Benin and Tunisia
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Africa is the second largest continent in the world, after Asia. The continent’s population density is relatively low. In the vast expanses of Africa, there are many different nations and countries. Every nation has its own culture and traditions. Benin is one of the numerous African countries with its long traditions and culture. The cultural history of Benin is very rich.
Previously, Benin was called Dahomey. It was a French colony and Dahomey achieved independence from France on 1 August 1960 (Kraus & Reid, 2010, p. 21). The cultural life of the country is extremely intense. From the 1920s, there has been an intensive development of journalism in the country (Olorunnisola, 2013). Nowadays there are twenty private newspapers, two private and one public television station, as well as several radio stations (Olorunnisola, 2013). The media is an important part of the country. In Benin, the process of transition from an authoritarian regime to a democracy was started at the initiative of the media. Media began generating the necessary ideas of the democracy.
Beninese literature is based on rich oral traditions – myths, songs, proverbs, and tales of local people. Felix Couchoro is considered the first writer of Benin. In 1929, he wrote the first Beninese novel – L’Esclave (Leavitt, 2013). Other well-known writers are Olympe Bhely-Quenum, Richard Dogbeh, Jean Pliya, Paulin J. Hountondji, and others. In Benin, the literary festival is held once a year to inculcate love to literature in people (Leavitt, 2013).
In Benin, there is the development of a documentary film about the life of the working people. Most filmmakers highlight the urgent problems of the African reality – criticism of capitalist morality and the vestiges of colonialism. Films inform the viewers about the life of the village communities and the population’s emigration to the European countries. Cinematography opposes the outmoded concepts, such as polygamy and inequality of women, bride pricing, and unlimited parental authority ove children. These days, Beninese’s cinematography is in its development stage. Filmmakers of Benin have created twelve feature films. There are eight filmmakers that have made a great contribution to the formation of cinematography tradition of this country. Francois Sourou Okioh is a famous Beninese writer and filmmaker. He shot five short films. Another filmmaker and actor in Benin is Jean Odoutan. He acted in seven fictional films (Armes, 2008). Sanvi Panou is also a famous Beninese actor and filmmaker who was a founder of a festival in Paris. Noukpo Wilannon is a Beninese filmmaker. His film Midjeresso received a great popularity. There is an annual film festival in Benin. It is called the Quintessence Festival. Practically all the films are shown in the French language (Armes, 2008).
National Beninese music has very old traditions. It was formed on the basis of the musical culture of the local people and is closely connected with the art of griots. Musical instruments include a combination of drums, gongs, xylophones, lute, whistles, rattles, trumpets, and flutes. Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou received a great popularity within the country and beyond. The band recorded more than 500 songs. Another popular singer from Benin is Angelique Kidjo. She has had a great influence on the musical culture of the country. In Benin, there is a national song and dance ensemble which tours around the world. The national dances include a magical dance of the night, a hunters’ dance, a dance of orphans, and a dance of scourging (Leavitt, 2013).
Some consider the Benin’s cuisine as one of the best in West Africa. The basis for the most dishes are sweet potatoes. The diet of local residents also includes rice, couscous, and peanut sauce with chicken or fish. Those who enjoy unusual alcoholic beverages can taste palm wine and infusion from millet (Albala, 20).
Religion plays an important role in this country. Many customs and traditions were formed on the basis of various beliefs. A big part of the population adheres to the voodoo cult (Merriman, 2009). Christians comprise a 43 % part of the population and 24% &nbssp;are Muslims (Merriman, 2009). Scott Merriman states that “The general level of religious freedom in Benin is quite high” (Merriman, 2009, p. 121).
Overall, Benin is a country that was previously a French colony. This country has a rich culture and very old traditions. Over many centuries, country’s folk art has significantly developed. Many Beninese filmmakers, actors, and poets are well-known even beyond their country.
Several years ago, UNESCO declared Tunisia to be the cultural capital of the Mediterranean (Wheeler, Clammer & Filo, 2008). It is one of the most attractive countries in Africa. Representatives of the eight world’s great civilizations left their traces on its land. Tunisia became independent less than half a century ago. The rich cultural heritage of Tunisia and the peculiarity of its customs and traditions invariably induce interest among millions of people.
Media has played a significant role in formation of a new state. Many experts believe that social media is a moving force of the revolution. Edward Webb states that “Tunisia was an Internet pioneer in the Arab world, with its first access in 1991” (Webb, 2014, p. 55). Nowadays, media is the mouthpiece of the free Tunisian youth. For centuries, the authorities had a control over the media. However, these days, the situation is gradually changing.
Modern literature in Tunisia traces its emergence to the early 19th century. In the work of some novelists, there are new ideological directions and non-classical genres such as historical biography, a description of journeys, and a philosophical novel. A poet-innovator Aboul-Qacem Echebbi, who brought elements of romanticism into the Arabic poetry, a novelist Ali Douagi, whose works depicted the world of ordinary people, and a creator of socialist ideas, a journalist Tahar Haddad, have all created Tunisian literature in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1955, Mahmoud Messadi published a philosophical play The Dam revealing the meaning and the idea of a struggle for national liberation.
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