In the west African country of Benin, 17% of the population follows the voodoo religion. An annual voodoo festival brings out the fanciest fashions used in voodoo rites.
The idea of the festival is to strengthen the bond that unites families and communities with departed ancestors known as Egungun, a Yoruba word which means, ‘the souls of the dead who have returned to earth for a short time to pass on specific advice to the living’.
To represent these ancestral advice-giving spirits, members of the community masquerade around town in elaborate veiled costumes made from velvet, silk, damask, Indian madras; the best fabrics money can buy. Veils are often made of cowry shell screens to avoid the bad luck of seeing the dancing masquerader’s eyes.