The celebration of the Millet Festival, among the Krobo people, is an incredible feast,rich in colours and jewels, taking place every year during the harvest season.
Apart from this specific festival, our fantastic cultural odyssey will bring us to the most remote regions of Ghana, Togo and Benin to discover lost tribal worlds ruled by traditional chiefs and ancient spirits.Along the coast, in the heart of voodoo original regions we encounter practitioners, watch trance-dances and learn about the great influence voodoo spirits still have on people.
Heading inland from the forest to the savannah, we discover the Taneka tribe on a rocky mountain, then the Tamberma with their fairy-tale clay adobe castles and finally we enter the Ashanti kingdom in Kumasi forests.We end our tour exploring the former Gold Coast, with the largest European castles in Africa; centuries remain of gold and slave trade.Indeed the most complete and spectacular way to discover West Africa rich patrimony of Tribes, Kingdoms, festivals and ceremonies Great experience combined with the choice of comfortable accommodations.
For travellers who want to get acquainted with this unique region … and love Africa!
Lome, Gulf of Guinea– TOGO
Arrival in Lome (Togo) and transfer to the hotel.
Lomé, the vibrant capital of Togo, is the only African city which was a colony of the Germans, the British and the French. It is also one of the few capitals in the world bordering with another nation. These elements have led to the development of a unique identity reflected in the life style of its inhabitants and in the architecture of the town: Lomé is indeed a cross point for people, trade and cultures, a cosmopolitan city in small size. We will visit: the central market with its famous “Nana Benz”, women who control the market of the expensive “pagne” (=cloths) coming from Europe and sold all over West Africa; the colonial buildings in the administrative quarter where the flavour of colonial time is still very present. Stop at the fetish market where we can find an eclectic assortment of all the necessary ingredients for love potions and magical concoctions.
In a remote village we will join a Voodoo ceremony: the frenetic rhythm of the drums and the chants of the adepts calls in the voodoo spirits who then takes possession of some of the dancers. They fall into a deep trance: eyes rolling back, grimaces, convulsions, insensitivity to fire or pain. Sakpata, Heviesso, Mami Water are just some of the voodoos divinities who can manifest. In this narrow village, surrounded by the magic atmosphere of the ceremony, we will finally understand what people mean when they say: “In your Churches you pray God; in our voodoo shrine we become Gods!”
Drive to Ouidah. Ouidah was conquered by the Dahomey Kingdom during the 18th century to become one of the main slave ports. Today Ouidah enjoys an Afro-Brazilian architecture, and the python temple faces the Catholic Cathedral. The laid-back attitude of the locals blends in harmoniously with the thunder of the distant waves and the rhythm of the drums – a timeless atmosphere well described by Bruce Chatwin in his book “The Vice-Roy of Ouidah”. On foot we visit the Python Temple and the Portuguese Fort, now a small but interesting museum on the history of Ouidah and the transatlantic slave trade. We end the visit following the “slave road” to the beach, the point of “no return” where slaves were shipped to the “new world”.
We cross Lake Nokwe with a motorized boat to reach Ganvié, the largest and most beautiful African village on stilts. The approximately 25,000 inhabitants of the Tofinou ethnic group build their wooden huts on teak stilts. Fishing is their main activity. Ganvié has managed to preserve its traditions and environment despite the long-lasting human presence in a closed setting; and the lake is not over-fished. We drive to Abomey where we visit the Royal Palace. The walls of the palace are decorated with bas-reliefs representing symbols of the ancient Dahomey kings.
First stop will be at Dankoli Fetish, a unique shrine for ancient animistic cults still practiced: thousands of short sticks are pushed in and all around the fetish as testimony of the countless prayers for a good harvest, a happy wedding, an easy delivery, success at school etc. In the afternoon we discover old Taneka villages located on a mountain with the same name. The villages are made up of round adobe huts covered with a conical roof protected at the top by a terra cotta pot. The upper part of the village is inhabited by the young initiated and by the fetish priests who only cover themselves with a goat skin and always carry a long pipe.
