Wonderful tunes from beautiful birds, terrific waves hitting the shores, whistling breeze penetrating studios upstairs are some typical feelings awaiting our new scholarship holders arriving at Grand-Popo soon for this fall 2012.
Staff members are knocking heads together to ensure a perfect reopening of Villa Karo’s doors for our daily activities. Painters, Carpenters, Gardeners are all striving to to knock the last nail home for readiness. Welcome all for a new season!
Art, exchange and entertainment all combined via young Cultural Center, “Villa Karo” enrich the environment in Grand-Popo. Arrivals and departures of artists to and from Finland is a routine I have followed for eleven years now. Projects by Finnish and African Scholarship holders keep the whole village alive. Frequent visits by school children from all parts of central and southern Benin to the center contribute a lot to our activities with Le Petit Musée at center stage. Monthly concerts, weekly film projection and occasional children’s workshops animated by internal & external cultural partners combined with other social activities in Lissa Gbassa account for our importance to the village in particular and to the whole community in general.
For maintenance reason, the house is closed for a period of two months now. Staff members recoiled into their nests to gather new energies, restaurants and roadside food vendors are all conscious of the long holidays. Zemidjans at the carrefour are more than bulletin board to unaware visitors to Villa Karo during this period. Chao Chao.
These two words are sufficient to keep alive a generation. Before computer era the world was as natural as ever, post men were happy to ride and distribute mails here and there, ships and planes made brisk business but this was subverted by invention of computer and internet. Western world and industrialized nations rapidly grew with these new technologies that bade farewell to an older generation.
Despite great unemployment created by this innovation, the world seems to be happy. Back in Grand-Popo, the craze by the youth to possess a computer, get connected to the internet for a chat with friends and relatives abroad is felt everywhere. If we comb our memory back to early years of Villa Karo’s operation when Scholarship holders are happy without internet, it was another world of communication when telegrams took days and days to reach Finland. In those days slow connection 28kbs modems were appreciated with modest desk top computers. Inhabitants of Grand-Popo queued up in the Library waiting for messages from Finnish friends (Stipendiates). Downloading and sending mails took irritating hours, a real “corvee” in the past especially when there is an attachment.
Today, it is a differentstory all together; people of all ages seek for nearest internet café just to get in touch with the outside world. All hotels with internet access are inundated with more clients every weekend even if they are expensive. Internet network companies like MOOV, GLO, KANAKOO and MTN revolutionized the system with MOKKULA services, a system well praised and accepted by all as the only means of internet communication though relatively slow compared to ADSL or WIFI.
In Villa Karo almost all Stipendiates are surfing satisfactorily with MOKKULA in their studios, under the akasia trees or anywhere in the open garden whilst in town, folks seeking for news, students and pupils besiege the two available internet cafes for researches and chatting with friends on facebook.
Economic measures announced by the Nigerian Government to impregnate sanity in public finances also provoked total instability in neighboring countries. On the 9th of January, the Federal Government of Nigeria announced subsidy suspension on petroleum products which resulted in price increase of petrol, a controversial decision taken and aired during a nationwide radio and television broadcast by President Goodluck Jonathan became a point of discord between Nigerian and her population. Few hours later strike action was pronounced by various Nigerians trade unions who unified their forces to force the iron hands of Goodluck Jonathan to revert to the old pump price of N65. The new pump price of N141 was judged too exorbitant by a populous nation of 150,000,000 inhabitants.
This situation rapidly generated panic in countries like Cameroun, Togo and Benin. Artificial scarcity was suddenly created by illegal road side vendors of gasoline. One could openly see these vendors everywhere in Benin, who procure their petroleum products fraudulently from Nigeria through middle men who smuggle them across the borders both by land and sea at a price three times lower than the official pump price thus paralyzing the officially registered petroleum companies in Benin. The strike action negatively affected motorists and nearly crippled some commercial activities throughout the country. Most of these commercial activities between these two sister countries almost came to a standstill as most customers from Nigeria were unable to make the trip across both borders for normal business.
The biggest market in West Africa “Dantokpa” in Cotonou keskusta got paralyzed for days. Motorists thronged one time abandoned Government filling stations to fill their tanks as unauthorized informal street vendors tripled their price per liter to make more profit. Long queues were noticed everywhere, cities most affected were Cotonou, Porto-Novo and Abomey though other cities like Lokossa, Bohicon, Dassa, Natittingou, Comé were also slightly affected. Transport fares tripled, prices of food stuff received sky rocketing shocks and market ladies who normally chant to attract customers became sour and slightly rude to express their disagreement with fares charged by zemidjans and taxis.
