What is whipping fete? Well fete is French for party and you already know what whipping is. Whipping Fete is a cultural celebration in a small northwestern region of Benin. It happens every October (it is scheduled around the moon) and has been one of the most interesting experiences I’ve had while in Benin.
My friend, Kate, is posted in the village of Badjoude, near the Benin-Togolese border. It is amongst the Lokpa that she lives and works and it is they who celebrate whipping fete. The celebration is a time for boys and young men to display their strength. They wear noisemakers on thier ankles, carry handmade whips, and often wear intricate costumes. Then they march through town where different neighborhoods or groups of boys meet up to battle and whip eachother! They spar off in pairs, usually with an older man supervising and giving advice as to how to whip one’s opponent or how to block a blow.
We got to see two whipping fetes. One in Togo and one in Kate’s village. In Badjoude, the local King served us chouk and let volunteers take turns trying out the whip. Watching the thick crowds of boys whipping eachother seems chaotic, but no one seems to get seriously hurt, although those whips can leave some deep gashes if you aren’t careful!