The installation Le Soleil de Minuit (Housing Spirits)


It is said that the dead in Benin love to visit places full of great activity, and life forms. Young people who die early want to relive youth in the heart of a discothèque, where lovers hope to meet. Then there are those who want to visit the marketplace, and if you have ever seen the hot-bedded action, which takes place at such a scene, you would know the enjoyment to be found. In Nigeria, it is said that there is marketplace renown as a seat bed for the dead spirits. Relations with ancestors play an essential role in the life of their descendants, as they determine the health and welfare of the family existence, so they are placed as a priority in family activities.

They act as mediators and informants and sometimes aid in finding peaceful resolutions in times of squabbles and trouble. In general, the dead play a commonplace role in one's daily life, and their existence is therefore essential in Beninoise life and society.

The video installation, Le Soleil de Minuit, seeks to illuminate the close relationship the Beninoise have with their ancestors. The installation, which premiered at i-n-k gallery in Copenhagen, was divided into two sectors, a documentary and fractional account. The videos in the 1st room were to aid the viewer in having a deeper understanding of the symbolism, ritual, beliefs and attitudes, which exists between the living and the dead. In many places there tends to be a separation between these entities while in Benin there is unification of these two worlds. They are real to one another and the characters partake in a daily relationship and existence with one another.

In addition, the videos follow our research and production process. This commenced with gathering information and factual accounts from religious leaders in the Vodoun community then gradually developing the project into a more personal and fictive approach, which resulted in the final film, Le Soleil de Minuit.

Consequently, the video installation is a travel guide taking the viewer through various opinions and stories on the living dead as ancestors or strangers.
Le Soleil de Minuit, the installation, consists of four sections, an entrance with a bar and a homemade discothèque, and hanging over the bar is a neon light with a sign introducing the viewer to Le Soleil de Minuit.

In the Documentary room, the compartments are divided by curtains, the color of red earth. The Bar leads into the two partitions. If one enters the first on the right, the viewer will approach a monitor, where the first video, Interviews on Burial and ritual practices in Ouidah, Benin is shown. This film documents the work of the research group, and their interviews with religious leaders and teignons, on burial rituals for the Fon people in Benin.


If however, the viewer chose to walk straight ahead and went past the bar, she/he then entered into an area where two videos, The Funeral of Madame Kapatenon, and Auditions in Cotonou, Benin were projected unto parallel walls. In the middle, curtains divides them with a floral West African print. The Funeral of Madame Kpatenon was shown without sound, and thus the other video acts as a commentary or dialogue to the visuals.


Auditions in Cotonou in Benin is inspired by two factors, our translator Eddie Agonglo who one evening after working and discussing the subject of the relationship which exists between the living and the dead, told us his own story of how he had once met a ghost.

This story inspired us and we invited actors and actresses in Cotonou to audition and give accounts of meetings, whether they had to do with friends, family or their own personal encounters with the living dead. This resulted in the video, Auditions in Cotonou, Benin.

After viewing the background films, if the viewer strolls forward past the floral curtain, and through a narrow tunnel of purple and gold curtains with spiders, another West African print, she/he enters a room filled with a moving purple light focusing on white lawn chairs. On the side wall on the left Le Soleil de Minuit is projected onto the wall, which is surrounded by golden yellow curtains engulfing the room into a yellow light.

Le Soleil de Minuit focuses on the relationship between the living and the dead in Benin told by Eddie, our young translator, and his love affair at a discothèque.

The video film starts with children playing hide and seek in the night, and as the story moves along, a voiceover is heard and the viewer is familiarized with quotes from Beninoise proverbs concerning the liaison between the living and the dead.

Two storytellers, a man and a woman, introduce the evening's theme, men who chase beautiful young women in bars. A young man takes over to recount his own experience. Eddie is in the habit of wandering around sleepless at night, entertaining politicians and chasing women at bars and clubs. One night, he meets a woman who changes his perception of dating forever.

He meets an exquisite young woman in a discothèque, he invites her to his house, and they enjoy sex together. Shortly after she insists on returning home. Eddie is eager to follow her home to her house, but she rejects this idea. Finally, she gives in and to Eddie's shock, he realizes that the woman lives in a cemetery, and that he has made love to a ghost. All scenes and locations in the film are inspired by an amalgamate of similar stories and yet, they cannot be placed

within a specific time or location. The scenery and characters have an amorphous quality. Added to this, there is a constant interplay between the living and the dead, and one is never certain who is active or passive in their roles. This forces the viewer to question his or her notion of reality.


Fictive/documentary/experimental- lang. French, Fon, and English. Subtitled Eng/French

1. Soleil de Minuit, (Midnight sun) 15mins- focuses on the relationship between the living and the dead in Benin captivated through a true story told by the main character, Eddie. As a translator, he often wandered around at night, as he had to accompany politicians on the town. On these trips, it became a habit for him to search out women. On one occasion, Eddie meets an exquisite young woman with whom he falls deeply in love and to his regret he finds out that she is a dead.

2. Interviews on burial ceremonies in Ouidah, Benin. 27 mins. Lang. French and English. Subtitled Eng/French
Is a brief introduction to the Benin, and the religion of Vodoun, practiced by ninety percent of the population. A research group conducts several interviews with religious leaders on burial rituals for the Fon, and their daily working relationship with their ancestors. These interviews insights into the cosmology which exists in this religion.

3. Auditions in Cotonou, Benin . 21mins- Lang. French. Subtitled Eng/French
Actors and actresses tell their stories of friends and family who have encountered dead people.

4. The Funeral of Madame Kpatenon, 16 mins.
We follow the burial of Madame Kapatenon and the journey she takes and the many rituals and homes she visits in the course of her burial ceremony.