Voodoo – it’s more than sticking pins into dolls and commanding the undead, as these gorgeous photographs by Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou, a photographer from the West African Republic of Benin, show. It’s is a complete way of life that includes art, culture, philosophy, dance, music, medicine – and really fabulous fashion. Agbodjelou’s pictures are from Benin’s annual voodoo festival, a vibrant and colourful event that features singing, dancing, beating of drums and drinking of gin on the beach while watching horse races. I could totally get into that.
The idea of the festival is to strengthen the bond that unites families and communities with departed ancestors known as Egungun, a Yoruba word which means, ‘the souls of the dead who have returned to earth for a short time to pass on specific advice to the living’.
To represent these ancestral advice-giving spirits, members of the community masquerade around town in elaborate veiled costumes made from velvet, silk, damask, Indian madras; the best fabrics money can buy. Veils are often made of cowry shell screens to avoid the bad luck of seeing the dancing masquerader’s eyes.
The Egungun sometimes also make appearances at funerals or any time of major misfortune or suffering within the local community. Relationships between the living and the spirits are the essence of voodoo. Unlike most religion, followers of voodoo believe they have direct access to the spirit world; they are not distant and can be invoked to help get through difficult times.
Check out the looks below. (They’re very Nick Cave)