Cotonou, the “37th state” of Nigeria is the subject of this article. Cotonou is the economic hub of Benin Republic and this little francophone city is a top tourist destination for travellers from around the world. One of the places tourists like to visit is the Art Centre or Centre de L’artisanat in french. I am going to work you through my experience here and a high-level overview of what to expect on getting there.
Going straight into today’s hobo tales, I had a ‘holy curiosity’ for what this art centre had to offer and was ready for my mind to be blown away. I got there with a ‘Kekenor’ (Motorbike) the most convenient way of commuting in Benin Republic. It’s easy to locate as it’s located at the city centre in a place called “Zongo” near the Grand Mosque or tell the Driver “Hall des Arts“, you really cannot miss it and the ride from anywhere in Cotonou is about 500 CFA.
Stepping into the Centre De Promotion De L’artisanat, the first thing you’ll see to your right is a very fancy outdoor restaurant appropriate for Evening hangouts with friends and a date with that special someone, the menu is a bit on the upside. P.S “Chawarma” and Shawarma aren’t the same.
Moving in, you cross into a mini Haven beautifully littered with various African art pieces, I was in awe. The shops were individually built like ancient houses with various Sections for differing artworks. The area for Ankara inspired attires, Dresses, Bags, Trousers et al, Another area for wood carvings, Beads, Bangles, African Masks, Instruments all Locally made. After seeing all of this I resolved that Variety is truly the spice of life and the Instigator of Brokeness.
Art pieces in the market are a bit on the upside because a majority of the customers are tourists and so the shop owners hype up the prices for all the Cash Diollarzz.. *Btw the Naira counts as Foreign Currency and that feels good*. To cub this, I went with some of my friends who were more familiar with the area, my Congolese friend Dominique, Ghanian friend Rex and beninoise friend together we boasted of a language armoury of French, Twi, Yoruba, Fungbe and English. If you ever find yourself there, ensure your bargaining energy is top notch to avoid getting hassled.
All my preparations didn’t stop me from spending all my money tho, the Igbo Man in me was ‘kryptonized’ by all the beautiful products that were on Display. I spent all my Cefa and ended up using my Emergency/Vex Money.
THINGS I BOUGHT
I got a Djembe Drum called “wizkid” because he needs to be beaten for 5,000 CFA, Neck Beads of various designs, Ankara Earrings, Hand Beads and a Neck Pouch.
We got into conversations with some of the sellers and they opened up. One of them notably pointed out how Chinese people don’t patronize them but they’ll just take pictures of their art and replicate them at a way cheaper rate, running them out of business. This is a trend in other manufacturing sectors and its crippling our indigenous market. The sellers are from various African countries, so you’ll see art inspired by different countries in Africa. They also think Nigeria is the Canaan of Africa, the land flowing with milk and honey. Haq Haq Haq! They don’t know what’s going on.
Do You Know That The Chinese Come To Africa, Take Pictures of Our Art and Replicate Them At Lower Rates Thereby Crippling Sales.Tweet
After the conversations, we realized that they needed more exposure and so my friends and I decided to come back and do a photoshoot to play our parts in promoting indigenous art. We agreed with one of the shop owners “Oluronti and his brother Gabriel” to use their shop as a backdrop. We came back the next day and took some awesome shots. Enjoy!!
The artistes are extremely gifted with diverse arts and crafts. So if you’re looking for a place to get accessories or souvenirs from Cotonou, this definitely should be your Number 1 spot (maybe 2 after Tokpa Market). By patronizing them, you’re playing your part in putting Africa on the Map.
Thanks for Reading.