The place to Explore Benin and its Culture
Every year, depending on the muslim calendar, there is an annual festival called La Fête de Gaani (The Festival of Joy ). Gaani (Gaa-Knee) means joy or victory. The holiday takes place in a Northern town named Nikki and it’s a royal celebration; it’s specially for the descendants of the Batombou (Ba-Tom-Boo) tribes, where horses are costumed with beautiful traditional clothes and perform a race spectacle for their King and the public. The main purpose of the holiday is done as a way for receiving good fortune, posterity and health blessings and reinforcing their allegiance to the Batombou kingdom. It is also a commemoration of their heritage where the religious aspects, both the traditional and Muslim, are celebrated.
Just as the horses are decorated, the horse riders also wear their best costumes and are escorted in the place of gathering by a musical troupe. One important person that is part of the delegation is the Batombou King. The habitants of the town will start following the group and chanting traditional songs. Once they arrive to the gathering place, the King gets settled and his followers and princes bow down to the ground to welcome him and ask for his blessings for the coming year. There is an introduction of why the ceremony place, followed by dances and drums performances. However, the most exciting part of the event is the performance by the horses and their riders. This is where the riders can show their expertise in training and taming their horses to make certain moves as will as how their horse racing skills.
Gaani is a flamboyant event that gathers over 50,000 people from all over Benin and neighboring countries. The whole town and prominent members of the government in Benin are present. Everyone come dressed in their best outfits and look forward to the spectacles. There are traditional dancers executing intricate dance moves representative of the culture.The audience takes part of the event by clapping, cheering, singing and at times, joining the dance. One thing for sure, everyone leaves very cheery and satisfied of what they’ve seen and experienced. For those that are descendants of the royal family, there is an air of proudness and humbleness that’s carried through their persona and during the festival. This is a very unique event that I would recommend anyone visiting Benin to attend. It’s unforgettable.