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Ghana & Benin and the Voodoo Festival

The Benin Voodoo festival is, our excuse to create a West Africa Benin and Ghana (as an optional extension) incredible photo tour. 15 days in total with incredible photographic opportunities

The Benin Voodoo festival is, certainly, the most active, passionate, colorful, and biggest of those celebrated in Africa. And the pilgrims do not come only from corners of Benin but from Haiti, Brazil, and other countries around Benin such as Togo.

On this special date thousands of devotees go to Ouidah, the center for the followers of this religion, if for nothing else to receive the blessing from the highest religious representative – the chief Vodun of the city. Far from being anything malignant or dark, the festival and its rituals have become a great and popular party over the years.

HIGHLIGHTS

 

  • Attend the Voodoo Festival
  • Visit the villages and witness the  Voodoo ceremonies and approach the reality as an insider
  • Reach villages that can only be reached in pirogues
  • Set photo sessions the street theater productions.

 

For most when the word Voodoo is mentioned it brings to mind images of mystery and secrets. The reality of the festival is something completely different and distinct from what many imagine. Very little of this system of belief can be described as dark or sinister. It’s the belief in forces of nature or ancestors acting upon the daily lives of the practitioners and which been a source of origin for Santeria (so called in Cuba), Candomble (Brazil), and Voodoo (Haiti).

On this special date thousands of devotees go to Ouidah, the center for the followers of this religion, if for nothing else to receive the blessing from the highest religious representative – the chief Vodun of the city. Far from being anything malignant or dark, the festival and its rituals have become a great and popular party over the years.

The festival is, certainly, the most active, passionate, colorful, and biggest of those celebrated in country. And the pilgrims do not come only from corners of Benin but from Haiti, Brazil, and other countries around Benin such as Togo.

For these faithful it is a special day, and for many citizens who are involved in fishing, agriculture, etc, it is a singular opportunity to spend the day side by side, equal to the nobility, spiritual leaders, and other honored members of society.

For all this and many other enchanting surprises that are hidden deep in this tiny but marvelous country, Nomad Photo Expeditions presents you a spectacular trip that takes best advantage of the beautiful chaos of the festival and the country in general.

The trip to Ethiopia was a dream come true. It felt as though I had been dropped right into the pages of National Geographic Magazine, which I read as a child, and which instilled a thirst for travel to Africa.

 

Harry ‘s organization and guidance leave nothing to chance. He uses wonderful people on the ground to drive, guide, and make  each experience seamless. The festivals and amazing opportunities, remote and wonderful locations are trademarks of his trips.

 

Harry is a genuine character, with a wonderful sense of humour, an eye for the magic in photographic situations, and a natural teacher’s ability to explain how to make use of light,

line and composition in our shots.

 

This trip was my third with Harry, and a true testament to his ability and to the opportunities he exposes us to is that I am planning trips number four and five only 10 days after my return from Ethiopia.

 

Thank you Harry for an unforgettable experience.

 

Lynda Greenberg Toronto Ontario



ITINERARY

 

Day 1: COTONOU

Upon arrival in the international airport there  will be  a representative of Nomad Photo Expeditions and you will then be accompanied on   a complimentary transfer  to your  hotel .

Enjoy your first  acclimatization free day  in Cotonou.

 

Day 2: COTONOU - OUIDAH

There will be an introductory  visit around the city and the market. Before lunch we’ll head for Ouidha.  Once in Ouidha will be making different visits to relevant spots in the area and start with our photographic activities at  the temple of the snakes, the road of the slaves, the holly forest. This will be  the previous day to the festival, there will be varied photographic opportunities.  Small groups going by dance, some ambling and greeting everyone they see, or individuals making small offerings, mothers with baskets balanced precariously on their heads, babies tied to their backs, and men beating drums as the parade moves along.

 

Day 3: OUIDAH– BOPA - POSOTOME

Festival day. Via the local guide, who is an acolyte himself, we will become immersed in the festival, where the faithful will gather from all over the world to worship and celebrate.

