BTOR in Benin was a beautiful, edifying and intimate experience shared with amazing women of colour. I will not thank Wilizé enough for her love, care, patience, resilience and for allowing us to live such a peaceful, pleasurable and memorable week. She is an inspiration and a blessing to our community! Wilizé has carefully curated a unique experience that celebrated the ancestral wisdom of Africa, the history and cultures of Benin, West African culinary heritage and most importantly sisterhood.

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Throughout our stay, we had a fabulous and gifted cook, Josette, who took care of our palate. She made us delicious and nutritious West African meals suggested by Wilizé. The different locations we stayed at either in the centre of Cotonou or in the coastal town of Ouidah were breathtaking and filled with a grounding energy. We really had the opportunity to realigned with our inner self. Our visits to sacred places were enlightening, eye opening and gave us a wealth of valuable and empowering information.

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Our time spent in Ouidah during the Vodun festival was fascinating, festive and full of joy! We even got the chance to be part of the Vodun priest’s procession at the start of the festival. The whole atmosphere was out of this world, from the people’s dresses and frenzy, the music, the dances, the chants, the rituals and of course the masquerades. Aside from the cultural experiences, we also did various activities which were absolutely delightful. Because holistic wellbeing was at the center of the retreat, we spent a tasteful day at a renown nutrition center in Benin where we learned about West African diet and the many spices, grains, vegetables, oils and other elements that constitute this diet.

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We also attended a culinary workshop during which we witnessed the preparation of delicious meals from breakfast to supper. In Bab’s dock, a restaurant al fresco hidden behind a mangrove, everything felt like paradise: the scenery, the weather, the food, the wine and of course Laurence Sessou’s ‘Tickling Our Senses’ workshop. An awakening of the senses through smell allowing us to discover the benefits of aromatherapy and make our own blends of pure essential oils, flower essences and butters.

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In addition, Wilizé delivered awesome workshops including a dance workshop during which we learned about female Orishas and explored feminine energy through specific movements as a way to be comfortable and appreciative of our body. We connected with spirit daily through meditation and the burning of incense and herbs. We also restored our feminine energy by simply spending time together especially during the healing circles. It was such an honour and a joy to be in the presence of inspiring women from various walks of life who’ve shared their journey with such grace, beauty and vulnerability.

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Keren Lasme is a visual artist and jewellery designer holding a MA degree in African Studies from SOAS University of London. She is passionate about the arts, African aesthetics, literature and spirituality.