“I can feel you watching, even when you’re nowhere to be seen,
I can feel you touching, even when you’re far away from me” – 5 Seconds of Summer.
Arrival in Togo in October 2018 meant a sixth visit to Africa for me and my third time in West Africa. I was travelling with my Polish friend Malina this time and we planned to visit both Togo and Benin on a 10 day release from Poland, my home now since 2016.
We were based at the truly excellent Coco Beach Hotel in Lomé, the capital city. From here we did a few tours and side trips including to Togoville and Lake Togo. One fascination here is with voodooism. It’s not really my thing at all, but when I travel, I am always keen to learn about other cultures and religions, and to respect how they operate.
Benin is the home and birthplace of voodoo culture and beliefs, which is formally recognised as a religion. Togo, its next door neighbour however boasts Africa’s largest Fetish Market (Marche des Feticheurs), also cited as the world’s largest Voodoo Market. It is known as the Akodessawa Fetish Market and is located at Akodessawa, a district of Lomé, the capital of Togo in West Africa. We headed to check it all out…
We toured it and reminders came back of the times I toured the Witches Market (Mercado de Hechiceria) in Bolivia’s lofty La Paz back in 2010. We were walking through a market full of thousands of dead animal parts!
What is a Fetish Market?
A Fetish Market is a market which displays and sells body parts of dead animals, mostly used for the purpose of Voodoo-ism. It’s a gory part of my story for sure and not an easy place to visit if you don’t like dead animals, voodoo-ism or the smell of dead carcasses.
Getting to the Fetish Market in Togo
The Fetish Market is located in Lomé. We were on a tour with Jeremies from Fly for Life tour company and they included the Fetish Market on our tour. So we drove there. If you want to backpack it alone, the address is here:
You can get a local taxi or zemi-john (motorbike) to the market but be aware that most drivers in Lomé don’t speak English and are also not used to tourists, so you might struggle at times (as we did).
Entrance to the Fetish Market in Togo
I don’t remember ever paying to get into a market or shopping centre before. Here it’s officially free but you must pay if you want to take photos. We wanted photos so we paid. However the fee was per camera and you also get a guide with that. The guide walks you round and also watches the photos you take.
Touring the Fetish Dead Animal Market in Togo
Our guide at the market (as I said, you must pay for one) was Marko and he did the tour in English for us. He took us through each stall explaining things. Many of the dead animals have different meanings or beliefs in Voodoo religion.
The animals included rats, turtles, snakes, monkeys, porcupines, cheetahs, cats, dogs, baboons, cows heads etc.
You basically just walk from stall to stall checking them out. If you want to buy them you can barter down the price. You are welcome to lift up the dead animals, touch them, choose the one you want to buy and then bargain with them. I held a baboon but it felt quite odd and was very heavy. It’s not my religion and not my thing.
Meeting a Voodoo Priest
After the tour we are ushered into a room and we meet a Voodoo Priest. He gives us each four unusual objects, each of which represent a different belief in Voodoo religion. We hold each gift in our hands and should make a wish related to that belief – love, travel, health etc.
After holding the items, we are asked that if we want the wish to come true, we can keep the item forever and must make a payment to the Voodoo Priest. But we both decide against that, it wasn’t for us.
For once I didn’t take any videos at the Fetish Dead Animal Market in Togo because we only paid for one camera and the tour was rather quick and not so interesting for those not into Voodoo Culture like us! But of course, I still recommend a visit. I will have more stories from Togo and Benin to come. You can read some of my other West Africa stories here:
Travelling in the Gambia: Stroking Crocodiles at Kachikally
Travelling in the Gambia: Touring Banjul
Travelling in Senegal: Lac Rose
Travelling in Senegal: Dakar
Backpacking in Ivory Coast: Grand Bassam
Backpacking in Ivory Coast: Abidjan
Backpacking in El Aiaun, Western Sahara
* All photos on this article are copyright of Fifi Rushfield.