The three miles that separate the coast from the city center will transform into a cavalcade of chaos, joy and color; masked men and priests and devotees move in this archaic and disjointed parade but with no particular hurry – the festival is only just starting.

Even in this beautiful mess it is not difficult to distinguish the high caste, as it were. They are the ones carried along, protected from the inhospitable sun by enormous umbrellas. At the beach, just next to the historic Gate of No Return, everything is whirling, reeling, happy chaos. And heat.

In precariously placed grandstands these honorables enjoy dance and music dedicated to them, after long and pompous speeches and much presentation. On a central stage griots (minstrels) entertain doing stunts, human castles or demonstrations of balance standing at the end of a high pole; Later, fetishes (representations of deities) straw are brought across the sand, turning wildly.

But the best part of the entertainment comes with the amount of small groups of men coming along beating drums. Around them the devotees, all dressed in traditional garb of bright, vibrant colors, seem compelled to dance to the thrumming, endless beating. Men in ritual clothing bedecked with amulets, faces painted white, and young, recently initiated acolytes dance and reel ceaselessly.

We will stay the whole morning  in the midst of all this celebration, photo documenting this singular and incredible event.

Then we will bid Ouidah farewell and continue on to the sacred lake of the Benin voduns – Lake Aheme, the great jewel of its animist population. These people have preserved their ancestral customs for countless generations, the customs which were then carried over to the Caribbean, Brazil, and the USA during the slave trade.

The variant of Voodoo here, well, we’ll experience it fully, at maximum expression as they say. They still practice ritual chicken sacrifice to feed their ancestors, participate in dance rituals that join the living with the dead. It is critical to remember that though it will seem strange, we are in their world, and we must enter it from a place of respect and curiosity. We will have several photo sessions in the animist village, and make contact via our local guide who will be key in the interaction process.

After lunch we will head towards  Bopa with  time to visit and photograph the high priest of Bopa, and see the temple as well as all the history it retains to this day.

We will finish the day in Possotome.

 

Day 4: POSSOTOME– ABOMEY

At first light we will breakfast and take off to the center of culture and spirituality in Benin: Abomey.

En route, however, we will have a stop in the fetish market of Bohicon for a spontaneous photo session. Here many fetishes and images of many deities are made and presented, we will even see some being worked on at the market stalls.

Then we will arrive in Abomey, which is an UNESCO cultural heritage site and also a national monument. We will have a visit to the royal palace and also the art museum for a more academic understanding of the cultural history of this wonderful country, and to photograph and see the influences of some westernization. Then, we are taking back to the streets to the central market to attend and photo document some traditional dances that will be done in various plazas in the central neighborhoods.

After breakfast we will have a brief chat about the day’s activities, and set off into the city for some spontaneous shooting and capturing day to day life.

 

Day 5: ABOMEY – COVE

We have a long but very rewarding day today. We will be traveling through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in all of Africa up into the foothills of Agonlin by way of red earth roads. This entire area is inhabited by farmers and also Fulani nomads who preserve ritual tattooing practices as well as elaborate hairdressing. We will have a  stops in a Fulani nomad camp to meet and learn from them, and tell their stories via photographs.

In fact we will even have a picnic with some of them and go by foot with them to see their villages and photograph the unbelievable and beautiful expanse of land they live on.

 


Day 6: COVE– KETOU– PORTO NOVO 

We will have our breakfast again at first light and then set out to find the land of the Holi tribes people, a subgroup of the Yoruba peoples. Once again today we will have time to fully explore these native villages and meet the animist peoples who live there.

They are known for their facial tattooing practices. All day we will visit their markets, where they sell a great many traditional wares, some that have cultural bleed with their neighbors in Nigeria. We will again have a picnic with some of the locals in their village and spend time with them getting to know them, and then in photography sessions with them.

When our time with them is spent, we’ll continue on for Porto Novo, the political capital of the country, and a fabulous little place to lose yourself for a few hours so you can breathe in the history it emanates.

