Togo- Society

A peek inside Lome’s fetish market

APA - Lome (Togo) By Nephthali Messanh Leydi

A visitor's itinerary of Togo is never complete without a tour of Lome's Akossewa district, east of the capital, where one of the most unique trading centres in Africa, the fetish market is located.

Thanks to a conspicuous plaque at the entrance, which provides information on the activities of the facility, there is no way of missing this market whose vendors are eternally on the lookout for visitors and demonstrate excessive energy aimed at attracting potential buyers to their stalls.

Sporting badges around their necks, their hunger for customers can be as uncomfortable as the stench issuing from the items on display. 

However, thanks to the orginality and uniqueness of its products, the market is a must-see for any visitor.

At the first stall where we went, the merchant guide proudly shows off his products including animal skulls, hides, ox horns, as well as little carved fetishes, carcasses and bird feathers. 

“They are the ingredients that fetishists use for the concoction of their products, including powders to cure diseases,” he explained, pointing out that all the items belong to his father.

If you can withstand the smell to get closer, you will clearly see crocodile heads, chameleon, antelope, lion, frog, turtle, etc.

“Here, we have organs of all animals, except human ones,” the guide-cum-trader clarified, as our gaze landed on a gorilla skull.

In between two explanations, he had received and served a client. 

When the buyer left, the salesman explained to us that he was from Senegal and was looking for “some items” for his activities back home.

Fielding a question about the prices, the guide said everything is done on the basis of bargaining. 

“We can sell something at CFA5,000 today and CFA10,000 the next day,” he explained while caressing a bird carcass.

Behind the stall, in a small room hidden by a curtain, noises were heard. 

“In this market, people come to be healed if they do not find satisfaction in the hospital, which means that they have spiritual issues. They come to see the witchdoctors who prescribe products we have,” the seller said, just to let him know that he and his colleagues have available on-the-spot healers capable of getting the patient back on their feet after an application of the item likely to cure their pain.

Lome's fetish market boasts of about ten surgery booths called convents, where about a hundred healers and medicine men, all from neighboring Benin converge.

“Some fetishes are already prepared at the convent. There are talismans with whom the fetishists work. They deal with the spirits,” the guide-trader added.

There are fetishes to deal with all the evils harbored in the dark world from those that protect against accidents, to those atrracting love, luck, and security in homes and make memories prodigious. 

There are also fetishes to heal poisoning or bring back virility to a manhood.

On the spot, we heard the testimony of a mother whose son suffered from excruciating pain but was healed by a talisman. 

Half-naked, the boy did not hesitate to burst into a song extolling this achievement.

Founded in 1863 by the Beninese king, Glele Kan Adiko Azondo, the Lomé fetish market also welcomes many other people including the curious from inside Togo, the wider sub-region, Europe and the United States.

During summer holidays, the market receives more than 2,000 visitors daily, according to an umbrella association grouped under the so-called Professionals. 

They said the regular tourist must pay CFA 3,000 as a fee for a guided tour and CFA2000 for any photo taken inside the market.

Guides are necessary because traders insist on having them to explain to tourists incapable of discernment, to avoid mistaking monkey or gorilla heads for human ones and giving Togo a blemished reputation.


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