The installation Le Soleil
de Minuit (Housing Spirits)
It is said that the dead in
Benin love to visit places full of great activity, and life forms.
Young people who die early want to relive youth in the heart
of a discothèque, where lovers hope to meet. Then there
are those who want to visit the marketplace, and if you have
ever seen the hot-bedded action, which takes place at such a
scene, you would know the enjoyment to be found. In Nigeria,
it is said that there is marketplace renown as a seat bed for
the dead spirits. Relations with ancestors play an essential
role in the life of their descendants, as they determine the
health and welfare of the family existence, so they are placed
as a priority in family activities.
They act as mediators and informants and sometimes aid in finding
peaceful resolutions in times of squabbles and trouble. In general,
the dead play a commonplace role in one's daily life, and their
existence is therefore essential in Beninoise life and society.
The video installation,
Le Soleil de Minuit, seeks to illuminate the close relationship
the Beninoise have with their ancestors. The installation, which
premiered at i-n-k gallery in Copenhagen, was divided
into two sectors, a documentary and fractional account. The videos
in the 1st room were to aid the viewer in having a deeper understanding
of the symbolism, ritual, beliefs and attitudes, which exists
between the living and the dead. In many places there tends to
be a separation between these entities while in Benin there is
unification of these two worlds. They are real to one another
and the characters partake in a daily relationship and existence
with one another.
In addition, the videos follow
our research and production process. This commenced with gathering
information and factual accounts from religious leaders in the
Vodoun community then gradually developing the project into a
more personal and fictive approach, which resulted in the final
film, Le Soleil de Minuit.
Consequently, the video installation
is a travel guide taking the viewer through various opinions
and stories on the living dead as ancestors or strangers.
Le Soleil de Minuit, the installation, consists
of four sections, an entrance with a bar and a homemade discothèque,
and hanging over the bar is a neon light with a sign introducing
the viewer to Le Soleil de Minuit.
In the Documentary room, the
compartments are divided by curtains, the color of red earth.
The Bar leads into the two partitions. If one enters the first
on the right, the viewer will approach a monitor, where the first
video, Interviews on Burial and ritual practices in Ouidah,
Benin is shown. This film documents the work of the research
group, and their interviews with religious leaders and teignons,
on burial rituals for the Fon people in Benin.
If however, the viewer chose
to walk straight ahead and went
past the bar, she/he then entered into an area where two videos,
The Funeral of Madame Kapatenon, and Auditions
in Cotonou, Benin were projected unto parallel walls.
In the middle, curtains divides them with a floral West African
print. The Funeral of Madame Kpatenon
was shown without sound, and thus the other video acts as a commentary
or dialogue to the visuals.
Auditions in Cotonou
in Benin is inspired
by two factors, our translator Eddie Agonglo who one evening
after working and discussing the subject of the relationship
which exists between the living and the dead, told us his own
story of how he had once met a ghost.
This story inspired us and
we invited actors and actresses in Cotonou to audition and give
accounts of meetings, whether they had to do with friends, family
or their own personal encounters with the living dead. This resulted
in the video, Auditions in Cotonou, Benin.
After viewing the background
films, if the viewer strolls forward past the floral curtain,
and through a narrow tunnel of purple and gold curtains with
spiders, another West African print, she/he enters a room filled
with a moving purple light focusing on white lawn chairs. On
the side wall on the left Le Soleil de Minuit is
projected onto the wall, which is surrounded by golden yellow
curtains engulfing the room into a yellow light.
Le Soleil de Minuit focuses on the relationship between
the living and the dead in Benin told by Eddie, our young translator,
and his love affair at a discothèque.
The video film starts with
children playing hide and seek in the night, and as the story
moves along, a voiceover is heard and the viewer is familiarized
with quotes from Beninoise proverbs concerning the liaison between
the living and the dead.
Two storytellers, a man and
a woman, introduce the evening's theme, men who chase beautiful
young women in bars. A young man takes over to recount his own
experience. Eddie is in the habit of wandering around sleepless
at night, entertaining politicians and chasing women at bars
and clubs. One night, he meets a woman who changes his perception
of dating forever.
He meets an exquisite young
woman in a discothèque, he invites her to his house, and
they enjoy sex together. Shortly after she insists on returning
home. Eddie is eager to follow her home to her house, but she
rejects this idea. Finally, she gives in and to Eddie's shock,
he realizes that the woman lives in a cemetery, and that he has
made love to a ghost. All scenes and locations in the film are
inspired by an amalgamate of similar stories and yet, they cannot
within a specific time or location.
The scenery and characters have an amorphous quality. Added to
this, there is a constant interplay between the living and the
dead, and one is never certain who is active or passive in their
roles. This forces the viewer to question his or her notion of
lang. French, Fon, and English. Subtitled Eng/French
1. Soleil de Minuit,
(Midnight sun) 15mins- focuses on the relationship between the
living and the dead in Benin captivated through a true story
told by the main character, Eddie. As a translator, he often
wandered around at night, as he had to accompany politicians
on the town. On these trips, it became a habit for him to search
out women. On one occasion, Eddie meets an exquisite young woman
with whom he falls deeply in love and to his regret he finds
out that she is a dead.
on burial ceremonies in Ouidah, Benin. 27 mins. Lang.
French and English. Subtitled Eng/French
Is a brief introduction to the Benin, and the religion of Vodoun,
practiced by ninety percent of the population. A research group
conducts several interviews with religious leaders on burial
rituals for the Fon, and their daily working relationship with
their ancestors. These interviews insights into the cosmology
which exists in this religion.
3. Auditions in Cotonou,
Benin . 21mins- Lang. French. Subtitled Eng/French
Actors and actresses tell their stories of friends and family
who have encountered dead people.
4. The Funeral of Madame
Kpatenon, 16 mins.
We follow the burial of Madame Kapatenon and the journey she
takes and the many rituals and homes she visits in the course
of her burial ceremony.