For days, Benin felt the importance of Nigeria, as a powerful cum important neighbor. Every home in Benin felt the pinch of the Nigerian strike action as if we are living in Nigeria.
For a decade now, I had witnessed almost all the Vodou ceremonies regarding annual commemoration of Vodoo festival that takes place every tenth of January. Those who had migrated to Benin and witnessed this event in the past should count themselves lucky. Lucky because they had received blessings from number of Vodou spirits present during the ceremonies.
As a preacher, I admire those who are driven by curiosity to deepen their knowledge and discover more about Vodou and I am ready to dish out some secrets holding aloft our religion in exchange for a transparent bottled liquid, not trying to sell my religion but transparent oblige as in other religions.
This year’s celebration was stuffed with colorful activities enrolled in different performances involving all Fetish priests and Priestesses followed by adepts of Heviosso, Mamiwata, Tron-Kpetodeka Zangbeto, Sakpate, Age-vodou etc who converged at Gbecon, Grand-Popo to demonstrate their fidelity and attachment to Vodou religion. A great multitude defied the heat, struggled to witness a five hour procession through sandy couloirs between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mono River. All started with the sacrifice of a goat to all the vodou spirits by a famous fetish priest from Gbecon.
A beautiful scene that attracted the attention of the crowd for a while was a fleet of canoes that transported beautifully dressed Mami Wata adepts across the river from Hève. The men aboard responded rhythmically, with their bodies and paddles to chants from adepts, unified their movements and ferried all to their destination; “PLACE DE VODOU”.
Kokouhoun Adept in Trance
Interesting performances during the procession were so mysterious that visitors, new to such occasions bombarded me with questions to which I was unable to answer publicly. More questions without answers rained lot of doubts in the minds of numerous visitors who adventured for the first time to Grand-Popo and Ouidah. The departure of the supreme head of Benin’s Vodou religion DAGNRON GUEDENGUE signified the end of 10th January vodou day celebration. People got dispersed into their respective communities for a big feast mostly organized by Chief Fetish Priests for adepts and friends.
Villa Karo hosted a group of important Vodou personalities who took refuge in Lissa-Gbassa to avoid being drowned by admirers. A delicious dakoin served with barracuda accompanied by some centiliters of unidentified transparent hot stuff proclaimed the end of an interesting afternoon.
Heviosso Chief Fetish Priest
NB: I am creating a special platform for Questions and Answers for vodou in the near future. A Bientôt
Real, traditional, seductive and communicative music by MIDJOUBA from HEVE, a suburb of Grand-Popo, delivered the goods on Saturday night re concert of the month.
Midjouba, a folkloric group founded in 2006 presented a great show that attracted thousands of souls from the beginning to the end.
Midjouba, in their concert, tried to send a message to the younger generation about the danger of severing our ancestral link by importing and mixing too much of western tradition into our daily lives . The key to traditional communication lies in the link between the young and old folks and their capacity to merge ideas for good results in community development was the message throughout the concert. All these were demonstrated by short musical sketches to strengthen their message to the audience, especially the youth. A message well digested by all generations, young and old is already in the archives of the folks.
KAKA-KAKA. Félicitations !! félicitations !! is the single french word pronounced by a great audience to congratulate Janne Storm, Felix Agossou and Gabriel Teiko, three resident artists in Villa Karo who performed wonderfully on the stage of the French Cultural Centre in Cotonou on Friday 30th September.
They preceded the main event of the night LA NUIT DE LA PAROLE by association KATOULATI. Same scenario took place in Grand-Popo on the red terrace stage of Villa Karo the following day 1st of October 2011. Backed by young artists from Comé, Janne Storm and his African Stipendiates presented a great concert, this time preceded by the group KATOULATI with stories recited by griots from Togo, Burkina Faso and Republic of Benin. These kind of stories told by grand parents during our infancy just to keep them company on full moon nights.
An hour session by Janne and his group was so that the audience amazingly fell in love with them. They played all kinds of music including KAKA, a rythm that sent the whole audience back to the root of their tradition with incredible demonstration of feet taping and chest druming that provocated great joy. Traditionally, KAKA is played to wake up adepts of all kinds of religion from their slumber to shake off the devil. It is danced in a way that even the disabled ones can be part of the game.
« Incroyable mais vrai », it was totally unbelievable even to me that Janne Storm understood and played KAKA to the surprise of all. IT IS VERY INPORTANT TO AIM HIGH TO AVOID ACHIEVING VERY LOW.