In order to promote its rich heritage, Benin, through the Ministry of Culture, unveiled on 17 February a plan for the construction of four new institutions with both identity and economic implications. This decision was taken in the context of the exhibition of art objects returned by France and works by contemporary artists at the Palace of the Presidency of Benin.
The art works returned by France have been on display since 19 February 2022 at the Marina Palace in Cotonou. And to reinforce the existing museum arsenal in the country and thus the country’s attractiveness to tourists, the government has announced the creation of four major new museums. These are the International Museum of Memory and Slavery (MIME) in Ouidah, the Museum of the Epic of the Amazons and Kings of Danhomey, the Vodùn Museum in Porto-Novo and the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Cotonou. The most eagerly awaited of the lot is the museum of the epic of the Amazons and the kings of Dahomey, which is to house the 26 repatriated works of art and a collection of some 350 art objects.
An ambition with a strong economic impact
In a country like Benin, cultural tourism should be one of the major sectors of the economy. In France, for example, cultural tourism is a vector of attractiveness and economic development of territories. The weight of this sector is estimated at nearly 100,000 jobs and 15 billion euros of economic spin-offs. This indicates the importance of tourism in the development of a country. Indeed, the country in its richness and multiplicity of cultural assets could really benefit from the creation of these museums. In addition, many jobs could be created not only for the tourism sector but also for the hotel and restaurant industry. By the end of 2022, the country, one of the most affected by the transatlantic slave trade, will also inaugurate the museum of the history of slavery in the coastal town of Ouidah. A life-saving project that deserves the attention of all the people of Benin.
Benin, the birthplace of vodun
When we talk about vodun, we can only refer to Benin. Indeed, this cultural practice, which originated some four thousand years ago, has withstood all times and all eras. The horrors of slavery and colonisation have not separated Dahomey from its values and traditions. Il a résisté au poids du passé et oppose cette même résistance aux pressions de la modernisation. Through the art works, the descendants read the traces of a glorious past. These returned works once again confirm their value and impose the need for conservation. In ancient Dahomey, vodun was the basis of all the secrets of life. Royalty, agriculture, rhythms, dances and art were all based on this cultural ideal. For the ordinary Beninese, it is not only a question of works of art but of the return of ancestral spirits, of a resourcing, of a new mixing because these works carry the imprint, the emblem or even the signature of the ancestors.