Cowry shells, native to the Maldive Islands and used as currency across West Africa, were often used to create decorative patterns on ceramic vessels.The Ouidah Museum of HistoryCowry shells, native to the Maldive Islands and used as currency across West Africa, were often used to create decorative patterns on ceramic vessels.Cowry shells, native to the Maldive Islands and used as currency across West Africa, were often used to create decorative patterns on ceramic vessels.Cowry shells, native to the Maldive Islands and used as currency across West Africa, were often used to create decorative patterns on ceramic vessels.
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A "sacred" python:  the kingdom of Dahomey adopted worship of the python from the Xwéda kingdom, and python veneration is continued in Ouidah to this day.
About the Museum
Themes
Portuguese Fort
  Xwéda Kingdom
  Dahomey
  Slave Trade
  Vodun
 
History of Ouidah
Visiting the Museum
Visiting Ouidah
Resources
Benin and the Diaspora

Click to Enlarge: Costume of "Mamiwata", a female diety associated with water.  This diety was imported from the New World (notably Brazil) by descendants of slaves when they returned to Benin.
Mamiwata
Costume
 

Through the slave trade and eventual repatriation of many former slaves, there was a great exchange of culture between Benin , the Caribbean, and the Americas . On reaching the New World, slaves maintained many of the practices they held in Africa . Foods and methods of food preparation were continued from African traditions, religious practices were continued or merged with New World traditions, and artistic expression by the African community was greatly influenced by the traditions of their homeland. Cultural ties with modern-day Benin are strongest in Haiti , Cuba , and Brazil , where to this day visitors can see many of the same ceremonies and eat many of the same foods as are available in Bénin.

Click to Enlarge: Beninese Drum, or "Tam Tam", remarkably similar to a drum from Haiti (also found in the museum).
Tam Tam
 

New World traditions were also introduced into the culture of Bénin through the repatriation of many of the descendants of slaves. The largest influence was in building style: in present-day Porto Novo and Ouidah it is possible to find many examples of Afro-Brazilian architecture. Some new world religious practices were imported as well – interestingly, the goddess of water, “Mamiwata”, was introduced from Brazil , and the worship of Mamiwata is active to this day.

Collections in the museum highlight similarities between aspects of culture in the New World and Benin . Through photographs, costumes, objects and models, the depth of the cultural exchange across the Atlantic is made clear.

Shield adorning the entrance to the old Portuguese Fort, now the Ouidah Museum of History.
Typical decorative pattern on Xwédan ceramic artifacts.Typical decorative pattern on Xwédan ceramic artifacts.