Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pope John Paul, the Virgin Mary and Chief Mlapa III

On the northern shore of Lake Togo lies Togoville, the historical center of voodoo in Togo.. Its from here that voodoo was introduced to Haiti when practitioners of the art arrived there as slaves.

Togo's name comes from the Ewe word togodo meaning behind the lake.

Europeans arrived here in the 16th century, the prevailing power vacuum allowed them to use the country as a conduit for slave trading.

Togoville has a colorful history, in 1884 it was here that Chief Mlapa III signed a peace treaty with a German explorer, effective giving the Germans rights over all of Togoland.Under them, till WW1 the country underwent quite a bit of economic development - not always appreciated by the Togolese themselves who objected to the Germans forced labor , direct tax and pacification campaigns.

During WW1, the Germans surrendered to British and French forces, the Allies first victory in the war - and Togoland was subsequently split into two - part to the British to join what is present day Ghana and the other to the French.

Independence for Togo, from France came around in 1960. In 1963 Togo became the first African country to have a military coup after independence. Since then there have been a few more, the most recent attempt supposedly last week when the President had his brother the ex Minister of Defense arrested on coup charges.

Pope John Paul II made a visit to Togo and Togoville in 1984 following the reported appearance of the Virgin Mary on the lake. He was paddled across sitting on Chief Malapa III's throne which was set upon a large fibre glass canoe. A shrine to the Virgin commemorates her appearance and that of the Pope.

The Mlapa dynasty is now toppled, though its possible to see the throne and some old pics of the former chiefs inside the Maison Royal

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