West Africa’s weirdest market
VENTURES AFRICA – Africa, renowned for some of the most beautiful tourist destinations and historic landmarks, is also home to quite a number of bizarre spots, one of which can be found in Togo’s capital city, Lomé. Togo’s Akodessewa Market is recognized as the largest fetish (voodoo) market in the world, a one-stop shop for any Voodoo doctor looking for the right “ingredients.”
When approaching the market, it may seem like only a dusty deserted mechanic workshop lined with wooden tables. However the minute you get close enough and sight the piles of heads, skins, tails and limbs of various animals, you realize you’ve arrived at Akodessewa Fetish Market.
The weirdest things imaginable could be found in this market – from the heart of a horse to aged monkey skulls or from snake skins to heads of gorillas. These are obviously not bound for the cooking pot, rather they are objects for traditional medicine capable of giving even the most macho adventure-seeker a bout of the creepy crawlies.
However voodoo is but a dramatised pop-culture caricature of ‘voudon’. It has very little to do with so-called voodoo dolls or zombies. It is an Afro-Caribbean religion which originated in Haiti, though followers can be found in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, and other parts of the world. The voudoun practise can be traced back to the time of slavery in many of the West African countries including Nigeria and Ghana. But despite the growing rate of globalisation, many remain ardent believers in the power of these local healers and their ability to evoke spirits and heal a myriad of ailments.
Broken up and drunk, rubbed on the skin or swallowed, the animal parts come from all over West Africa, and so do the customers. Couples who can’t have babies, footballers who want to make the game a one-man show, people who require extra wealth; all these can be provided at the world’s biggest voodoo market. A lot of eccentric travellers venture all the way to Togo just to have a feel of this voodoo pharmacy. For those who need more than the pictures to be convinced, the voodoo chief addresses that by giving a tour of the market.
It is sure to drive animal activists’ berserk but for those eccentric enough to travel there, it is a chance to learn about various herbs and their uses. The merchants are convinced that there’s something for everyone who visits this market.
By Motunrayo Shafau