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A picture and its story 

RTX23KHW 
Voodoo festival of Benin 
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 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 town on the Atlantic from Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and other parts of West Africa. The traditional African religion, 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 has been a national holiday in Benin for more than 20 years. 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 powder and palm oil. Some 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-POLITICS/
RTX23J82 
January 22, 2016 
Devotees are seen at the entrance of a shrine in Kpasse forest as they celebrate the annual voodoo festival... 
Ouidah, Benin 
A Picture And Its Story: Voodoo festival of Benin 
Devotees are seen at the entrance of a shrine in Kpasse forest as they celebrate the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah, Benin, January 10, 2016. 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. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye 
BENIN-POLITICS/
RTX23J7I 
January 22, 2016 
A statue is seen at the Kpasse shrine as voodoo devotess celebrate the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah... 
Ouidah, Benin 
A Picture And Its Story: Voodoo festival of Benin 
A statue is seen at the Kpasse shrine as voodoo devotess celebrate the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah in Benin, January 10, 2016. It brings together priests and dignitaries, rich and poor, locals and visitors from as far afield as the Caribbean and France. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye 
BENIN-POLITICS/
RTX23J8X 
January 22, 2016 
People watch as traditional drummers perform at the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah in Benin, January... 
Ouidah, Benin 
A Picture And Its Story: Voodoo festival of Benin 
People watch as traditional drummers perform at the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah in Benin, January 10, 2016. The festival commemorates the estimated 60 million people who lost their homelands and their freedom during the African slave trade. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye 
BENIN-POLITICS/
RTX23J87 
January 22, 2016 
A voodoo shrine is seen along a street during the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah in Benin, January... 
Ouidah, Benin 
A Picture And Its Story: Voodoo festival of Benin 
A voodoo shrine is seen along a street during the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah in Benin, January 10, 2016. Slaves were transported from the town on the Atlantic from Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and other parts of West Africa. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye 
BENIN-POLITICS/
RTX23J8C 
January 22, 2016 
A statue is seen at the Kpasse shrine as voodoo devotees celebrate annual voodoo festival in Ouidah,... 
Ouidah, Benin 
A Picture And Its Story: Voodoo festival of Benin 
A statue is seen at the Kpasse shrine as voodoo devotees celebrate annual voodoo festival in Ouidah, Benin, January 10, 2016. The traditional African religion of voodoo, which spread to the Americas with the slave trade, combines elements including philosophy and medicine. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye 
BENIN-POLITICS/
RTX23J8V 
January 22, 2016 
Voodoo priests walk through the Kpasse shrine as they celebrate the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah... 
Ouidah, Benin 
A Picture And Its Story: Voodoo festival of Benin 
Voodoo priests walk through the Kpasse shrine as they celebrate the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah in Benin, January 10, 2016. The central belief of voodoo is that everything is spirit, including humans. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye 
BENIN-POLITICS/
RTX23I4F 
January 22, 2016 
Locally made brooms are displayed for sale by the side of a building in Ouidah, Benin January 10, 2016.... 
Ouidah, Benin 
A Picture And Its Story: Voodoo festival of Benin 
Locally made brooms are displayed for sale by the side of a building in Ouidah, Benin January 10, 2016. Voodoo is closely related to other belief systems and religions I have seen across Africa, especially back home in Nigeria. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye 
BENIN-POLITICS/
RTX23I43 
January 22, 2016 
A voodoo priest attends the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah in Benin, January 10, 2016. The annual Ouidah... 
Ouidah, Benin 
A Picture And Its Story: Voodoo festival of Benin 
A voodoo priest attends the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah in Benin, January 10, 2016. The annual Ouidah gathering on 10 January has been a national holiday in Benin for more than 20 years. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye 
BENIN-POLITICS/
RTX23I4E 
January 22, 2016 
A carved door is seen at the entrance of a building in Ouidah in Benin, January 10, 2016. The gathering... 
Ouidah, Benin 
A Picture And Its Story: Voodoo festival of Benin 
A carved door is seen at the entrance of a building in Ouidah in Benin, January 10, 2016. The gathering includes traditional dance and animal sacrifices at shrines, with some devotees entering trance states. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye 
BENIN-POLITICS/
RTX23I3W 
January 22, 2016 
A voodoo priest attends the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah, Benin, January 10, 2016. The peak of the... 
Ouidah, Benin 
A Picture And Its Story: Voodoo festival of Benin 
A voodoo priest attends the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah, Benin, January 10, 2016. The peak of the festival is in the last two days. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye 
BENIN-POLITICS/
RTX23I5D 
January 22, 2016 
A devotee holds up a ram before killing it as a sacrifice in front of a shrine at the annual voodoo festival... 
