As a resident or visitor of London, one might consider themselves to be fairly well acquainted with the veritable degree of tat that the City’s marketplaces have to offer – bumper packs of bargain Rizla, questionable household appliances and dented tins of out-of-date food. But for the people of Togo, West Africa, the concept of a day down the market is a wholly different affair. In the country’s capital city, Lomé, locals and tourists have at their perusal an entirely different cornucopia of goods. Welcome to the Akodessewa Fetish Market – Africa’s voodoo marketplace, where anyone can buy the macabre ingredients needed to cook up their own Vodun ritual.
Vodun has over 2.5 million followers in Togo alone, and the wide array of unusual goods that the Fetish Market has to offer reflects just how popular the religion is in West Africa. The Akodessewa market has plenty to offer the discerning Vodun practioner. The menagerie of assorted animal heads and body parts is what arrests most peoples attention straight away – cats, monkeys, crocodiles, hyenas and even elephants are among the selection of creatures present, with the body parts of each animal pertaining to a particular supernatural influence. These body parts are ground up to create traditional medicines, which are used to combat any number of spiritual afflictions. But while grisly to some, the animal remains are not the only items that the market has to offer. Talismas, amulets, effigies (often mistakenly Westernised as malign ‘voodoo dolls’) and gris-gris are all available – at a price.
Even when purchasing, a reminder of the supernatural nature of the market is never far off. Traders divine the price of good by casting shells, asking the gods of the religion to proffer a reasonable price via the oracle. With such a renegade pricing system, perhaps the Lomé’s Vodun pharmacy is not so different to the average London marketplace as you might think.