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Hardcover with dust jacket, black paper over boards with grey spine and cover titles, 26 by 30 cm, 133  pp., illus. with full-page black and white photographs. New, still in the publisher’s shrinkwrap. From the front flap: “This unique collection of portraiture, comprising the work of nine photographers from Benin, mostly working during the 1960s and 1970s, opens a new chapter in the history of African photography. Most people's knowledge of West African photography is limited to the Bamako school of Mali, whose masters Seydou Keita and Malick Sidibé were widely discovered at the beginning of the 1990s. But where Keita and Sidibé worked predominantly in the town, making images of a young urban population keen to establish the modernity of their lives, here in Benin, photographers such as Sébastien Méhinto (otherwise known as Pigeon) often traveled miles by bicycle to find their clients in far-flung villages, and sometimes developed their exquisitely crafted photographs in makeshift darkrooms constructed in the bush. Marked by dark dramas and deep mysticisms, their portraits record a people caught between a pre-colonial past and a post-colonial future. For many of the people in the photographs it would be their first and last encounter with a photographer. Amongst the weddings and communions, the courting couples and proud parents, lie astonishing images of revenants and ju-ju men; voodoo priests and priestesses; thieves and murderers; prostitutes and pimps – and most startlingly, an extraordinary sequence of après-mort or deathbed portraits. For if you happened to live in the People's Republic of Benin (formerly known as the Kingdom of Dahomey) during the 1960s and 1970s, photography was likely to play a role not just in your life – but in your afterlife. It is a commonly held belief, and source of fear, in many African cultures that a person's soul lives on, trapped, within the photograph. In Benin, with its mixed spiritual traditions of Catholicism and voodoo (born in Benin and now its official religion), the photograph came to play a fascinating role in rituals of death. The Catholic and colonial legacy of funerary portraiture, joined to a traditionally African belief that the photograph steals the spirit, created the context for some of these photographs, which exist to mediate between the living and the dead.” Includes amazing photographs by Benoît Adjovi, Jean Agbétagbo, Joseph Moïse Agbodjélou, Bouraïma Akodji, Léon Ayékoni, Christophe Mahoukpé, Sébastien Méhinto (aka Pigeon), Edouard Méhomé, and Camille Tchawlassou.