My encounter with the Kings of Burkina Faso1 opened the doors for me to an Africa of the most intense kind. Their presence, their dignity and their beauty led me to discover a world that I did not yet dare to imagine. The same experience, in addition to spirituality followed several years later in Benin, face-to-face with the Great initiates of Vodun2. During my journey through Burkina Faso, one of the traditional chiefs intrigued me more than the others. After having “tracked” me for more than a day in the bush, this Senoufo hunter King scrutinised me for long minutes in order to discover whether my being was pure enough to be allowed to photograph him. He was adorned with an impressive series of phials and talismans supposed to protect him from all the dangers of the forest.
Benin occupying an ever-increasing place in my life3, in view of the wealth and beauty of its traditions, I sought everywhere the means to meet these famous brotherhoods of hunters, if indeed they existed, although they were nevertheless omnipresent in the bordering countries. The only place where I imagined I would be able to approach them was situated in the large national parks in the north, bordered by Burkina Faso, Mali and the Niger. This perspective didn’t enchante me, as the influences of these countries and encounters with potential tourists could have little altered their traditions. A piece of information gleaned several years earlier had informed me that they might exist right in the centre of the country, in the Bantè forest.