The town of Ouidah - Benin is the spiritual capital of Vodun in West Africa where all pay homage to the Python-God. Presently there are an estimated 50 million worshippers worldwide. An important aspect of the religion is spirit possession, through which the spirits speak to the devotees only for a short time during the ceremonies. This trance mechanism is a way to heal and get advice about daily matters. I lived with the Beninese 'Hounongan Zanzan Zinho Kledjé' family who adheres the Gambada fetish or the serpent spirit, the basis of the well-known Damballah cult in Haïti. In Vodun and related African diasporic traditions a primordial way to obtain a spiritual experience is by being possessed by the Iwa or spirit. I was fortunate to encounter and document this intense experience. During a ceremony I witnessed the individual trance of two devotees. The genuine uncontrollable muscle spasms, vocalizations and peculiar eye gazes showed me this was an unfeigned event.

I felt strongly this women did not feign the possession as f. ex. I witnessed next to their peculiar eye gazes a lot of uncontrollable muscle spasms. Photographically I wanted to emphasize their raw female power by isolating these women from their surroundings and focussing on them.

Frederic Vanwalleghem
Visual Artist

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