We’ll head out to the Afro-Brazilian neighbourhood and have a good look around, doing some less posed and more off the cuff photography for the afternoon. This city, as you will see, is an incredible fusion of cultures, from the Yoruba to the Afro-Portuguese, and the architecture is also strongly influenced by both the French and English colonial eras.

 

Day 7: PORTONOVO – GANVIE – GRAND  POPO

We will today continue on to Ganvie, called Africa’s Venice, which is home to a great concentration of fishermen of the Tofi ethnic group. They fled slavery and sought refuge around Lake Nokoue in the 18th century and have been there ever since. We will speak to them and have time to photograph them in their daily routine, bringing in their catch, inside their homes, and at the aquatic streets where the majority of people perform daily tasks.

 

Day 8 : GRAND POPO – FISHERMEN ROUTE - COTONOU

From Grand Popo we will follow the coast line with different photographic opportunities with the fishermen along the coast.

We are heading towards Cotonou, a port city with traces of the communist era that marked the face of the economic capital of Benin.  In order to get the essence of the city we will go deep into it until we reach Dantokpa market, one of the biggest in the Gulf of Guinea.

 

Day 9: COTONOU

Depending on the flights schedule, free morning. Departure to the airport

 



EXTENSIONS

(03 Jan 2020)


Ghana Extension.- 

 

IMPORTANT:  The extension starts before the main trip. 

 

 

 

Day 1.- ACCRA

Upon arrival in the international airport there  will be  a representative of Nomad Photo Expeditions and you will then be accompanied on   a complimentary transfer  to your  hotel .

Enjoy your first  acclimatization free day  in Accra.

 

 

Day 2.- ACCRA.-

First day international arrivals in the mornings. A representative of Nomad Photo Expeditions will be at the  airport and take you to the hotel  for check-in.  Accra, the capital of Ghana, has maintained its unique identity despite the fast- paced development currently underway in this intriguing African city.

 

Early in the afternoon we will visit the incredible coffins  makers.  They have the most incredible variety of shapes and designs.  A dead body can be buried in a coffin  with the shape of  a  coca-cola can,  a cigarette box or an animal. The design is only  limited by the imagination of the future occupant. Those coffins are being collected in museums and private collections all over the world.  Should we  have  time left we will pay a  visit to the national National Ethnographical Museum.  

 

 

Day 3. ACCRA - ELMINA

Today we'll first  visit Cape Coast which was known as a Slave City and visit Cape Coast castle, today a museum of slave trade. It was originally built by the Swedish in 1653. Later  conquered by the Danes, the Dutch, the Fanti (a local tribe), the Swedes, and finally the British.

 

Later we will  head towards  Elmina Castle a breathtaking  fortress perched overlooking the water. The castle was built by the Portuguese in the late 15th century, first as a refuelling base for ships going around Cape Horn, later for trade in Ghana’s natural wealth of gold, of great interest to Europeans, and then for the Atlantic slave trade.

 

On our guided walk through the castle, we will visit the slave dungeons, and witness the horror of  the “Door of No Return” that slaves  crossed as they were brought to the  slavers  ships.

 

We will finally visit the  fishing village with the  colourfully painted fishing boats in the harbour.

 

 

Day 4. ELMINA - KUMASI

After breakfast we drive through lush hills to Kumasi, the spiritual and historical center of the flourishing Ashanti Kingdom.. On the way we will visit Kakum  Park where we will be enjoying the views from one of the world's highest suspended rope bridges held by steel cables. Perched 120 feet above the earth, we'll enjoy a stunning bird's-eye view of the rainforest.

 

Later on we'll we'll visit the most in the largest  city of Ghana which is Kumasi,  the capital of the old Ashanti culture Ash with an extensive oral tradition. Will visit the Royal Palace now converted into a museum where we will be introduced to the Ashanti Kings and their culture and traditions.. Will visit the market of Kegetia  and their extraordinary textile work. Every kind of Ashanti craft is found here, along with tropical fruits, vegetables, and everyday goods.

