Photographer's Note

This is from a market area in Abomey, former capital of Dahomey, which was an independent West African kingdom for about 300 years up to the beginning of the last century, when it became a French colony. Along with most other French African colonies Dahomey regained its independence in 1960. In 1975 the country's name was changed to Benin (French spelling Bénin).

Abomey is today a fairly small town about two hours journey by bus or shared taxi north of the major city Cotonou. I didn't find Cotonou particularly nice or attractive, but I enjoyed the couple of days I stayed in Abomey. The town is mainly famous for the former royal palaces, a conglomeration of traditional buildings with an attached museum. The palace complex has been recognized by the UNESCO as a world heritage site.

One of the sources of income for the ancient kingdom of Dahomey was the slave trade. British, French and Portuguese traders established seaside forts in the coastal town of Whydah (now Ouidah) where the slaves, usually kidnapped from neighbouring inland countries, were kept before they were shipped across the sea.

I spent just over a week in Benin in March 1982 on my way towards Lagos, Nigeria, where I was to catch a flight back home after four months in West Africa.

I quite liked Benin, although it was one more country where it was important not to draw too much attention from policemen or soldiers. It was a one party military dictatorship which in 1974 had adopted Marxism-Leninism as its official state ideology. There were revolutionary slogans everywhere in the streets and the Internationale was frequently played on the national radio and from public loudspeakers.

But as long as I managed to stay out of trouble (which I did most of the time) I found people generally as friendly as in the Sahel countries to the north. I am fairly sure most of them couldn't care less about the official ideology.

After the fall of socialism in Eastern Europe in 1989 the government of Benin quickly realized no more money would come from the Soviet Union. The Marxism ideology was scrapped and the country was no longer The People's Republic of Benin.

I wasn't actually much attracted by the royal palaces and only took a handful of photos of paintings in the museum (which was enough to make the caretaker very angry). You can see one of them in a WS. Another WS shows a very offically sanctioned wall painting.

All photos were scanned from Kodchrome slides.

Photo Information
Viewed: 0
Points: 46
Additional Photos by Gert Holmertz (holmertz) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 12437 W: 572 N: 23877] (102104)
View More Pictures