Before colonization Benin was a series of kingdoms ruled by local royal families. Though there is a modern democratically elected government today, royal lineage continues and kings play a significant role in local communities by mediating disputes and paying for local infrastructure. (A new high school in me and Jen’s area was paid for by our town’s king.) After visiting the chameleon church (see yesterday’s post), our group met briefly with the local king. He told us that he financed the building of the church to attract outsiders to learn more about the Vodun religion. His goal, he told us, is that Vodun will be seen as a positive community force like other religions, a religion where worship of a higher power goes hand-in-hand with a moral code.
The pictures above and at the bottom below show parts of the wall that surround the king’s compound. The photo directly below shows the king’s throne. While meeting with our group he sat in a plastic lawn chair like the rest of us.