Lome Togo market fire

Dolls on offer at the Akodessewa Fetish Market in Lome, Togo. Picture: GettyDolls on offer at the Akodessewa Fetish Market in Lome, Togo. Picture: Getty Source: Getty Images

ANCIENT and mysterious arts survive in a land racked by turmoil. But visitors are now returning to visit the mysterious dark continent.

“You will travel far and the spirits will guide you safely through many perils, ” Anthony whispers into his hands cupping the tiny object.

And with that short and sweet blessing, he inserts a tiny wooden pin into the little shaft and presents me with my travelling talisman.

Anthony, not his real name I’m certain, looks at me with the satisfaction that reminds me of a triumphant used car salesman.

Skulls of monkeys and other animals on sale at the Akodessewa Fetish Market. Picture: ThiSkulls of monkeys and other animals on sale at the Akodessewa Fetish Market. Picture: Thinkstock Source: ThinkStock

In his tiny, darkened back room, Dr David Conrad (a PhD in African studies) and I survey the bizarre assortment of fetish idols arranged on the little table.

“You won’t find these legba (vodun idols) out in the market, ” he says to me through barely moving lips, “these are the real deal.”

David accepts one of the idols with all the solemnity of a holy treasure, only this macabre, roughly carved figure about the size of a premature fetus has none of the beauty associated with divine objects.

A voodoo ceremony takes place at the Akodessewa Fetish Market. Picture: GettyIts blank gnarly body is covered in coarse dust, cobwebs and lumpy red stains that need no further description. He inspects it briefly and raises his thick wiry eyebrows in my direction.

“This one.”

A voodoo ceremony takes place at the Akodessewa Fetish Market. Picture: Getty Source: Getty Images

For about $20, I have a genuine West African voodoo doll and a couple of sundry talisman in the bargain.

Here in Togo’s Akodessewa Fetish Market, a small contingent of our tour group have ventured inside the compound to examine the piles of desiccated animal remains, withered heads and amputated parts of animals on sale.

Crocodiles’ skulls are among the voodoo supplies at the Akodessewa Fetish Market. PictureLike in any African market, hopeful young hucksters will bound up to you with trinkets and baubles to thrust in your face.

Only here in the capital, Lome, these souvenirs and forget-me-nots are tiny figurines impaled with nails or incomprehensible amalgams of animal parts.

Crocodiles’ skulls are among the voodoo supplies at the Akodessewa Fetish Market. Picture: Thinkstock Source: ThinkStock

Despite centuries of Christian influence in the Gulf of Guinea from Nigeria to Ghana, the art of vodun is practised in both the cities and villages. When West African slaves were transported in their thousands from these shores to the Caribbean and Americas, it became “voodoo” - and something else again.

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