Local traditions and culture in Togo

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    THE CURRENCY OF TOGO

    by DAO Written Oct 1, 2012


    The currency of Togo is the West African CFA Franc. You may see it written as "F CFA" and you will hear it pronounced "see-fuh" or "see-fah". Officially it is the Communaute Financiere Africaine (CFA) Franc issued by the Central Bank of the States of West Africa (BCEAO). If you are looking for the exchange rates for their currency you will need to look for the symbol “XOF”. The 8 countries that use this same currency make up the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) and they are:
    Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Sénégal and Togo.

    The denominations are:
    Coins 1, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, 250, 500 francs
    Banknotes 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000 francs

    Originally this currency was aligned with a parity value to the Euro – but this has slipped quite a bit. It is, however, externally convertibility as it is guaranteed by the French Treasury.

    A few words of caution:
    There is another CFA – issued by the Central Bank of the States of West Africa (BCEAO). It is called the Central African CFA Franc and you will see it listed as “XAF” in exchange rates. Theoretically they are exactly the same value, but the notes and coins are different. Don’t take Central African CFA from anyone. Also do not try and take any CFA home with you for exchange. Outside of Paris you may find it virtually impossible to exchange back.

    Don’t expect to see to many 1 and 5 CFA coins. The 50-500 range of coins are extremely useful, especially when you haggle for prices. Try to only have 1000 and 2000 notes. 10,000 notes (about 15 Euro, $20) are a nightmare to get rid of.

    Old notes that are falling to bits can still be used and people will accept them.

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    THE FLAG OF TOGO

    by DAO Updated Apr 20, 2012

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    Before you think the flag of Togo is just another flag with the Pan African theme – think again. Although it does use the 3 colors originally set out by Ethiopia, there is a lot of thought and care that has been woven into the design. It was designed by a very talented artist named Paul Ahyi (1930 – 2010). It has five equal horizontal stripes – in the order of green, yellow, green, yellow, green. In the top left corner there is a red square with a white 5 point white star.

    The flag was adopted on April 27, 1960 – the formal day of independence from France.

    The colors represent:
    Green - agricultural wealth
    Yellow – mineral resources
    Red – the blood of patriots fighting for independence
    The 5 horizontal stripes - the five regions of Togo
    The whites star - hope

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    Hot Chocolate

    by lalikes Written Apr 17, 2010

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    Hot Chocolate is huge in Togo (Lome). It's their coffee or tea. Pick a local spot and enjoy. The guys running this outdoor (make shift by our standards) were jovial, happy to oblige; all for less than $1 U.S. dollar. They also have food prepared as you wait/watch. Local breakfast is spaghetti with a fried egg on top.

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    Foot fetish

    by grets Written Apr 8, 2007

    We stumbled across a strange custom in the Djendi village of the Kotakoli – foot fetish amongst the men! Apparently, the men like their women to have soft feet and hands, so their lady folk will do their best to accommodate these wishes. An herb known as LALE is used to beautify their feet and to make them soft. The herb is ground to a pulp on a stone and then mixed with water for it to become a soft a pliable pulp. The feet are washed thoroughly prior to the treatment.

    This pulp is applied to the edge of the soles of the feet with their hands. It is left on for two-three hours, after which is becomes a nice red colour, rather like the henna which is used in India. Overnight it will become dark and black – just like henna! This is considered a real treat in their customs and their men love it!

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    Oil lamps

    by grets Updated Mar 21, 2007

    It never ceased to amaze me how ingenuititive (I think I might just have made that word up) the local people are. I have said it several times: waste not want not. These oil lamps are fashioned from discarded food cans. Much cheaper than making them from ‘new’ metal and much more sustainable. We have a lot to learn from the African in the west!

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    Pelebe

    by grets Updated Mar 21, 2007

    When making millet or sorghum beer, a pulp is remaining after the beer has been filtered through a fine mesh. This pulp is dried and made into patties and sold in the market for fuel. It is known as pelebe.

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    Shea Butter

    by grets Updated Mar 21, 2007

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    Shea butter has a sizeable quantity of unsaponifiable fats, several vitamins and other active elements, as well as soothing, moisturising and protecting properties. Shea butter also helps cell regeneration and capillary circulation which in turn speeds up the healing of small wounds, skin cracks and crevices, and skin ulcers. It is also believed to aid in the fight against ageing. Shea butter is produced by extracting fat from the fruit of the shea tree by crushing and boiling. As well as being used as a body moisturiser, shea butter is also used for cooking and sometimes in the production of chocolate in place of cocoa butter.