We enter the land of the Somba & Tamberma who live in adobe fortified dwellings. Similar in form to small medieval castles, they are one of the most beautiful examples of traditional African architecture. Their style impressed Le Corbusier vanguard architect that describe it as «sculptural architecture». In fact the houses are hand built, layer of clay after layer, adding round mud balls and shaping them as per the plan of the house. In the evening, we discover the fire dance. At the centre of the village a large fire lights up the silhouette of the participants. They dance to the hypnotic beat of the drums eventually leaping into the glowing embers, picking up burning coals, passing them over their bodies and even putting them in their mouths and swallowing them. all this without hurting themselves or showing any sign of pain. It’s difficult to explain such a performance. Is it matter of courage? Self-suggestion? Magic? Maybe it really is the fetishes that protect them from the fire.
We will head southwards, with a stop on the way in Atakpame, a typical African small town built on hills where all the products coming from the nearby forests can be found. Through their skilled work on small weaving looms, men of the region make the large brightly coloured fabric called “Kente”. From Atakpame we move to the tropical forests surrounding Kpalime, a town with a rich colonial past which is now an important cocoa and coffee trading market. Walk in the forest to discover the world of the tropical forest and so meet with the majesty profile of tropical trees and the sounds of tam-tams. Under the guidance of a local entomologist, we will learn about endemic butterflies and colourful insects.
Glass Beads – TOGO – GHANA
Krobo tribe is known for its glass beads. Krobo people produce and wear glass beads for ceremonies and aesthetic purposes. We will visit an artisan community of beads producers and even experience the process of making our one bead. The craftsmen have been producing beads following the same long lasting traditional technique for centuries.
A day fully dedicated to enjoy the incredible atmosphere of the spectacular Millet Festival, a celebration full of colors and jewels. The festival consists in seven days of religious and social celebration during which people renew their love, unity and solidarity and express their gratitude to God for all the blessings received (good harvests, abundance, good health and protection from enemy). Traditional chiefs arrive with their entire court and are dressed in their most beautiful attires; an enthusiastic crowd surrounds them and the parade is accompanied by the rhythm of the drums. The friendly behavior of the crowds will give us a unique opportunity to feel part of a real African ceremony.
Kumasi is the historical and spiritual capital of the old Ashanti Kingdom. The Ashanti people were one of the most powerful Kingdoms in Africa until the end of the 19th century, when the British annexed Ashanti Country to their Gold Coast colony.With nearly one million inhabitants, Kumasi is a sprawling town with a unique central market, one of the largest in Africa. Every kind of Ashanti craft (leather goods, pottery, Kente cloth) is found here, along with just about every kind of tropical fruit and vegetable. The program includes a visit to the Ashanti Cultural Centre: a rich collection of Ashanti artefacts housed in a wonderful reproduction of an Ashanti house. In the afternoon we participate – if available – in a traditional Ashanti funeral, attended by mourners wearing beautifully red or black togas. We say “funerals” but it means a “festive” celebration.
In the morning continuation of the tour of Kumasi, with the visit of the Royal Palace Museum hosting a unique collection of gold jewels worn by the Ashanti court. In the afternoon visit of Ashanti villages with traditional clothing and carving.
Elmina Castle, the oldest European building in Africa, erected by the Portuguese in the 15th century. At different times the castle has been used as a warehouse to trade gold, ivory, and eventually slaves. The castle we visit today is the result of successive extension works and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Outside the castle, a spectacular fishing village with lots of large colourful fishing boats – every day these wooden large pirogues conducted by skilled fishermen across strong ocean waves and currents, “fighting” to earn a living. In the old town we will see the Posuban, the shrines of the ancient “Asafo companies” – the warriors who used to put their offerings on the large colourful statues. The alleys in the old town have a very lively atmosphere, bringing us back to a time when Elmina was a busy colonial town.
Accra, the capital of Ghana, has maintained its unique identity despite the fast-paced development currently underway in this intriguing African city. The program includes a visit to the National Museum (if open, now under renovation), one of the first works of independent Ghana – the idea inspiring the Museum is to relate Ghanaian art to the rest of the continent and to prove the existence of an African history as part of the general history of humanity. We explore the old quarter of James Town, inhabited by the local population known as the Ga. Our tour ends with the visit of a workshop where they specialize in building fantasy coffins. These special handcrafted coffins can reflect any shape: fruits, animals, fish, cars, airplanes…. the only limit being imagination! Started in Africa, these flamboyant coffin designs are by now collected worldwide and exposed in museums. In the evening transfer to the airport for the flight out.