Ode to West Africa

From the humid coastline and ports to the drier muslim north, West Africa is a wonderful sweep of iconic African land. Traditions reveal themselves in feasts, music, food and their mysterious world of magic and spiritism. Most people identify themselves with countries, for example, they will say that they are Malians or Togolese, suggesting that one success of post-colonial heritage has been national identity in countries where boarders were stupidly drawn by Europeans across longstanding ethnic boundaries. That said, the tragic conflict in Ivory Coast in 2011 and subtle mistrust always present underneath social relations suggests that ethnicity remains hugely significant and never forgotten.
Well, I am not going to write a whole essay on West Africa, there are books on that. Here some of my favorite stuff:


bebes (1) bebes (3) bebes (5) bebes (6) bebes
bebe platicadora

2. How girls and women carry entire boutiques on the head

cargando todo sobre la cabeza (2)


cargando todo sobre la cabeza (1)

cargando todo sobre la cabeza (3)

These women are walking stores, you stop them and choose. Once we saw two walking together (obviously friends among themselves): one with bras and the other one with panties. On the street.


Carrying water from the source to the house, typical of this region


Plastics anyone?

cargando todo sobre la cabeza (5) cargando todo sobre la cabeza (6)

3. My classes at school. Sometimes in small groups, sometimes treasure hunts, sometimes research, films, sketches, comics, letters, small competitions, sometimes figure-it-out, and when they behaved bad (almost never to be honest)… dictation with my horrible accent

clases (1)

clases (3) clases (4)  clases (6) clases (8)


clases (9) clases (10) clases

4. Culture displays

culture (1)

Voodoo dance












culture (3)

Moving day: on s’en va!

culture (2)

I think I had already written that the best things here are always hanging from the trees: either a delicious fruit or beautiful clothes!

culture (4)

Neighbourhood chief

culture (5)

Villages (Cotonou was not like this)













5. Pagnes and matching dressing for identity purposes


Choose your design, there are plenty for all tastes and needs



4 sisters: 2 who graduated and the other 2 who attended the ceremony


















Feast of Mary at the school where I worked, where all the teachers and students left the uniforms aside for the day and dressed in the same pagne (different designs though)


For funerals we also make clothes with the same pagne






First communions – with the godparents


Identifying your kids in a crowded place might be easier if they are all dressed in the same pagne


6. Children

 ninos (1)  image1 ninos (2)
ninos (3) ninos (4) ninos7










7. The beach

IMG_7580 IMG_7583



on dance
























sortie culturelle (6)

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4,7)
I fought the most beautiful battles in West Africa and I thank God. Now I go back home in peace.








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