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Posts tagged "benin"

In Photos: “Signares” by Fabrice Monteiro.

Exploring history and fashion along the west coast of Africa, for his series ‘Signares' Belgian-Beninese photographer Fabrice Monteiro recalls a time in history where distinct cultures collided.

As European traders and explorers began to ascend on Africa’s west coast around the 15th and 16th century, as these men where forbidden from bringing their families and wives from their home countries, they began to intermingle and intermarry with African women in the Senegambia region. As a result of these relations, many of these women began to orchestrate business dealings to their benefits “using these partnerships to bolster their socioeconomic standing and personal trading enterprises”. One signare in the 1770s from St Louis, Senegal, is noted to have been a property owner and dealer as she bought and sold property in Saint-Domingue, while “five other signares in Gorée signed a petition against a poorly run French company that had been awarded an exclusive contract with the island”. 

Although these relations were not at first recognized by colonial and European authorities, it later became acceptable for Europeans living in Senegal to marry and have their descendants profit from these unions through heritage rights. Most of these women were considered to be of a high class and often married “middle-class executives or French and English aristocrats”. Naturally, a new sense of fashion was born as the women combined their own traditional styles with European attire at the time.

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Morning Cheer: Led by filmmaker Stéphane Brabant, people in Cotonou, Benin declare their happiness using Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ song.

Watch the Tunis, Tunisia video.

Multi-award winning Benin songstress Angelique Kidjo is back with a new album titled Eve. 

Stream the album in full and listen to her NPR: All Things Considered interview about it here.

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Portraits in the series, “Guardians of Dahomeyan Deities from Benin to Maranhão [Brazil]” (“Zeladores de Voduns do Benin ao Maranhão”) by Márcio Vasconcelos, 2009-2011. In order from the top: ”Pai Euclides,” “Curador,” “Mãe Elzita,” “Mundica Estrela,” “Irene Moreira,” and an unidentified practitioner. Voduns are spirits of Fon origin venerated in the Brazilian religious formations Tambor da Mina and Jeje Candomblé.

Ethnographer and historian Kelly E. Hayes defines a key term:

Zelador means “caretaker” or “custodian” and typically refers to the caretaker of a building or residence…Spirits are conceptualized as members of one’s family, and like family members, the labor required to maintain harmonious relationships with them involves activities of remembering, caring, feeding, and feting. These activities ensure the continual flow of axé, vital energy or life force, necessary for the well-being of both humans and spirits.

(via talesofthestarshipregeneration)

ICONIC WOMEN: The Mino of Dahomey or the Dahomey ‘Amazon’ Warriors/Dahomey Amazons

From the late 17th century until the end of the 19th century, the Kingdom of Dahomey in the what is today the West African nation of Benin (sandwiched between Nigeria on the east and Togo to their west) an incredible regiment made up of only women, from within the Fon community, challenged and refuted gender norms by occupying spaces usually reserved for men. 

This all-women Fon army was originally established by Dahomian king King Houegbadja, the third king of Dahomeny, who ruled from 1645 to 1685, with the intention of having these women serve as elephant hunters known as ‘gbeto’. Later, during Houegbadja’s son King Agadja reign during the early 1700s he developed the gbeto into an established bodyguard and warrior unit who became known as the Mino meaning ‘our mothers’ in Fon - a name given to them by the men’s army of Dahomey. During this time, the Mino gained one of their first major successes in being part of the Dahomey army that defeated the neighbouring kingdom of Savi in 1727. Their incorporation into the army was done to increase the size of the Dahomey military, thus appearing larger and more intimidating to their opponents.

In King Ghezo’s time, between 1818 to 1858, great emphasis was put on Dahomey’s army and military units, perhaps due to the growing threat of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the threat that neighbouring ethnic groups may have posed as a result of it. As a result, King Ghezo poured much of his resources into developing the Dahomian army, including the Mino, increasing their budget, formalizing their structure and training, and arming them with guns obtained from the Dutch through trade.

It is said that by the mid-19th century there were between 1,000-6,000 women in the Mino unit which comprised of both free Dahomian women and women who may have been taken as captives during war. Women in the Mino, sometimes referred to as ahosi (the king’s wives) were not permitted to marry or have children as the were considered wives of the king. This allowed the women to obtain positions of great power and influence as they were highly revered in Dahomian within the army - especially for their braver, and within society as well.

