Boat Sighting in Grand Popo, Benin Photo Credit: Zetwal Ashade
Grand Popo, Benin | Photo Credit: Tossie Long
Towards the end of our stay in Benin, my Dance Kin and I took a two day excursion from Cotonou to Grand Popo, to relax and unwind. Through my research, I learned that a small coastal town by the name of AGOUÈ was near the border between Benin and Togo. A Benin/Haiti spiritual connection! Always looking for an adventure, we jumped in our van and took a drive.
Agoue welcomes us!
A Few Fun Facts!
AGWE TAWOYO the admiral of the sea in Haitian Vodou
AGBÈ in Fon is the divinity of the sea
AGBETAWOYÓ in Fon is the ‘sound of the sea’
Agbè - Spirit of the Sea Tö - River Awoyó - Huge
The Immense Sea or River
Gesner Abelard Agwe-ta-Royau (Ceremonial Offering for Agwe, God of the Sea), ca. 1955
"We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep."
The parallels between Benin and Haiti are undeniable! Connecting the dots, one journey at a time. Unlocking the keys... We are a singing people, a group that sing everywhere, cause that too is a form of devotion. I’m most certain Agwe Tawoyo heard our prayer. ⚓️
AGOUÉ. AGBÈ. AGWE. Dahomey to Ayiti...
Agwe Tawoyo in the head of Manbo Maude | Sosyete Nago | Jacmel, Haiti Photo Credit: Bonkira
A Grant Salute to Manmi Maude and my spiritual siblings of Sosyete Nago, for collectively making this extravagant ritual for Met Agwe Tawoyo happen.
This is the work! It’s simply gorgeous!!
For a visual documentation of Bak Agwe, the film version of Divine Horseman (Deren/Ito, 1978) may be helpful.
Excerpt, “The sea ceremony for Agwe is, for an inland Manbo or Houngan, perhaps the most elaborate of all ritual undertakings. She must accumulate the offerings: vegetables, cakes, maize, bananas, pigeons, rams, chickens, etc...she must convene her Sosyete, delegate and supervise responsibilities, provide food and lodging for all her helpers and guest, arrange for a truck to transport everything and everybody, rent the sailboat which will carry them all out to the sea, and remember a million other secular details. Because it was both costly and difficult, many Houngan’s and Manbo’s never undertook it at all.”
Source: Divine Horseman • The Living Gods of Haiti, Maya Deren
I was blessed to work with Haiti Dance Co., an amazing troupe of dancers during Vinn Pran Baget Dance Retreat in Jacmel, Haiti. Here they are, along with a Houngan and Manbo's (Vodou Priests) dancing for Met Agwe Tawoyo, as part of a video project choreographed by Dieufel Lamisere. Video Credit: Zetwal Ashade (2017)
AGWE in NY
Sosyete Kle Erez celebrates Agwe with an annual celebration at Jacob Riis Park Photo Credit: Stephanie Keith
AGWE in BOSTON
Agwe Tawoyo in the head of Zetwal Ashade Bon Manbo Sosyete Nago | Boston Fet Danbla 2016 Photo Credit: Loraj Gwonde Bon Manbo
Agwe Tawoyo mounts Manbo Shenaia Sosyete Nago | Boston Fet Danbala 2017 Video: Loraj Gwonde Bon Manbo
I’ve made it my responsibility to search for answers to my probing questions. Vodou is VAST. The beauty of this tradition is, it varies and is practiced regionally, particularly in Haiti. One person isn’t the QUEEN OR KING of VODOU. Multiple sources are a beautiful thing. Develop relationships. Locally + Internationally.
ONE PERSON DOES NOT HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS, OR SUPREME KNOWLEDGE!
It is up to an individual to research, study, and find your truth. Do yourself a favor: Travel outside of INSTAGRAM & FB for knowledge and information regarding the history, politics, and various spiritual lineages of Vodou: extensions of the tradition - they do exist and are intact. Don’t take another persons experience in Vodou as your own!
It is a personal path. A deep, intimate journey that requires space & time. Commitment, Dedication & Discernment.
Cultivate a relationship first with your ancestors, then the spirits that walk with you - because they ARE with us. Agbètawoyo | Agwe Tawoyo didn’t remain solely in BENIN or in AYITI. He too traveled through the Middle Passage with our ancestors on those slave ships. He is here too, in the New World. From shore to shore, let the circle be unbroken. Unlock the keys to your truth!
Celebrating Agwe: Paying Homage to the Vodou God of Water in Brooklyn | Photo Credit: Garry Pierre