About Benin: People and Culture

Abomey

This is located in southern Benin. Between the 17th and 19th centuries the capital of the Kingdom was Abomey. As one of the West Coast of Africa's most powerful dynasties, generations of kings built a palace here, which formed a magnificent architectural complex. Stay current sites include A Jiajia Palace, Tegebisuo and grams of Ben Guerra Tomb, and the palace, including the Racine group, including the 19th century palace.

Park. 1889-1894, the last country Wangbei Han-chun, leading the people in the struggle against France, after the remains of burial site of Abomey, the solemn mausoleum is regarded as sacred. Based on the old palace, it was converted into the Abomey Historical Museum and is the best preserved example of West African heritage. In 1985, the Royal Palace of Abomey was made a UNESCO World Heritage listed site.

Ganvie water village

Located about 12 km north of Cotonou's Nokwe Lake, it is called the "Venice of Africa." Built in 1717, all the houses were built in a circle 23 m above the water on stakes. They have bamboo walls and floors and pointed roofs covered with a thick thatch. Each household has a ladder to the surface of the water, and every household has a wooden bridge to stay connected. There is bustling, vessel-lined water markets, all with strange customs that attract overseas tourists.

Benin Culture

Benin’s culture is as rich and diverse as its landscape. With strong religious roots to inform most of the traditions, Benin’s culture is certainly one of the most unique and interesting in Africa.

Music is of utmost importance in the country. The rhythmic sounds of drumming can be heard at most festivals and religious events. Not just a way to celebrate, music in Benin provides a way to express religious fervor. The country is also home to notable musicians, including the internationally acclaimed singer Angelique Kidjo.

The strong influence of the Voodoo religion is an important part of Benin, which tells of healing and rejuvenating talismans (‘fetishes’). The tradition of oral storytelling is still alive and well, which accounts for the absence of Beninese written literature, even though the culture prides itself in its ancient stories and folklore.

Textiles

As with most clothing in West Africa, the textiles are vibrant and ornately decorated. Each cultural group, be it Fon, Yoruba, or Edo, has unique but recognizable attire, and in most tribes, different colors and patterns are worn for different occasions. Attending a cultural gathering in Benin, especially during a local festival, is a feast for the eyes.

Song and Dance

Songs and dances are a part of the social fabric of Benin and celebrate joyous events such as festivals, childbirth, rites of passage, or occasions of sorrow such as mourning of the dead. Art has been a spiritual and functional healer to the local communities. Brightly coloured tapestries tell the history of Benin and collectors worldwide admire the local bronze crafts. In the erstwhile kingdoms of Bariba and Dahomey, the Kings laid a lot of emphasis on the development of arts and crafts. Weavers, jewellers, woodcarvers, potters, and iron and brass workers received patronage and the ancient Kingdom of Abomey became a haven for artists and craftsmen. The region of Baname is known for woodcarving, Porto Novo is famed for its Yoruba artifacts and you can buy unique pottery in Tourou.

Benin is regarded as the “cradle of voodoo’. This ancient practice originated here and migrated to Haiti, the Caribbeans and Brazil with the slaves who were traded into these countries. Today, 61% of the population still adheres to tribal religions and practices. Simply put, voodoo is the worship of the spirit in all things, blessing the worshipper with certain supernatural powers. Voodoo ceremonies are said to be exotic and

 colourful affairs accompanied by the dances of costumed fetish priests and feverish drumming. The rituals of voodoo stretch from the elegant to the scary.

Tata

The Tammari people, or Batammariba, also known as Somba, are people of the Atakora Department of Benin and neighboring areas of Togo, where they go by the name of Taberma. They are famous for their two-story fortified houses, known as Tata Somba ("Somba house"), in which the ground floor is used for housing livestock at night, internal alcoves are used for cooking, and the upper floor contains a rooftop courtyard and is used for drying grain, sleeping quarters, and granaries. These evolved by adding an enclosing roof to the clusters of huts joined by a connecting wall that are typical of Gur-speaking areas of West Africa. The Tammari are mostly animist by religion. Their language is in the Gur family.

Park W

The Region W of the river Niger represents an extraordinary Biodiversity Reserve in West Africa, where the Transfrontier Park W is the largest group of protected areas.

The protected area was identified in 1926, but became Regional Park W Ecopas in 1954. This Park covers a territory of over 1,000,000 hectares distributed among the States of Benin (550,000 hectares), Burkina Faso (250,000 hectares), and Niger (220,000 hectares), to which we should add several adjacent Reserves (Atacora, Mekrou, and Djona Hunting Zones).

Despite a considerable human pressure, the potentialities regarding the flora and fauna of this region, as well as the functionality of the ecosystem, are still well preserved. The landscapes of the National Park and of the Region W of the river Niger are very diversified and distributed around aquatic elements like the rivers, “mares”, temporary lakes, and land elements where herbaceous grasslands, shrubby savannah, and gallery forests alternate.

Fauna

The presence of big mammals has been reduced by the human pressure deriving above all from poaching, sheep breeding, destruction of habitats (to obtain fields or firewood) and by the two long drought periods in the 70s and 80s, which led to the reduction of the available grazing lands and the disappearance of several watering points. Only the buffaloes, sable antelopes, and warthogs are still characterized by abundant populations, and the avifauna is very rich in different species.

The Park Ecosystems

The permanent ecosystems in the Park are very different one from the other and are typical of the Sudan-Sahel biome.

The ecosystems of Regional Park W Ecopas still preserve the essential elements maintaining their functionality and integrity.

The Region W is a typical example of preservation of the large protected areas of West Africa, most of which have been identified in the 30s during the colonial period, generally in not very populated areas, with different goals and causes (buffer zone between different populations, abundance of malaria vectors, impoverished soils, lack of water).

The protection of these spaces, whose recent evolution is linked to a strong demographic growth and to migrations caused by drought events, can represent today both an obstacle to the development of the local population and an occasion of struggle.

The Sahel-like climate is characterized by an average rainfall varying from area to area from 600 to 900mm per year. During the year there are two seasons: a dry season divided into two periods, the hot period going from March to October (average 30-40°C) and a cooler period going from November to February (26°C max, 12°C min) and a rainy season going from May to October (average temperature 26°C).

The Region W is crossed by several watercourses, among which Niger, Alibori, and Mekrou. As far as vegetation is concerned, it is a transit area between the desert, savannah, and tropical forest where desert and savannah dominate. The area is populated by several species of mammals: lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, and jackals. Some of these species are endangered at a global level, since their populations have gone beyond the critical limit of population renewal, in particular the addax, oryx, gazelle, manatee (living only in the area of Niger), giraffe, hippo, and elephant.

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