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“There is also something of the Yoruba tradition, nagô, which has stayed with me”

“There is also something of the Yoruba tradition, nagô (1), which has stayed with me”

“Voodoo inspires me enormously. I think there are a lot of riches that we can exploit from vodoun, even if we are not practicing.

I remember when we lived in Ivory Coast (2) and we came on vacation to Benin, every Friday evening my grandmother took me to Ouidah to attend the Egungun ceremonies, because she was the high priestess of this secret society. She was the one praying. She was Iya Alaché (3). My grandmother is purely Yoruba, it was her ancestors who actually brought the Egungun to Benin. She comes from Oyo (4) and her parents moved to Ouidah. I was little and when she took me to attend these ceremonies, I did not understand anything, but I think there is something that remained in me. There is something she shared with me that never left. And each time, it comes back in my work, it comes back in my way of seeing things, and I think that helps me a lot too. There is an attachment and it shows in my work.

I was not born in Benin, so it was much later that I went to my paternal family to follow the initiation steps that could be done for a newborn. My paternal family comes from Nigeria(5). We are settled near Savè, more precisely in a village called Challa Ogoï (6), it is a few kilometers from Tchaourou. It is a family of hunters. So there is also something of the Yoruba tradition, nagô, which has stayed with me. And since I did these ceremonies, all this information, all these things and I, we are one, we are associated. In my photos, we feel this Yoruba tradition, we feel Ogou (7), the hunters, we feel that. The crown too, for example, is purely Yoruba. So tradition, whether I like it or not, is present in my work.

And without being a practitioner, as someone who sees and respects tradition, as an African, it's like our passport. I couldn't speak of the Catholic religion any better than those born into it. But I can tell you better about my hunting tradition, the Yoruba tradition, because I was born in Africa. So it's ingrained in me. There is a saying (8) that says: my umbilical cord was buried in Africa, so I am in communication with the earth, I am in communication with my ancestors. There is something that comes and pushes me. I go all the time to things related to tradition, and I like to research it and share with future generations. »

(1) The Nagô people mainly live in Benin.

(2) Côte d'Ivoire is a West African country bordering Liberia and Guinea to the west, Mali and Burkina Faso to the north, and Ghana to the east.

(3) Literal translation from Yoruba: Powerful Mother.

(4) North of Ibadan, Oyo is a town in Nigeria with a majority population of Yoruba origin, not far from the border with Benin.

(5) Nigeria is a West African country bordering Benin to the west, Niger and Chad to the north, and Cameroon to the east.

(6) Challa Ogoï is a district of the commune of Ouesse in the Collines department in central Benin.

(7) Ogou (or Ogoun or Gou) is the deity of war, hunting and iron in the Yoruba tradition.
(8) An adage is a saying, proverb.

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