The kaleidoscopic mystery of the living ghosts of Benin is created at an annual display at the festival close to the Atlantic coastline in Ouidah.
The Egungun, one of Benin’s most secretive societies, appear as masked men who wail in curious falsetto tones in a garbled language not understood by the locals.
The men terrify the populace who rush back as the Egungun chase them – coming into contact with the spirits is thought to be perilous and the tribesmen are accompanied by a minder who wields a massive stick to keep order.
The tribesmen channel the souls of the dead as they enter rapturous ecstasy, dancing to the drum beat and becoming possessed by the spirits of their ancestors.
Locals believe that they can pass on the knowledge of the dead to the living.
The coastal location is the west African country’s voodoo heartland and is thought to be the spiritual birthplace of the religion – which is known as vodun in Benin and is part of the Yoruba culture.