In the North of Benin, on the mountain range of the Atakora, there are the villages of the Taneka ethnicity, an ethnic group that has been created over the centuries by the encounter of populations of different origin who have moved to this area and who here have created a unique cultural mix.
The villages reflect the different origins of the different ethnic groups that make up the Taneka; in fact a village is more a group of micro villages, that together form a larger complex.
It is as if the villages had different "areas" inside them, bordered by low stone walls and small cultivated plots, each with a political leader, a spiritual guide, and with its own sanctuaries and fetishes.
Turning around the areas of a village, people face the signs of their original ethnicity: the Kabye, originating in Togo, have on their face 2 small vertical scarification for both men and women, the Bariba recognizable by a deep cut upright on one side of the face or both and finally the Gourmantche having 4 small cuts for women and 3 small cuts for men.
Set on the top of the hills, the villages reach a remarkable extension; the top of the village is the area reserved for feticheurs, the fetish dignitaries, these are the spiritual leaders and are recognizable for their clothing, composed only of a thong and a headgear.
They hold spiritual secrets and people turn to them to ask for an intercession, bringing food offerings; the feticheurs devote themselves to contemplation and deprive anything of theirs, except for a small pocket and a long pipe that they keep always on.
The villages are made up of round huts with a conical roof made of straw and protected on top by a clay jar; many homes seem uninhabited and this is due to the fact that people are moving, periodically and for several months or years, to the plains to cultivate the fields.
All the huts are used by families every five years on the occasion of the feast of purification, during this holiday each family returns to the village and takes an ox to be sacrificed, the meat is then distributed among the people of the village.
An important part of the village is the area of the King of the Bariba or sawa; the hut is similar to the others but larger in size and inside there is a masonry bench on which the king sits at meetings with the population and with the foreigners.
The Bariba, though they practice animistic rituals, are of muslim religion and therefore, in the area of the village where they live, it is easy to find a small mosque.