The Tata Somba homes of northern Benin and Togo encompass an area that’s been designated as a UN World Heritage Site. Jen and I rode through this area on the back of mototaxis (a long, bumpy, dusty, pot-hole ridden ride but lovely) crossing the border from Benin into Togo. The area is open and grassy with the occasional Tata Somba popping up. The two-story homes, fortified against attack, have really interesting architectural design. More on the homes here.
The colors, landscape, flora and architecture in this photo are how I will remember Benin. A friend took this on a multiday bike trip we took. I’m not sure where this is but it could have been taken almost anywhere in the country.
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.
Christian Celestial is a religion founded in Benin’s capital of Porto Novo by the Rev. Samuel Biléhou Joseph Oschoffa in 1947. Combining elements of Christianity with elements of local religions such as Vodun, this religion spread to other parts of West Africa and the African diaspora including the US and France. Practitioners of the Christian Celestial religion are recognizable by their white gowns and hats, a common sight in our town.
Evangelism (including the Celestial Church of Christ) is practiced by about 23% of people in our town. These churches tend to be small and simple consisting of a roof to block the sun and rain, some wooden benches and a podium for the minister to stand at. There are dozens of churches like this in our area.
Catholicism is practiced by about 25% of people in our town according to a report put out by the mayor’s office. Catholic churches tend to be the largest and most ornate houses of worship in a town. Our town of 14,000 people has one centrally located Catholic church.