upon arriving in cotonou during september 2018, i was immediately ushered into benin’s rural villages, where i began a program of cultural immersion by living among the villagers, discovering local languages, tasting foreign spices, sleeping in hotter climates, and becoming accustomed to new norms and gender roles. benin is a nation that has maintained an impressive record of domestic peace since its freedom from french colonialism in the 1960s, but it has struggled to lift out of poverty and ranks consistently in the bottom 15% of poorest countries in the world. these facts were in my mind when i arrived, but living among the beninese has highlighted how despite many cultural and financial barriers, people are people. we all experience feelings like pleasure, struggle, curiosity, and exhaustion. albeit resources and methods are different, we share similar desires like eating, buying beautiful things, developing style, and following our interests. moving from nyc, i was eager to explore cotonou and to see how the city has blended aspects from rural benin with modern influences that are commonplace in developed societies. bordering the atlantic ocean and boasting the largest market in west africa, and a port providing water access for landlocked border nations, cotonou is the largest city in benin and represents a commercial hub. amid the action and noise, the following series highlights a calmness and coolness of the city, and explores the characters and colors of cotonou.
all images © 2019 dan greenberg.