OUIDAH: A TEMPLE OF PYTHON, VOODOO OR A BEACON OF HISTORY

6 Feb

Writer Jacob Eagan Bright, African Voices Editor, Monrovia, Liberia

OUIDAH is a 42 kilometers stretch from Cotonou, the commercial capital city of the Republic of Benin, West Africa. Ouidah, a name whenever mentioned has its chills of Voodoo down the spine of scary land of necromancy. This part of the country hold couple of creeks, running waters, streams, swamps and the Atlantic ocean which also holds another remarkable history of slave harvest, and slave stock market or trading. Ouidah is quitter and less dusty than Cotonou, and most of the streets runs across each other paved with a floor bricks of a quality cast. Houses closely built with one another and most carries 1800s style of Portuguese or Franco-Brazilian styles. Ouidah also appeared less populated as its locals have deserted the city and migrated to Cotonou in search of good or better life. In this personal account, I went to Cotonou, with keen energy to see Ouidah considering too much talks, researches and publications about Slave trade, Voodoo and Python Temple. Below are chronological graph of my visit.

 

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07:15 am – 14-1-2016 A group made up of French nationals and I agreed to team up, just to discover Ouidah, first and fast as it could be we got acquainted and names on board were Alain, Luc and Jacob, hands were shocked and smiles of welcome on board were exchanged, right there confidence on board were invigorated. The chauffeur had us navigated through a beautiful road and a nice toll gate of smiling staff, in no minutes we were right in Ouidah and as we disembarked, first was to get a permission and presentation of our purpose to the Ouida Department of Tourism and after that process [of less no time] a tour guide was assigned who will aid us through tough corners of spine-chilling adventure.

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1st stop= First Christian Church, the first Christian church in the north eastern star of Africa, where the statue of the first priest in Africa is made visible and seem ever adored by the Christians from this part of the continent.

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2nd stop= The python Temple or the world known Voodoo sit. In this temple there are hundred and one pythons of different sizes freely moving around or most of the times while there sleeps and they all appeared peaceful and friendly [as many visitors of different background hung or toss them across their necks]. The temple /Voodoo is a religion just like any other, there are people with strong believe or conviction originated from Python of which our tour guide made us believe that he came from the Python and in that sense he worships the Python. Besides the Python cave, there are couple shrines that are being fed on ritual basis with remarkable sixty red Roster and or more depend on the festival. Some individuals who consulted shrine like the god of the sun and eventually the prayer requested worked out comes back always to reconnect with the center and some libations are poured and sacrifices rendered to the gods. The temple is guided by a high worshiping priest who sits in to appease the gods should transgression occurs or request are being made from the government or other essential governing authority.

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3rd stop= Fr. Ferdinando slave screening point; Our next stop was the beginning of our eye-opening adventure, a Portuguese Catholic Priest missionary turned slave trader and immersed massive wealth out of the lucrative business, made his front house an assembling point from the local engaged slave hunters as a point of screening upon arrival.

The screening involved teeth inspection, eyes, ear and fitness. Fr. Ferdinando according to history jeweled himself with so many African wives and in another hand engulfed into ritualistic life style which purported his steady growth in slave stock market. Fr, Ferdinando was the sole dealer, who makes or decide slave hunters wages and places also price tag on stock itself with other rich Portuguese, Danish and Italian slave buyers and sugar plantation owners. The priest footprints are largely printed in Ouidah as his descendants [children] stretches and count large families. His personal house is now a museum on visit by special permission or arrangements.

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4th stop= Tree of memory loss, a stop or visit to this tree which is two [2] kilometers from the slave screening point and what exactly took place here is totally cruelty to human race and could make anyone shed tears. After the screening point of first under the Tree, slaves were brought to a tree called Tree for Memory Loss. Slaves destined for market are made to walk around this particular tree for as many as needed, spinning with some rituals hovering over their heads and some prepared concussions are served and forcibly made to drink. The purpose of spinning around the tree was to have captured slaves forget about their origin, whom they were and what happened to them. The screening point and tree of memory loss connects to same way to the port of no return.

5th stop= Point of body inspection and sorting; at this center, all approved or selected as quality stock will go through body inspection, teeth, eyes, frame composition, and gender classification for the second time. Here also the loading plan begins, which involves hand and neck cuffing, chaining and whipping are all introduced.

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6th stop= Cast of darkness; from the extreme body inspection, and other accompanying inspections and to chaining, the slaves were meant to spend about fourteen days in a dark house or room, without any sort of ventilation [that is to get them accustomed to life in the would-be cargo) vessel that will be their home for next 3-6 months on voyage. In that Cast room, cramped with slaves about 700 -1000 in number had no toilet nor any kind of facility, the rebellious ones were beaten and muffled with a well-designed lock made up of log tied on their lips with hands cuffed backward. Those who couldn’t make it, gave up their ghost, cemetery for those were five blocks away. At this cemetery their spirit were free and that why the place is called “FREED SPIRIT” and Echoed to return home. At this commentary every visitor is meant to spend few minutes of silence in honor of their resilience.

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7th stop= the next stop was the final GATE OF NO RETURN. Here, the slaves that have walked about 11 kilometers from point of screening embarked unto a vessel of final point from Africa to unknown world and survival. At the shore, farewell rituals were carried out to appease the so called MamiWater (Mermaid) a water spirit with extreme powers to upset movements and other. At present day UNESCO have done remarkably work in preserving these sites and keeping the history alive. At the gate of no return, visitors from all over the world throngs to discover the menaces directed to those black Africans, Phd candidates from France, United Sates and writers from other parts of the world could be seen recording and documenting actual ordeal of poor Africans. Yet one cannot hold off tears especially nationals from Liberia and South Africa as their countries went through unfading history or established as a result of the act. As we drove back to Cotonou, I was quite all the while and sad about how human beings were treated like a piece of stock or commodity and how a Christian missionary with message of salvation could be a slave peddler or Wall street slave stock broker…….. With time we will come to grip of that hidden.

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