How can vodùn contribute to the development of Benin? This question was the subject of reflections during the international scientific symposium 10 January, and after? held in Benin from 19 to 21 January 2022.
What if vodùn, demonized, is only a carrier of cultural identity and development in Benin? This is one of the issues addressed during the international scientific symposium January 10, and after with the theme, Vodùn in a changing world: From Cartesian pretension to mantic rationality. A first great meeting on the thought of vodùn that brings together scientists with the guarantors of the Beninese tradition themselves. Indeed, the clichés generated by civilization have implemented in the Beninese, an omnipresent rejection of Vodùn, exclusive cultural heritage of their country. In other words, only the pronunciation of this name provokes in many Beninese a certain fear and contempt.
Thus, the essence of vodùn has been distorted and misperceived, this, specifically unjustly. Unfortunately, Benin, a Vodùn country, finds itself today facing the challenge of development advocated by the Cartesian pretension. But perhaps this country could use this vodùn to develop. Does “development”, as thought by Westerners, necessarily benefit the Beninese?
Culture as a basis for development
“We can only develop in our culture,” said Majesty Djomanmousso, Minister in charge of the promotion of cultural and endogenous values at the Royal Palace of Agonlin, at the end of the symposium. Indeed, culture has an intrinsic value which, when reinforced and valued at the level of the individual and the community, contributes to personal growth, integral human development, the structuring of society and social cohesion. Thus, culture is revealed as the very foundation of development.
However, how can Benin develop if the concept, as advocated by Westerners, obscures a part of the Beninese identity? By the way, Dr BALLO-GUEDE Fidèle, teacher at the University of Abomey-Calavi and communicator on the subject said that the vodùn did not come out of nowhere and that it is part of the originality of the Beninese culture. The result is a relationship of interdependence between vodùn and the development of Benin. In other words, Benin can never “develop” without a valorization of its heritage, thus of vodùn. Nevertheless, how can vodùn contribute to the development of Benin?
Vodùn, factor of development of Benin
Very early on with the advent of colonization, the white man made people believe that Catholicism was the only way to go. Such a conception excludes vodùn from the criteria of development, since it is an integral part of Beninese culture. However, this vodùn, rejected, can be a lever of construction of the cultural identity and the development in Benin. “Through the symposium, we want to restore the truth of the facts to tell the Beninese that for a long time, they were developed thanks to the vodùn. It is from vodùn that our ancestors built social systems, economies, organized productive activities, their life in community before the advent of the “civilization” which brought development” said Dr. Raymond Assogba, Sociologist-Anthropologist-Boologist and organizer of the said symposium.
Even today, with vodùn, Benin is able to make inventions. Its intervention in the field of health is no longer to question. Moreover, it is thanks to the latter that the traditional chiefs cure many diseases. Dr. Assogba affirms it in these terms: “We ourselves can make planes and boats from vodùn. Only, our ancestors did not need to go to the moon.
When we know that the world is not only visible and that many things can happen in the invisible thanks to the magic powers conferred by vodùn, there is reason not to underestimate the Beninese creativity. His Majesty Djomanmousso announces a revolution which could restore a new order on the world. “I work in such a way that I can go to France one day without taking a plane. The day when such an invention will be a reality, the visa will be null and void, the plane will no longer make sense, a bus will be crucified and a new world order will be re-established,” he said.
On the political level, it is already happy to know that there is a clear will around the promotion of vodùn. Today, we are trying to give vodùn an economic and media visibility throughout the world. As proof, the return from France of 26 works of art from Benin’s cultural heritage. Without forgetting the numerous projects announced in the PAG which will make Benin a high place of pilgrimage around the vodùn.
A culture, a legacy, a philosophy, an art, a language, vodùn is a primordial Beninese tradition. And since one cannot speak of development without culture, vodùn is inevitably the path to follow to initiate the development of Benin. Undoubtedly, the organization of the international scientific symposium January 10, and after? is already a good start. This great gathering between scientists and guarantors of Beninese tradition is one of the most beautiful initiatives on the thought of vodùn in Benin.