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    Tooth brush

    by grets Updated Mar 21, 2007

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    This is probably a lot healthier than the western counterpart, as these natural toothbrushes are disposable and biodegradable. I didn’t actually try them, but did try some similar ones in Mali some years ago and they worked a treat! It just shows that you can still have impeccable personal hygiene without the modern trappings.

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    African handbag

    by grets Written Mar 4, 2007

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    This is the equivalent of the ubiquitous handbag in England or purse as it is known in the States. No self-respecting Togolese would be seen without one! Everything and anything is carried in these shallow metal bowls: shopping, sales goods, laundry, water, food…….the list is endless!

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    Blacksmiths

    by grets Written Mar 4, 2007

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    In Togo, blacksmith is not just any old trade; it is a very special trade. Blacksmiths are special, different, extraordinary people, as if they are from a totally different society, and are almost revered like semi-gods. You cannot just set yourself up as a blacksmith, you have to belong to the secret society where everyone knows everyone else.

    Only post-menopausal women were allowed to collect the raw materials from the nearby mountains. The reason for choosing post-menopausal women was that they are considered pure, as they no longer engage in sexual activities.

    Many people would come to the furnaces (picture 2) from nearby villages to buy the iron to make into farming implements.

    The process would involve a layer of firewood inside the cone, then the raw iron materials, grain wood on top of that, topped with fire. The iron ore would then be collected at some later stage from the holes at the bottom of the cone once it had melted.

    Forming the iron into a useful object is a two-man job. The smiths work inside a well ventilated hut, where a piece of iron is heated in the fire and held down on a stone where the second person hammers it heavily with a large rock. Very rudimentary, but it works (see picture 1.

    Can you imagine how hot it is in the blacksmiths’ hut? It is 30°C outside in the sunshine and in this hut they have a ferocious fire burning as well as the fact that they are doing heavy manual work! No thanks! Obviously, regular breaks are a necessity. See picture 3.

    Most of the items they make a hoes, spades and other father implements. In picture 4 you can see Noah holding up a hoe they have recently completed. They made tools for themselves as well as to sell in the market. We were offered a how, but declined.

    Africans could show us westerners a thing or two about sustainability – here it is ingrained in them and has been for centuries. Waste not, want not. If there is a fire going, hang a pot full of dinner over it to utilise the heat! Simple, effect and energy saving. See picture 5.

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    Gris-gris

    by grets Written Mar 4, 2007

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    Many families in rural villages have their own gris-gris in the corner of the house to protect them from evil. Gris-gris is basically a talisman used in animist religions such as voodoo, and in this case it is a collection of stones, herbs, oils, bones, hair, nails, and feathers. It can be other personal items relating to the family or any of the family members. The gris-gris will protect the inhabitants against evil and bring them luck.

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    The Calabash

    by grets Written Mar 4, 2007

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    The so called calabash container is named after the calabash tree. It is the fruit or gourd which is used to make the containers so widely used throughout Africa (and other parts of the world), and is one of the earliest cultivated trees in the world grown not for food but for utilities. The fruit is hollowed out and dried and it is used for cleaning rice, carrying water and also just as a food container. Small gourds are used as bowls to drink palm-wine (see Off the Beaten Path tips for more details). It is also used to make certain musical instruments.

    The calabash is considered sacred, and will not be thrown away, even if damaged.

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    The Esron Bush

    by grets Written Feb 27, 2007

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    Noah told us the name of this medicinal bush was ESRON - but I have been unable to find any details about it on the net since returning home. He told us it has antibiotic qualities and is used by the locals to treat all manner of diseases.

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    The Togolese pram

    by grets Written Feb 27, 2007

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    In West Africa you never see mothers pushing their babies in pushchairs or prams like you do in Europe, they are carried on their mother’s back in a piece of cloth draped tightly around her waist, with just the baby’s head sticking out.

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    Royal Stools

    by grets Written Feb 25, 2007

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    Stools are central to the Togolese culture. The stool which is supported by an elephant, symbolises power, and only the king can sit on that. The other stool, the one on the left with the people supporting the seat, symbolises the people showing respect to the king.

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