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Fon People

Introduction

Location
The Fon of Benin, originally called Dahomey until 1975, are from West Africa. The Fon are said to have originated in the area of Tado, a town in Tago, at approximately the same latitude as Abomey, Benin.

History
The Fon culture is made up of more than 2,000,000 people. They are closely related to the Ewe, Adja, and Guin cultures by comparison of language. They belong to the Kwa Language group. Fon created the royal city of Abomey and Ouidah. These two cities were popular for slave commerce. Fons became prosperous by trading slaves for weapons from the Europeans. Now, war and slave trading are of little importance compared to a family and ancestors.

Many Fon are Christian but the majority continue to practice Voodoo. The Fon name for God or Spirit is Vodu. Worship of a Vodu often means an initiate being “possessed” or “captured” by the spirit he chooses or the spirit that might choose him. For the rest of his life, he will seek the advice of the spirit who “possessed” him. A popular part of Fon belief is that each clan is said to be a descendent of a part human part non-human ancestor. The Fon do not believe in one all-powerful separate God.

Daily Life
Fon live in villages and towns where they make up large portions of the population. They live in divided sections, which are separated by a relation to a specific male ancestor. The compounds (houses) are rectangular shaped with walls made of dried mud and gable roofs covered by corrugated iron. When a man and woman marry, they will move to live near the father of the groom and inherit his property. Fon men are allowed to have more than one wife, but if this privilege is abused, the wife is free to divorce and remarry. Divorce is quite common throughout the culture. A man must not refuse a wife offered to him and divorce can only be granted if the family of the wife initiates a request.

Fon are farmers, fishermen, and market women. Division of labor is categorized by gender. Women make material to build huts, care for butchered meat, and carry out most agricultural work. They are also in charge of market work. Men and women participate equally in the lives of their children. Although the mother, father, and grandparents take active parts in the raising of their children, older siblings take especially good care of them. Elders and fishermen often sit around and play board games and dance with the young.

Funerals in the culture are the most important part of a member’s history. Drummers are hired and dances may be held for days in a row to morn the death of a loved one. The Fons believe that part of the person is lost in death but the other is reincarnated and comes back in the soul of the next child born to the family.

Best Known Features
The Fon culture is well known for their religious ceremonies. Drums are always used as a sort of special meaning in every activity that takes place. Voodoo ceremonies usually begin with the playing of the drums and then an initiate will fall into a trance and become “possessed” by a spirit. Voodoo events are not only intriguing to members but outsiders as well.

Information kindly provided by Emuseum - Author: Jamie Ahlers

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