 

Until the end of the 19th century, when the British annexed Ashanti land and created the British colony called the Gold Coast, the Ashanti people were one of the most powerful nations in Africa, and today the Ashanti traditions are still strong. We visit the market as well.

 

This afternoon, we hope to attend a traditional Ashanti funeral. The greatest and most frequent ceremonies of the Ashanti recalled the spirits of departed rulers with an offering of food and drink, asking their favor for the common good, called the Adae. The day before the Adae, Akan drums broadcast the approaching ceremonies. The stool treasurer gathers sheep and liquor that will be offered. The chief priest officiates the Adae in the stool house where the ancestors came. The priest offers each food and a beverage. The public ceremony occurs outdoors, where all the people joined the dancing. Minstrels chant ritual phrases; the talking drums extol the chief and the ancestors in traditional phrases.

 

An Ashanti chief is usually in attendance, surrounded by his court, under the shade cast by large, colorful Ashanti umbrellas. Drumming and dancing can last late into the evening, but – if we are lucky to witness an  event - we attend for just a few hours to enjoy this unforgettable cultural event.

 

 

Day 5. KUMASI - LOME

Today we have an early departure for  a seven hours journey  hours by car to reach Lome.  We should reach Lomé in time for a visit of the central area.

 

Central Lome is the perfect place for buying fine pieces of African tribal art, folk art, modern paintings, and handicrafts. Several excellent galleries sell museum quality pieces.

 

 

Day 6.-  LOME - COTONOU

In Togo, about half the population practices indigenous religions, of which Vodun is by far the largest, with some 2.5 million followers; there may be another million Vodunists among the Ewe of Ghana, as a 13% of the total Ghana population of 20 million are Ewe and 38% of Ghanaians practise traditional religion.

 

Early in  the morning we will depart for the lake Togo and reach by canoes a village for a Voodoo ceremony. An introduction to the rest of the Voodoo experiences of the trip.  After the ceremony we will continue to Cotonou.

 

 



Prices per person
5 Participants 6400 US$


Supplements
Ghana Optional Extension 1930 US$
Single Room Supplement Main Itinerary 400 US$
Single Room Supplement Ghana Optional Extension 700 US$


WHAT'S INCLUDED

 

Prices are per person, based on double occupancy . A limited quantity of single-occupancy rooms are available for an additional charge.

 

The maximum number of participants are listed under "Maximum Group" in the Price section of each individual workshop. However, we reserve the right to add by up to one the maximum number of participants per workshop at any time.

 

INCLUDED

 

-Harry Fisch Bilingual Photographer and Tuition

-All  breakfasts, lunches and dinners except two meals on you own. (Soft drinks and alcoholic beverages not included)

- 9 days total 8 nights

- Private, set Photo Sessions

- The best available tourist  hotels.  

- All local ground transportation

- Airport pick-up and transfer to hotel in arrival

- Hotel pick-up and transfer to airport on departure

- Coordination of all listed activities

 

NOT  INCLUDED

 

-Tips for local guides and drivers

-International flights to and from Benin

-Individual house/hotel expenses (minibar, room service, laundry fees, etc.)

-Medical Insurance 

-Anything not specifically listed under "included"

 

 

Prices are per person, based on double occupancy  . A limited quantity of single-occupancy rooms are available for an additional charge.

 

DEPOSIT

 

A deposit of $1.000 per person is required to guarantee your reservation, which will be applied towards the cost of your tour. Reservation deposit is refundable  if you cancel 121 days or more before departure (except on private tours).  Second payment 4 months before departure . (Please see Cancellation Policy)

 

FINAL PAYMENT:  

 

Any pending balance must be paid in full at least 90 days prior to departure.

 

FITNESS LEVEL, TRAVEL CONDITIONS:  

 

The accommodations will be the best available. There isn’t much luxury on this tour!
Road conditions vary greatly, especially in rural areas. Unexpected conditions (weather, traffic restrictions, etc.) can occur and make alternate routings necessary. To take this trip, you must be in good health and prepared for travel to places without medical facilities.