This week in photos: Starving animals, Benin Voodoo Festivals and South Africa’s Isandlwana

Voodoo festival of Benin


Benin voodoo festival

In Ouidah, a small town and former slave port in the West African country of Benin, the annual voodoo festival gathers visitors from far and wide. It’s a week that brings together priests and dignitaries, rich and poor, locals and visitors from as far afield as the Caribbean and France. The festival commemorates the estimated 60 million people who lost their homelands and their freedom during the African slave trade. Slaves were transported from the port town on the Atlantic from Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and other parts of West Africa. The traditional African religion of voodoo, which spread to the Americas with the slave trade, combines elements including philosophy and medicine. The central belief of voodoo is that everything is spirit, including humans. Voodoo is closely related to other belief systems and religions I have seen across Africa, especially back home in Nigeria. The annual Ouidah gathering on 10 January has been a national holiday in Benin for more than 20 years.

voodoo festival in Benin

The gathering includes traditional dance and animal sacrifices at shrines, with some devotees entering trance states. The peak of the festival is in the last two days. Devotees offer dances to the spirits, often with bodies decorated with local powder and palm oil. There are those who find the initiation ceremonies of voodoo, the animal sacrifices, the bloodletting and the use of fetishes unsettling. Although many voodoo practices have been modified over the years, I have heard people, especially those who follow Christianity and Islam, voice their doubts. Whatever your opinion of voodoo, it’s hard to ignore the energy and devotion of its followers at a gathering like this. The Ouidah festival looks set to remain a regular fixture in Benin’s religious and cultural calendar.

Benin voodoo festival

voodoo festivals in benin

voodoo festivals of benin


 

EL NINO HITS HARD ON ANIMALS ACROSS SOUTHERN AFRICA


El nino in africa
REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Zimbabwean men attempt to get a malnourished cow on its feet  in rural Masvingo, in this picture taken January 21, 2016. The United Nations World Food Programme said some 14 million people face hunger in southern Africa because of a drought that has been exacerbated by an El Nino weather pattern.

A malnourished cow walks past huts in rural Masvingo, Zimbabwe
A malnourished cow walks past huts in rural Masvingo, Zimbabwe
El Nino in Africa
Birds hover over a donkey that villagers say died due to the effects of drought in rural Masvingo, Zimbabwe,
The carcass of a cow lies in a field in Disaneng village outside Mafikeng, South Africa, January 28, 2016. About 14 million people face hunger in Southern Africa because of a drought that has been exacerbated by an El Nino weather pattern. REUTERS/Sydney Seshibedi
The carcass of a cow lies in a field in Disaneng village outside Mafikeng, South Africa, January 28, 2016. About 14 million people face hunger in Southern Africa because of a drought that has been exacerbated by an El Nino weather pattern. REUTERS/Sydney Seshibedi

THE BATTLE OF ISANDLWANA REENACTED


 

ZULU HISTORY
REUTERS/Rogan Ward

Zulu warriors prepare to enact the Battle of Isandlwana at Isandlwana, South Africa January 23, 2016. The battle took place on January 22, 1879, and was the first major encounter in the Anglo-Zulu War between the British Empire and the Zulu Kingdom.

zulu history

ZULU WARRIORS