Ganvie: Africa’s Venice

Tourism on memories, Ganvie, Benin

Who would have thought almost 300 years ago in Ganvie, Benin, that today tourists will be staying at a hotel on stilted housing built by people trying to escape the slave trade.  Of course, during the 17th century, the Tofinu people (from today’s Togo) needed to escape the slave warriors.  In order to evade capture, the Tofinu, who knew that the slave capturers (Fon warriors) were not allowed to fight on water, built their community on Lake Nokoue, near Cotonou, Benin.

For almost 300 years the community has continued to live, work, school and survive in stilted housing in Ganvie (which means place of safety).

The community of over 30,000 people survive on fish, with a division of labour where men fish (usually in designated areas allocated to their family) and women then paddle some 8 kilometres in dugout canoes to sell the fish at a fish market.  Children go to schools which are part of the stilted community.

More recently a small tourism trade has been established with hotels and other accommodation available, using solar as a more modern means of lighting.

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