Sustainable Development in Africa & Satellites - page 114

an a minister of education decide to have a school
demolished in the name of respect of the spirit of a place
Genius loci
)—the belief that some places have a tutelary
spirit? Yes, replied the minister of education of Benin in the late
1990s. Located in one of the historical districts of the town of
Porto-Novo (Lokossa), the school in question had been built
recently but on the square of the district and the locals wished
to free this.
Indeed, the area had been reserved since time immemorial for
traditional festivities: weddings, baptisms, funerals, etc. It was
also next to the town’s large market and was used as a welcome
overflow on busy days. The building of the school made the
square smaller, making the holding of community festivals
difficult in the district and at the same time the lively market
was a handicap for the school. Its demolition was a strong
symbolic act that no minister of the Republic would have dared
to implement without massive support from the population.
Nevertheless, the school was rebuilt elsewhere. There aremany
similar examples in Africa of developments that disorganise
social life and destroy places that are important for beliefs or
identity. In fact, people very often express silent resistance, a
kind of inertia that it would be wrong to understand as just a
refusal of ‘progress’ or ‘simplistic resistance’ to change.
‘I wore out the patience of the missionaries
Insulted the benefactors of humanity (…)
The breadth of my perversity leaves me confused!’
Aimé Césaire (
Cahier d’un retour au pays natal
Alain Godonou, Benin
Director, Division of Thematic Programmes for Diversity,
Development and Dialogue, Culture Sector
Genius loci
, the spirit of a place
Back from the market
, ‘École d’art au village’ of Poto-Poto (Brazzaville, the Republic of the Congo). The Poto-Poto school of painting originates in the French painter
Pierre Lods atelier, created in 1951. His liberal teaching combined with respect for traditional African cultures created a new form of art. Pierre Lods opened his atelier to
children, and a new ‘École d’art au village’ was born.
© Sébastien Cailleux/EDAAV
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