Boing Boing on GOOD – Dahomey Diary: Notes from Benin (Xeni)

Benin: Priest (video still / Xeni Jardin)

Boing Boing is collaborating with GOOD Magazine on a series of features written by BB editors. The latest installment in that series is a collection of excerpts from a journal I kept during a recent trip to West Africa. Longer form video and audio features are planned for future release through Boing Boing Video. Here's a snip, there's more, along with more stills from video (like the image above) at the GOOD link, too.

A Bariba settlement near Kouandé, in the far north near Nigeria.

Our car pulls as close to the center compound as the dirt path allows. We open car doors, step out into dust, through grass thatch gates. A crowd of women are dancing, drums and high trills. We landed mid-ceremony. We're here to pay respects to a healer-queen. A few steps inside her hut, bags of blackeyed peas, flour, and hard candy are stacked like cash along mud walls–payment, tribute, from villagers. We're seated on the ground, swatting clouds of flies, awaiting her audience.

This is the part I'll remember forever: One by one, young girls file in, after the ceremony. White mud dots on their faces, scar lines carved in dark brown skin, constellations of scars and stars, ancestor ghost signs. They call out like birds as they step inside. The healer calls back, a long vowel.





Again and again, then quiet. The girls lie down before her, stretched out on their sides, heads bowed into the floor, awaiting a tap from her on the left shoulder. Eventually, she taps each shoulder. They rise, and leave.

Soft, resonant wood thud sounds outside now, a different rhythm. Not drums this time, but older women pounding cassava, singing, trading verses of vowels with one another, as they pound roots into mash.

GOOD — Dahomey Diary: Notes from Benin (Image: Xeni Jardin)

Here are the Boing Boing on GOOD archives, which include more features from Mark, Joel, Pesco, and Xeni.