Looking for Mr Legba

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Richard Laister
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£14.99, US$ 23.99, €21.50
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About The Author

Born in 1950, Richard Laister’s formative years were split between Germany, The Far East, Jamaica and various English boarding schools. Reading Psychology at a West Country polytechnic, he developed an interest in R.D. Laing’s theories of Madness and the Family. Thus, in 1973, he ‘dropped out’ to experience esoteric inner visions with American hippies. He went on to to take a degree in Drama and subsequently worked in England and Kenya, as a drama teacher, actor, photographer and theatre director. Divorced, with two grown up daughters, he lives blissfully in rural Devonshire with his fiancee. In 2002 he toured Mali, The Gambia,and Senegal on a photo-journalism magazine assignment. Two years later he set out on a series of extended tours of Ghana and neighbouring countries to investigate its common culture with the African diaspora in the West Indies, with a special focus on Voodoo. This book is his carnet de voyage.

About The Book

At school in the late 1960s a Ghanaian fellow pupil brought to Richard Laister’s attention the historic links between the West Indies, West Africa, the Atlantic slave trade, and the Voodoo religion. Forty years later, the author slipped away to explore these historic connections. In this book he describes a series of extended journeys above the coast of the Gulf of Guinea, focussing on Voodoo as a lens through which to observe the traditional ways of life still practised in this part of the world.

Ghana, Togo, Burkino Faso and Benin remain, so he discovers, hardly touched by Western tourism and the cultural steamroller of globalisation. Arriving in Accra, Richard is welcomed by a retired colonel of the Ghanaian army, who is the first of several West Africans he meets to lament the passing of colonial rule.

The Colonel provides a rare opportunity to attend a Voodoo funeral, where the corpse, dressed as a bride, is seated upon a throne to receive her guests. Here the author first discovers, Legba, god of entrances, crossroads, mirrors, and sunlight – a divine messenger, trickster, and Janus-faced herald of joy and terror.

The funeral is a prelude to a series of adventures, in which comical and macabre incidents combine to form a unique West African mix. In every village the author finds sacrificial altars dedicated to Legba, who emerges as a universal object of veneration.

From Ghana, Richard busses north to Ouagadougou, and then to Benin, heartland of Voodoo, where he receives a blessing from a powerful sorcerer. He survives a riot in Lome, Togo, in which there are many casualties, only to visit the President of the Republic’s palace – a mysterious mock French chateau, whose owner has not crossed its portal for 20 years due to a curse.

The author’s odyssey through West Africa leads him to question rational interpretations of reality, reminding us of Scipio Africanus who more than 2,000 years ago declared, “Out of Africa, always something strange emerges!”