Thursday, 31 December 2009

A sad road in human history

Traveling through the Route des esclaves (the route of the slaves) in Ouidah in coastal Benin is a poignant experience. Through this road, thousands of slaves were marched to the waiting boats on the coast. Ouidah was a major slave trading center of West Africa from where west-European slave traders procured men, women and children to work in the plantations of the Americas. These human beings had the misfortune of being born in a period of history when they were forcibly turned into commodities and traded for canons, gunpowder, alcohol, and perhaps other goods unavailable on African shores.

In 1992 modest monuments were erected along the Route des esclaves – bookmarks in this dark chapter. Varun shot these pictures.

The tree and the square where the slaves were traded.

The rebels were tied and gagged.

Many died even before reaching the boats. A memorial marks the mass grave.

Free in death.

The gate of no return.

The land that they left behind… forever.

Monday, 28 December 2009

A village on stilts

Not very far from Cotonou city, is the fishing village of Ganvie. Populated with fisherfolk of Tofinu community, it is said that the ancestors of the present residents moved into this swampy patch running away from the slave hunters of the 17th Century. The village is built on stilts, and the community members ride boats into the city to sell their fish and buy their material needs. Women have a strong social and economic presence.

Varun and I shot these pictures.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Keeping pace with the seniors

The recent Balafon Festival at Cotonou brought together many greats of African music. The young Cameroonian singer, Sanzy Viani, kept pace with the seniors.

Two hands many skills

I was introduced to African music only recently. What amazes me is how musicians perform multiple tasks with ease and perfection. The famous Manu Dibango sang, played the saxophone and the keyboard in the same soul-stirring performance.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Hair on fire

Cotonou is a big city, small city. It is big enough to attract musicians and artists traveling through West Africa to stop and perform. It is small enough for us to attend some of the performances without jostling through traffic for hours.

Reggae artist Jahcoustix was in the city recently. While his hair was on fire, he managed to set fire to the feet of the audience.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Life on a sand bank

Cotonou city is built on a sand bank between Lake Nokue on the north and the Atlantic Ocean on the south. A channel that runs through the middle of the city links the lake with the ocean. While the port is the gateway for imported goods to come into Benin, the lake provides livelihood for thousands of fishermen, and the beach has something for everyone.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Diwali in Benin

This was our first Diwali outside India. Without the bang of the festival back home, we celebrated by lighting a few diyas.

Seven star football

Dubai is a rich city with a short history. This accounts for the city's insatiable desire to build the biggest and richest structures in the world. Despite the tiring afternoon sun and the dust hanging like a mesh curtain, these young men were busy playing beach football in front of the only seven-star hotel in the world - Burj Al Arab.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Carrying rain inland

When the fury of the South-West Monsoon hits Nattika coast, the otherwise pleasant beach turns into a picture of anger. However, even the menacing sea cannot stop a few young men from enjoying themselves.

A temple by the river

The rivers that flow west into Kerala from the Western Ghats break into distributaries and backwaters. The Sri Rama temple at Triprayar in Kerala sits beautifully on the banks of one such river. It is believed that the Sri Rama idol was the one used for worship by Sri Krishna in Dwaraka and had drifted southwards through the Arabian Sea and was picked up by the fishermen from the sea coast nearby.