My 10 Days In Benin: West African Kizomba Festival, Cotonou, Ganvie, Ouidah, Graffiti Wall

I’m in Benin! Bonjour! This was my first time and I have a fun adventure to share with you. I attended the West African Kizomba Festival, featuring dance workshops by instructors/ dancers from across West Africa, and dance parties. Also explored the cities Ouidah, Ganvie, and Cotonou, featuring slavery history, the biggest city on water in Africa, the Graffiti Wall, and sites/ information that were the direct inspiration for the movie The Woman King.

If you know me, you know I have wanted to explore the world, including more of Africa. But, in particular, explore beyond tourism and incorporate more community and fun. I’m so grateful I got the chance to experience this in Benin. This is also my first time sharing with you one of my hobbies: social dancing. I started learning Kizomba and Salsa in Accra around September/ October 2021. Dance has always been a love of mine since I was a kid doing ballet, tap, jazz, folkloric, drill team, and Hip Hop. I had always wanted to learn ballroom dancing, but never had the chance. So, a number of my inner children and inner teens have been very happy with me being consistent with social dancing. Not only for the dancing but also for the community and the new fun experiences that come with it.

ENG: For my French speakers, please turn on the captions for the video and select settings to translate to French. I made sure to include subtitles to make this video more accessible to you. (All my videos include subtitles like this, if you feel inspired to explore the other content)

FR: Pour mes francophones, veuillez activer les sous-titres de la vidéo et sélectionner les paramètres à traduire en français. Je me suis assuré d’inclure des sous-titres pour rendre cette vidéo plus accessible pour vous. (Toutes mes vidéos incluent des sous-titres comme celui-ci, si vous vous sentez inspiré pour explorer l’autre content)

As always, share with me in the comments so we can continue the conversation.

Arriving in Cotonou

As I mentioned in the video, I stayed at the Golden Tulip Diplomate in Cotonou. This hotel was very nice. Great location, good customer service, and a comfortable room.

Exploring Ouidah

Our first-day tour was in Ouidah. We visited different monuments paying tribute to the slave history that exists here.

Next, we visited the Door Of No Return.

We then visited a Python Temple to learn more about the voodoo religion and culture.

Finally, we visited a wet area village known for fish to have lunch and take a clay bath.

Exploring Ganvie

Our second-day tour was in Ganvie. This is the largest lake village in Africa. We spent the whole day here floating through Ganvie, had lunch, and did water bikes.

The West African Kizomba Festival

The main reason I came to Benin was to attend the West African Kizomba Festival. The full program includes two days of tourism and three days of dance workshops, socials, and parties. This was the 8th year they hosted this program. Harold is the founder of the festival and the OG for Kizomba in Benin. He started dancing Kizomba in 2011. Basically, everyone who knows how to dance Kizomba in Benin was probably taught by Harold. He was a wonderful host. He is pictured below picking me up at the airport.

I took more videos than photos of the festival to be able to share more of the ambiance and experience. Big thank you to Real Ability for taking these photos below at the workshops and socials.

Exploring Cotonou

After the festival, we did a little more exploring on our own.

The Amazon statue pays tribute to the Amazon warriors of the Dahomey tribe. This is the original Woman King.

We went to the Graffiti Wall twice. The first time was early in the afternoon when we discovered it was way too hot to see the whole thing. We still got some epic photos. What do you think? Later we continued to explore the city. Big thank you to Mubarak for taking photos of and with me.

Of course, I am wearing Bandele Muse earrings in these photos.

We returned to Ouidah to add more to our exploration. Starting with the Zinsou Museum.

While still in Ouidah, we visited the Sacred Forest.

Back in Cotonou, we ate at this lovely restaurant.

The second time we went to the Graffiti Wall was in the evening. Now we were able to take our time and indulge.

Dancing In Accra

As I said in the video, if you are interested in joining the social dance scene in Accra with Kizomba, check out Kizinfinity and Kizomba Queens.

As I mentioned above, this is my first time sharing with you one of my recent hobbies: social dancing. I learned Kizomba and Salsa in Accra.

It’s funny how reality evolves when you contribute to the internet. People connect with you during different phases of your journey, but may never experience the full masterpiece puzzle that is you.

For some on here, you know me as the ultimate magical entertainer. For others on here, you would be shocked to discover I can moonwalk circles around you literally & figuratively. Maybe this is a great time to recognize how nuanced and complex we (definitely me) truly are. It would help to remove the box and timeline you need people to fit in.

Anyways, social dancing is different from my other dance experience. It’s more of an energetic teleport conversation instead of solo or group formations. It can be a beautiful and fun experience, depending on your partner and venue. It’s a nice way to practice coordination, vulnerability, and balancing physically & emotionally.

It’s fascinating to witness reactions to social dancing in Accra. Some see it as something only expats do because they only hear about Afrikiko( I don’t dance there much. So don’t come for me unless I call you 🙃). Some share in the excitement because they, too, love it and want to learn more. Some see it as evidence to label you as indecent and easy prey. Again, this is a great time to remind you….do you boo. People will think whatever they want to think regardless.

We need a proper ballroom. A space where you can dress up to go dancing. Mingle with like-minded community. Be consistent and reliable with music, refreshments, schedules, respect, dance floor, and temperature control. I have the design ideas when you are ready to build it.

Do you do social dancing? What’s your favorite genre?

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8 thoughts on “My 10 Days In Benin: West African Kizomba Festival, Cotonou, Ganvie, Ouidah, Graffiti Wall

  1. Absolutely fantastic! That aura, fashion sense plus your perspective to the entire experience made it worth every minute spent watching this. You’re amazing Dagny


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