Blind, Voodoofestival, Filmfestival and coup d’État

Last Friday I visited one of the seeing disabled from the blind center at home.
It was interesting to talk with him and we also visited a blind, old couple. They
both cannot work and have been supported by the blind center so far, but that is
soon going to be cut down and they do not know about their future, since it is
also quite difficult for their neighbours to also support them if even getting water
from the well to drink or wash is an act. When they were at church some time ago
some people even stole their food and coal. It is just so unjust!

On sunday I wanted to visit the voodoo festival with Michael, since we had missed
the small one in Aneho, but since he is looking for another organisation right now
to do his civil service he had an appointment on monday morning, so I either had to
go all by myself or not at all. At the end of february I also still wanted to go
to a film festival in Burkina Faso, but I noticed that I will be obligated to attend
my own theater festival at that time. So before I stay at home all the time I went alone…

… and that happened to be quite good! I went there on monday morning on a 5 hours
ride. On the way I also saw a truck who’s back axis had come off in the middle of the
street and some people standing around with sad faces. I could not see the whole desaster, but there might have been some dead, because
a lot of people always ride in the back illegally.

I arrived at around noon and looked for a place to stay.
The festival is the biggest of it’s kind in Benin since Voodoo has been declared
a religion by the state. When I went to the festival at around 2 pm some of it
was already over (I still got a guide later on), but there were still some dances and
later the “Returned” – completely costumed they were supposed to represent
the relatives from the other side. They danced, scared the people and spooked around
at midnight, supposingly killing everyone they saw.

The dancing was at the beach at the beginning, where there is also a UNESCO monument
mourning all the slaves that have been shipped to America and the Carribeans from all over
westafrica. It is called the “point of no return”. The street leading there
is called “Route des Esclaves” – slave street and is about 4 kilometres long.
I went there on foot together with my guide and also passed by the former slave market
on the way back. There are also several monuments and images on the walls, but they are
also starting to build a hotel there!

On the way to the beach I also noticed that an international movie festival was
taking place at the same time that was organized by the french – benin NGO “Quintessence”
and was already taking place for the third time. This was the first year though, that all
shows were for free :).
It had already started on the 7th and went until the 11th (I arrived on the 10th).
The first night I went to watch some of the movies right after the voodoofestival.
There were actually real theatre seats in straw huts (!) and what about bats passing
in front of the screen every once in a while :). I went to bed at around 11pm.
About an hour later I heard the “Returned” pass around the houses.
They were not really spooky, but the inhabitants tried to send them away anyway.

It were for the most part african movies, documentaries or movies telling the stories
of refugees, local musicians or just the population. They were pretty interesting and sometimes
even more exciting than Hollywood movies – and that as documentaries!
I also bought two of the movies, they exist for about 4 days now :).
By that I also got to know one of the executives who finally also offered my a place
to stay for the second night. So I could also follow the closing ceremony and see
the winning movie at the end and there was also free supper :).
The next morning I still went to the sacred forest, since Ouidah is the major voodoo
center in Benin. Only at the evening of the second day I noticed that there is a
time difference between Benin and Togo – althought it is only a 100 kilometres to
the east! The festival had 30.000 visitors altogether.

During the festival I also got to know a musician from Benin who is trying to
start a R’n’B revolution, since it is practically unknown over there. Unfortunately he
does not have the means to record an album professionally, though. It was funny to
put on his music (he has two songs recorded so far) in the entrance hall of the festival
and see the people react to it (“Who’s singing that?”), mostly positive :).

As I figured out later, I had to wait for my sleeping place, since he was not only
one of the executives, but also organizing the afterparty and had to stay there until the end.
That was at about 4:30 in the morning, until which I had to sleep in a bus.
I had to leave again for the border at 8 am to leave the country before my visa expired.
On the border they had only visa for 48 hours for 10.000 CFA (22 bucks).
After 47 hours I was back. During this time I had experienced enough and spent enough
money to go back to Togo!

Today (thursday, january 13th) is the day of taking power of Eyadema.
Because there was a big parade not only of the military, but even of elementary schools,
wide parts of Lomé were blocked when I came back. It was a long detour!
Today there was also a parade in Kpalimé. The part I got to see mostly
consisted of elementary schools that all marched in military formation and celebrated
Eyadema for “bringing peace” – it’s a dictatorical state!

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