Goja Ceremony Invitation

We are excited to have been invited to document the Goja right of passage, a ceremonial flagellation of young males in the Beninese community of Tchaourou.  Fulani leaders have asked us to document this unique cultural event that will take place in late 2010.

This ceremony forms an important part of the prestige structure for adult males, as an individual’s response to the pain reveals his character, stoicism, and leadership potential.  Boys aged 16 to 20 will exchange whip strikes as members of the community observe their bravery.  This nocturnal event also serves as a community gathering, as family and friends will travel from distant camps to participate.

This tradition is fading in other parts of Benin, partly under pressure from other ethnic groups who view the ceremony as cruel or savage.  However, the Fulbe community in Tchaourou holds strong to their tradition, and they’ve asked that it be photographed to depict the richness and importance of this ritual.

The Tchaourou Fulani leaders invited the Pulaku Project to photograph the event because they want to enrich their historical record with images of this unique ceremony.  The Goja ceremony is not normally open to outsiders, and we are truly honored to take part in this event.

In other news, we are also planning a trip to Niger for the Geerewol Festival in September.   This event marks the end of the rainy season for the Fulani subgroup known as the Wodaabe (“The Lost People”) and it features an elaborate display of male beauty.  Young men paint their faces and adorn themselves in costumes of feathers and beads as they perform a group dance to draw the attention of potential brides.

While we aren’t hitting the road until January 2011, we’re eager to explore these unique opportunities before we go full-time on the Fulani trail.

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