Anyone visiting Lome will find quite enough interesting spots there to visit, for me the city’s markets got my attention. The two markets I visited are the Grand Marche and the Akodessewa fetish market. They are probably the only main markets in the city, the former sells general goods while the latter has specific focus.
For those who do not know where Lome is, here is a fast catch up. Lome is the capital of Togo; a small West African country straddled between Benin Republic and Ghana with Burkina Faso bordering it to the North.
Typically, anyone traveling from Lagos (Nigeria) to Accra (Ghana) by road passes through Lome using its main road—the six-lane Boulevard de la Marina. This road stretches from the Ghanaian border along the beach to the eastern side of the city all the way to the Benin Republic border. The artery of the city is the D-shaped Boulevard du 13 Janvier, also known as Boulevard Circulaire. This is where restaurants, discoteques, hotels, official buildings and other major points of interests are.
The city’s centre however is at the intersection of Rue du Commerce and Rde la Gare. This is the area where the first market I visited, i.e. the Grand Marche (big market) is located.
The market occupies an entire section of the city centre. With its large 3-storey hall, the market is divided into three sections called Atipoji, Asigama and Assivito. You’ll find just about anything at the market ranging from red peppers, green lemons, and dried fish, to combs, travel bags, and traditional medicinal remedies. The traders in the market are predominantly women and children.
The Grand Marche is also usually called Mama Benz (which sounds like Nana Benz). The name is in reference to the big older women who manage the market. These women are rich and influential; they usually have chauffeured Mercedes Benz as status symbol.
What makes Grand Marche much more interesting to visit is its vibe. There are usually live performances by musicians, dancers and magicians and you can see another of Lome’s landmark, the German Gothic styled Lome Cathedral built many years ago, just close by.
The other market, which I found more intriguing, is the Akodessewa Fetish Market known to locals mainly as the Marche des Feticheurs. To some people, the wares at the market test the limits of disgust, to others; it is just another touristy place to be while many consider it an important destination for meeting their daily needs.
Akodessewa Fetish Market is a supermarket for voodoo ritual materials. It is located close to the city centre and you will find just about any animal’s parts—mainly dried up and ready for use for treating human ailment or solving spiritual challenges, there. Traders at the market are friendly and readily educate people about the voodoo religion and the essence of their trade.
As I approached the market, I saw on a long row of wooden tables the heads of monkeys, alligators, leopards, gazelles, antelopes, lions, rhinos, gorillas, dogs, and the dried remains of chameleons, assorted snakes such as cobras and vipers, lizards, birds, and insects, among others. There were also different animal parts such as horns, bones, paws, hands, and hooves or feet on display, just as are different herbs, spices, statues, idols, and charms.
I was lucky to meet a friendly trader in one of the stalls who explained to me that the market was a kind of hospital or pharmacy to many voodoo believers. He added that the animal parts were used in a variety of concoctions, rituals and spells to cure a plethora of ailments and solve problems such as sickness, infertility and curses. They also help in righting wrongs, smiting an enemy, making someone love you, increasing athletic prowess, bringing financial success, or mending the ways of an unfaithful lover.
The trader’s explanation gave me a clearer understanding of voodoo practise. Like the ancient Greeks and their many gods, voodoo practitioners believe that a number of spirits (Iwa) are in charge of different aspects of human life and they report to an impartial master God (Bondye). They also believe that every creature is potent and divine whether living or dead and can be used in solving human problems.
Feature Image Credit: Fetish Market2 by Paul Williams