A Sound Mind in a Sound Body?”

Massage

According to a well-known proverb, a sound mind resides in a sound body. Then, we could say, the mental well-being of the scholarship holders has been taken care of by the very skilled (but not always so very tender) hands of the masseur, MR Medard Bokodaho who has been offering his services in Grand-Popo.

The proverb seems to contradict the doctrines of the Western medicine so eager to keep the body and the mind separate. One might ask whether there is a difference between a shrink and a masseur anyway, but keeping to the wisdom of the proverb, one ends up with the next dilemma: If the masseur relieves the mental problems, what about the relationship between the mental state and the creativity?

And, if the wisdom of the proverb made sense other way around, then a twisted mind would require a crippled body. And according to another common belief again, a hint of madness is necessary ingredient of art. So shouldn’t we sum up worrying about the massage that is ruining the scholarship holders artistic flow? Is massage a curse or a blessing for the creativity of the scholarship holders after all?

Lets stop this pointless shilly-shally. According to a musician Mirja Mäkelä, who has tested the effect of the massage, the treatment has helped to relax, and this according to her, has contributed to the creativity. And we best believe her as she just told me having finished a new song she had been working (already her thirteenth arrangement at Villa Karo)!

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Popolese Yogis

Local youth have been participating Rea-Liina Brunou’s yoga lessons which have been taking place on Tapani Mikkonen’s mosaic at the terrace of Villa Karo.

Juha Javanainen brought the yoga mats with him in Spring 2011, and they have been in regular use ever since, both among the scholarship holders and the local dancers and musicians.

So, terrace yoga in the dusk:

Visit to Abomey and a Spoonful of History

Royal Palace of Abomey

Scholarship holders Marjo, Rea-Liina, musician Susanna Hietala and I visited the royal palaces of Abomey. This place is of great historical importance, since it was once the capital of the great Dahomey kingdom famous for its wealth and army of Amazons, but also for slavery. Today it’s a UNESCO world heritage site.

The palace carries a sombre history. Some of the Abomey kings were effective slave traders, who, after a long period of internal slave trade, found new customers among the colonisers of the New Continent. Along with their white faces and guns, the Europeans had brought their diseases to the Americas and so indirectly killed the local exploitable workforce. The natives (Colon so misleadingly had named Indians) were reduced significantly and the Europeans had to bring in Africans to replace them. So, basically this is what led to a shift in focus from internal towards foreign slave exchange among the Dahomey kings and as a consequence sowed the seeds of the whole African diaspora.

Even if the kings did do business with the Europeans, they were unwilling to be colonized by them. And Abomey was the last bastion of resistance in the region against the colonial hegemony until the end of the 19th century. Abomey kings fought the foreign intruders whereas the kings of Porto Novo collaborated with the new patrons who eventually in addition to Dahomey conquered the northern kingdoms of Nikki , Djougou and Parakou . In 1894, the French colony of Dahomey was established between the German and English colonies. The borders of what currently makes up the republic of Benin were found by this high-handed decision. The French colony of Dahomey got independent in 1960.

Royal Palace Floor Plan

Yêke Yêke Voodoo Festival in Glidji, Togo

White Mami Watas

Me, Rea-Liina Brunou and Marjo Räsänen got our first touch with the West-African voodoo ceremonies at the annual festival of the Gé-people in the village of Glidji, Togo.

The followers of the voodoo god of the sea Mami-Wata gathered there in the mid-September in order to find out how the becoming year is going to be. In the eve of the festival the voodoo priests got to a forest and looked for a sacred stone there. The next day the stone was brought to ceremony place where all the supporters and guests were waiting. The colour of the stone tells how the year is to treat us: the lighter the colour, the better the year is going to be. For the Mami-Watas, the white colour has special significance and everyone was dressed up in white (us included). In the blazing sunlight the sea of white dresses was dazzling.

This year there was disagreement among the priests of different sects about who among them was the honoured one to carry the sacred piece of Earth to the ceremony place. The dissatisfied party started to rebel. In the midst of everyone waiting for the stone to arrive – out of the blue – big (non-holy) stones started to fall from the sky to the audience who were trying to defend themselves by using chairs as a shield. The situation turned into a small chaos as people were running in all directions. Fortunately the conflict got soon settled and a white shiny stone found its way to the ceremony place promising the best possible for this year!

Boy at the Vodun Priest