The festivals of Togo to celebrate the cycles of life and seasons
Travel to Togo, in the ideal time for the country’s festivals. Each population celebrates the cycles of life and seasons according to their own rituals. In particular: the Epe Ekpe Festival, in Glidji, which inaugurates the Mina year; the initiation rites in the Kabye mountains; harvest celebrations such as the great Bassar yam festival.
Epe Epke Festival
Every year in the village of Glidji, Guen ethnic group (also called Mina) gathers together for the Epe Epke Festival: family reunification, New Year, religious worship. The fulcrum around which the festival takes place is a stone, sought by a priest in the sacred forest. The colour of the stone will predict the fate of the year to come. The blue stone announces a year of rain and abundant harvests. If it is red it will be a year of wars, the black stone is an omen of famine, devastating diseases and rains and, finally, the white stone indicates that the year will be blessed with luck and ‘abundance.
Voodoo has been originated in the coast of Benin from which spread to the Americas at the time of the slave trade. Voodoo cults have been passed on by the ancestors and are still fervently practiced. Voodoo is not just a form of black magic but a complex religion. Today Voodoo followers are estimated seventy millions worldwide, mainly in Africa and the Americas.
Voodoo ceremony is part of everyday life in the villages: the frenetic rhythm of the drums and chants of the adepts’ help calling in the voodoo spirit 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 voodoo divinities who can show up. In a village, surrounded by the magic atmosphere of the ceremony, we will understand what people mean when they say: “In your Churches you pray God; in our shrines we become Gods!”
Fire dance, traditional festival of the Tem population
In the centre of the village a large fire lights up the faces of the participants, who dance to the hypnotic beat of the drums eventually leaping into the glowing embers. They pick up burning coals and pass them over their bodies and even put them in their mouths without injuring 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.