playing with the kids- as they brought in different ceremonial objects and performed their lively rituals. After a while we had to depart to return to Lomé for sail away. The Police escorts on their fancy BMW motorcycles were making the trip back a breeze as they diverted traffic to ease our way and at the same time entertained us with some pretty impressive riding skills.

After lunch on board and a good nap for many, David Conrad gave a lecture entitled People’s and Cultures of the Mid Millennium - West African Empires. This very interesting lecture was followed by a Recap & Briefing and then dinner. It was a fascinating day and tomorrow we should have a great day exploring the Castles and forts of Ghana out of Takoradi. I can’t wait!

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