As European colonial forces began to move more aggressively throughout Africa in the 1800s, French forces on colonial campaigns in West Africa placed increasing pressure on the Dahomian Kingdom leading to an outbreak of war between French and Dahomian forces in 1890. The first Franco-Dahomian War broke out in that year with the Dahomey Army led by anti-colonialist King Behanzin. Part of the French forces consisted of Tirailleurs - French-trained Senegalese and Gabonese soldiers who had been recruited due to their countries being colonized by France. Despite the Dahomian army being greater in number, they were ill-equipped in comparison to the French and lost the war resulting in Dahomey being added to France’s colonial territories in West Africa.

This defeat also signified the disintegration of the Dahomian army and thus the women who the Europeans had referred to as the ‘Dahomey Amazons’. The last surviving Mino is thought to have been a woman named Nawi who died in 1979.

Someone needs to make a sci-fi animated fantasy or make a comic about or inspired by these women.

(sources 1, 2, 3)

 AUGUST: Highlighting African Women

WOMEN’S MONTH PHOTOGRAPHY: Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou -Untitled (Demoiselles series), 2012

Can’t find much in-depth information about these images so feel free to share if you do.

This work and Jodi Bieber’s Real Beauty series share some visual similarities.

AUGUST: Celebrating African Women

WOMEN’S MONTH PHOTOGRAPHY: Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou Untitled (Demoiselles de Porto-Novo series), 2012

The son of Benin’s best-known photographer Joseph Moise Agbodjelou, Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou photographs the people of his hometown—the thriving port city of Porto-Novo, caught between tradition and modern influences. Drawing subjects from street life, friends, family, and studio customers, Agbodjelou produces carefully composed portraits of individuals in interior spaces, standing in brightly colored, traditional Yoruba costumes against mud brick walls. In his “Demoiselles de Porto-Novo” series—which addresses art history through its triptych formats and titular references to Picasso—he focuses on the young female citizens of Porto-Novo, often capturing them in ceremonial or Vodun masks. Images such as Untitled Triptych (from the series Demoiselles de Porto-Novo) (2012), feature Portuguese-style colonial buildings, which point to the city’s historical role as a gateway for the colonial slave trade with Brazil. Agbodjelou recently opened Benin’s first photography school.


AUGUST: Celebrating African Women


Amazon warriors from Dahomey

The Amazon Women of Dahomey, a precolonial West African kingdom, in the present-day Republic of Benin at the Crystal Palace exhibition. Circa 1893  

Tate Modern opens doors to African visionaries Salahi and Gaba

Exhibitions of works by artists from Sudan and Benin reflects a step change towards Tate’s more globalised view of modern art.

Meschac Gaba was so bewildered by the lack of opportunities for African artists in Europe that he spent five years constructing his own fictional museum, even adding, for extra authenticity, a shop and a restaurant. This week it takes its place at the heart of the British art establishment when it goes on display as one of Tate Modern's newest acquisitions – the biggest work it has ever bought.

The opening coincides with major retrospectives for the Sudanese artist Ibrahim El-Salahi, 82, and the Lebanese artist Saloua Raouda Choucair, 97. Both could be described as overlooked pioneers, and the shows reflect Tate Modern’s move towards a more globalised view of art. “These are all exhibitions that 20 or 30 years ago were quite impossible,” said the Tate Modern director, Chris Dercon. “At some point it will be absolutely normal and absolutely necessary to have all these kinds of work, all these artists, together in one museum.”

(cont. reading)

Related story: ‘Why African Art is the Next Big Thing' (BBC)

More African Artists.


From Citizens of Porto-Novo by Beninese photog Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou, on display at London’s Jack Bell Gallery till May 25.

(via nocturnalphantasmagoria)


Julien Sinzogan was born in 1957 in Porto-Novo, Republic of Benin. He studied architecture in Paris at the École Spéciale des Travaux Public, and lives and works in France.

Sinzogan’s work expresses the way of life informed and inspired by the Yoruba divinatory and religious system known as Ifa. The Yoruba people of Nigeria and Benin in West Africa see life as taking a cyclical trajectory through which individuals experience the tangible world (aye), depart to the spirit world (orun) and are reborn. Sinzogan’s works explore the journeys between these different but closely related worlds. The voyages between such realms lie at the heart of religious practice across much of the Atlantic world, a world forever shaped by another voyage: the middle passage of the Atlantic slave trade.


Femmes catholiques de Ouidah, Benin. (1900)

I wonder if their conversion was by choice? Here’s an article about the rise of Catholicism in Africa over the past century.

(via manufactoriel)

219 plays
Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou,
Volume ONE "The Vodoun Effect" - Funk And Sato From Benin's Obscure Labels 1972-1975

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou - Iya Me DJi Ki Bi Ni

When that bass kicks in, ahhhh! These guys were some serious funk masters.


ganvie, benin. photos dan kitwood

(via hellobenin)