A Visit to Mr Addra’s

Here’s a story:

Trying to get home from the Voodoo Festival was a trial. After the proceedings drew to an official close at around 2.30 pm, everybody dispersed as they set off for their villages – by bike, by car, by foot, by boat – for their own private house parties. I tried stopping many a zem (moto-taxi) to get the one-and-a-half kilometres back to base camp, but they were all (over)loaded with three, four, and five people on one bike. Divine intervention was needed.

I saw an older gentleman sitting alone on his moto, thinking he was a zem driver looking for a passenger, but he said, no, he wasn’t a driver, he was heading back home. “I’ll help you find a zem, though,” he assured me, in immaculate Beninoise French. 

While we waited, we got talking. Between several unsuccessful attempts to find a free zem, I mentioned in my rusty French that we were in Benin working on a project to document the stories of West African women aged over 60 and he immediately lit up. He told me that we could interview his mother, who lived in the village about 10 minutes away, and that there were plenty of women of senior age there who would be more than willing to speak to me. After another 10 minutes of waiting in vain, he offered to take me home on his bike and we set off on the beach road.  

Mr Addra on his bike after dropping me home from the Voodoo Festival

When we arrived about eight minutes later, we exchanged numbers and arranged to meet the next day when he’d take us to his village and introduce us to the matriarchs in his community. Sure enough, the next day, at about 4.30 pm, an hour-and-a-half later than we agreed (our fault!), we arrived by zem in the village of Avlo, not far from the Bouche du Roy, where the River Mono flows into the Atlantic ocean.

After gently chiding me for our late arrival, he welcomed us into his home, showed us around the family compound, introduced us to the family shrine, and walked us around the village of around 442 inhabitants, mainly of the Xwlah ethnic group, many of whom are his family.

His name is Addra Justin and he is a man of his word. 

(P.S. Walking on sand (gracefully) is not easy!!!)

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