Friday, May 21, 2010

Ganvie - The Village Built on Stilts

Ganvie in Benin is a unique village built on stilts on Lake Nokoué, just an hour north of the administrative capital and Benin's largest city, Cotonou. It's commonly believed that the Tofinu people settled here around 400 years ago and built their lake village to escape slavers who came from the Fon tribe and were not allowed to fight in water for traditional reasons (or perhaps could not swim). Hence the Tofinu were safe to build their homes on the water. Ganvie is marketed as the "Venice of Africa", but that may be raising expectations a little high.

Ganvie currently has a population of 30,000, all living in bamboo houses, built on stilts. Moving around the village is only possible in pirogues (boats carved from tree trunks), and even if someone wants to visit their next door neighbor, they have to row there. The Venice of Africa, as Ganvie is commonly referred to, has one and a half pieces of dry land. the complete patch of land is the site of the village school, while the half will be the cemetery, when the villagers import enough dry ground, from the shores.

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