Ouidah, Benin 
A Picture And Its Story: Voodoo festival of Benin 
A devotee holds up a ram before killing it as a sacrifice in front of a shrine at the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah, Benin, January 10, 2016. Devotees offer dances to the spirits, often with bodies decorated with local powder and palm oil. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye 
BENIN-POLITICS/
RTX23I5B 
January 22, 2016 
A devotee is guided by voodoo priests as she goes into a trance at the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah,... 
Ouidah, Benin 
A Picture And Its Story: Voodoo festival of Benin 
A devotee is guided by voodoo priests as she goes into a trance at the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah, Benin, January 10, 2016. There are those who find the initiation ceremonies of voodoo, the animal sacrifices, the bloodletting and the use of fetishes unsettling. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye 
BENIN-POLITICS/
RTX23I52 
January 22, 2016 
Devotees kill a goat as a sacrifice at a shrine during the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah, Benin, January... 
Ouidah, Benin 
A Picture And Its Story: Voodoo festival of Benin 
Devotees kill a goat as a sacrifice at a shrine during the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah, Benin, January 10, 2016. Although many voodoo practices have been modified over the years, I have heard people, especially those who follow Christianity and Islam, voice their doubts. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye 
BENIN-POLITICS/
RTX23I4A 
January 22, 2016 
A knife is seen beside a bowl containing blood after a ram was killed as a sacrifice in front of a shrine... 
Ouidah, Benin 
A Picture And Its Story: Voodoo festival of Benin 
A knife is seen beside a bowl containing blood after a ram was killed as a sacrifice in front of a shrine at the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah, Benin, January 10, 2016. Whatever your opinion of voodoo, it's hard to ignore the energy and devotion of its followers at a gathering like this. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye 
BENIN-POLITICS/
RTX23I49 
January 22, 2016 
A devotee holds down a ram with his foot after killing it as a sacrifice in front of a shrine at the... 
Ouidah, Benin 
A Picture And Its Story: Voodoo festival of Benin 
A devotee holds down a ram with his foot after killing it as a sacrifice in front of a shrine at the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah, Benin, January 10, 2016. The Ouidah festival looks set to remain a regular fixture in Benin's religious and cultural calendar. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye 
BENIN-POLITICS/
RTX23I4J 
January 22, 2016 
A devotee holds a voodoo doll during a traditional street procession to a shrine at the annual voodoo... 
Ouidah, Benin 
A Picture And Its Story: Voodoo festival of Benin 
A devotee holds a voodoo doll during a traditional street procession to a shrine at the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah in Benin, January 10, 2016. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye 
BENIN-POLITICS/
RTX23I5K 
January 22, 2016 
A masquerade dancer is seen during the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah in Benin, January 10, 2016. REUTERS/Akintunde... 
Ouidah, Benin 
A Picture And Its Story: Voodoo festival of Benin 
A masquerade dancer is seen during the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah in Benin, January 10, 2016. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye 
BENIN-POLITICS/
RTX23I3Z 
January 22, 2016 
A devotee attends the annual voodo festival in Ouidah in Benin, January 10, 2016. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye... 
Ouidah, Benin 
A Picture And Its Story: Voodoo festival of Benin 
A devotee attends the annual voodo festival in Ouidah in Benin, January 10, 2016. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye 
BENIN-POLITICS/
RTX23I4H 
January 22, 2016 
A mask of a masquerade dancer is seen during the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah in Benin, January 10,... 
Ouidah, Benin 
A Picture And Its Story: Voodoo festival of Benin 
A mask of a masquerade dancer is seen during the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah in Benin, January 10, 2016. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye 
BENIN-POLITICS/
RTX23I47 
January 22, 2016 
A devotee dances during the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah in Benin, January 10, 2016. REUTERS/Akintunde... 
Ouidah, Benin 
A Picture And Its Story: Voodoo festival of Benin 
A devotee dances during the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah in Benin, January 10, 2016. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye 
BENIN-POLITICS/
RTX23I40 
January 22, 2016 
Devotees perform at the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah in Benin, January 10, 2016. REUTERS/Akintunde... 
Ouidah, Benin 
A Picture And Its Story: Voodoo festival of Benin 
Devotees perform at the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah in Benin, January 10, 2016. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye 
BENIN-POLITICS/
RTX23I44 
January 22, 2016 
A devotee attends the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah in Benin, January 10, 2016. REUTERS/Akintunde... 
Ouidah, Benin 
A Picture And Its Story: Voodoo festival of Benin 
A devotee attends the annual voodoo festival in Ouidah in Benin, January 10, 2016. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye 
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