Goja Intro

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For centuries the Fulani of northern Benin have celebrated the end of the rainy season with the Goja ceremony. This annual tradition plays an important role in shaping relationships and forging cultural identity. Although this rite centers around young men who display their bravery through acrobatics and flagellation, it also serves as an opportunity for distant friends to reunite, and for new relationships to sprout. Unfortunately, social pressures have forced this tradition into obscurity, and few groups continue to practice Goja.

The yam harvest determines the specific day that Goja will be held, and this event celebrates the season of abundant food and forage. From this point forward, the rains will cease, the grass will dry out, and in a few months families will say their goodbyes as the young men depart on their annual migration towards greener pastures.

However, on the night of Goja, it’s 100% Party:

Two communities invited us to document their Goja ceremonies this year. In Ouessè, the Fulani have opted to omit flagellation from their celebration, but they nonetheless revel with dance and acrobatic displays. In Goro-Gah, the flagellation tradition persists in a more subdued fashion than in years past. Both communities invited the Pulaku Project to participate in Goja, to enrich their cultural archives with photographs of this fading custom. We were thrilled at the opportunity, and they welcomed us into their celebrations.

Both events were visually stunning and rich in stories.  With hundreds of photographs and countless insights to share, we’ve split the Goja vignettes into two separate posts:

Ouessè Goja

Goro-Gah Goja

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One Response to “Goja Intro”

  1. Diane says:

    This looks amazing! I was feeling homesick for Benin and these pictures helped lift my spirits, though I must say I never saw a ceremony involving fire carried atop one’s head before. Best of luck this spring!