Vodun or Voodoo festival celebrated every January in Ouidah Benin is a testament of Beninese’ resilience and commitment to their ancestral spirituality. The practice which is often misunderstood and painted in bad light was once banned by the West African nation’s imperialist oppressors until 1994. In 1996 it was declared one of Benin’s national religions; seeing as sixty percent of the country’s population continue to practice it, sometimes alongside Islam and Christianity.
The ancient belief is practiced by over 60 million people worldwide.
In the festival devotees give offerings to ancestral spirits, ask for peace and blessings with rituals led by the Vodun Chief priest in Ouidah. They also pray at the sea for the souls of those who were forced into slavery some hundreds of years ago. Ouidah, like Nigeria’s Badagry was a major port of transportation of millions of people who were stolen from Africa’s Western region. These Africans are responsible for the export of the spiritual practice in some other parts of the world like Haiti, Cuba, America, Brazil and the United States.
Leke Alabi-Isama a documentary photographer from Nigeria attended this year’s edition of the vibrant and energetic festival, and was gracious enough to share some of his shots from the event.
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