My African heritages is very important to me and represents a significant aspect of my daily life. That's why I wrote this article to tell you where I'm from....
I was born in the Benin Republic. Formerly known as Dahomey, Benin is one of Africa's most stable democracies. It is a small country located in West Africa. Since I have been living in the USA, many people I have come across have told that I'm the first Beninese they have met. Sometimes they don’t even know where the country is and I have to locate it on the map for them.
Benin's shore, known as one of the Slave Coast, used to be a major point for slaves to be shipped across the ocean Atlantic. Voodoo is known to be originated from Benin. It represents an important part of Benin's culture that the country's authorities have dedicated a day annually to celebrate it. Other elements of Benin culture brought by slaves are still present in the Americas.
Benin was a former French West African colonies until its independence on August 1st 1960. The official language of the country is French. But other major language spoken in the country are: Fon, Bariba, Dendi, and Yoruba (which is my native language). The country capital is Porto Novo also known as the city with three names (Porto Novo, Hognonou, Adjatche is where I was born. Porto Novo is right in the middle of the Yoruba land. Other notables cities of Benin are:
- Cotonou: It is the largest city and economic center of Benin. It is the home to most of the country's government buildings and diplomatic services. The city is a major port and home to an airport. Cotonou has become a crossroads of West African commerce, with much trade moving here from Abidjan enabling trade with the countries of the African interior, such as Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.
- Abomey: also known as the "Royal City", is the capital of Dahomey, the ancient Kingdom. It has one of the most impressive museums of Africa. It's artists and craftsmen, be they weavers, jewelers, wood carvers, iron and brass workers are famous far beyond the boundaries of the country.
- Ganvie: Africa's unique floating villages built on stilts. It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on October 31, 1996 in the Cultural category. Motorboats or dugouts are available for the trips across the lake to the Ganvie. During the trip, there are Akadjas made of stakes and bushes in the shape of open circles or triangles driven into the bed of the plantless Lake. Seeking shelter among the foliage, the fish can thus be easily caught or kept for breeding.
My experience living in Benin was great. Beninese are far from being perfect but they are peaceful people. I have received a wonderful education that makes me who I am today. I have also met wonderful people throughout my time growing up there. Some notable Beninese you need to know are (of course Salim Gnabode first):
- Angelique Kidjo: She is a Beninese Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and activist, noted for her diverse musical influences and creative music videos. She has been dubbed "Africa's premier diva" by Times Magazines.The Guardian has listed her as one of its Top 100 Most Inspiring Women in the World and Kidjo is the first woman to be listed among "The 40 Most Powerful Celebrities In Africa" by Forbes magazine. Kidjo’s now resides in Brooklyn, New York City where she is an occasional contributor to the New York Times. She has received Honorary Doctorates from Yale University, Berklee College of Music and Middlebury College.
- Djimon Hounsou: He is a Beninese-American actor and model. He was married to model Kimmora Lee Simon with who they have a son Kenzo Lee Hounsou. Djimon Hounsou gained recognition for his roles in Beauty Shop (2005) as Joe, Blood Diamond (2006) as Solomon Vandy, Guardian of the Galaxy (2014) as Korath, Furious 7 (2015) as Mose jakande, The Lezend or Tarzan (2016) as Chief Mbonga. He has been nominated for a Golden Globe Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards and two Academy Awards.
- Bertin Nahum: He is a Beninese entrepreneur residing in France, President and Founder of Medtech, which designs and markets the medical robotic technology ROSA. He holds a Master of Science degree in Robotics from Conventry University (UK). In September 2012, he was classified 4th in top 10 of the most Revolutionary High-Tech Entrepreneurs in the ranking of the Canadian magazine Discovery Series, positioning just behind Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and James Cameron. His company Medtech was elected Frost & Sullivan’s European Company of the Year for surgical robotics in 2013.