Togo is the narrow strip of land between Ghana and Benin on the West Coast of Africa. Despite hosting attractive beaches and a rich culture it is now notorious for the riots and human rights violations that occurred here in the 1990’s.
In the 17th century, Togo and the surrounding region was dubbed ‘The Slave Coast’ due to the two hundred years it spent as a part of the slave trade to the Americas. In the 18th century, it was declared a protectorate of Germany, under a treaty signed in Togoville. In 1914, after World War One, Togo was invaded, divided and administered by the French and British and became a League of Nations mandate. While the British part became part of Ghana, the French part was ruled until independence in 1960.
In 1967 the head of armed forces, Gnassingbe Eyadema, seized power after leading a successful military coup. He remained in power until his death in 2005, when his son Faure Gnassingbe was elected president. After years of condemnation for its human rights abuses, the international community is now finally welcoming Togo, and in January 2012 it took a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council.
Culture in Togo reflects the influences of the diverse mixing of people. There are about forty different ethnic groups, with the biggest ones being the Ewe, Mina, Tem, Tchamba and Kabra, and even though French is the official language, Togolese also speak several indigenous languages. There have been several books based here, most of them reflecting the history and politics in Togo, such as Benjamin Lawrance’s The Ewe of Togo and Benin, Andrew Zimmerman’s Alabama in Africa and Ahmadou Kourouma’s fictional title Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote – which is a fantastical view of post-independent West Africa from the eyes of a dictator.
The most widely practiced art forms in Togo are sculpture, carving, and batik fabric dyeing, with the pieces portraying ancient practices and traditional everyday life. Togolese artist, Paul Ahyi, is internationally recognised for his work with plastic and sculpture. Togo has also produced many famous singers and entertainers, with names such as King Mensah, Bella Bellow and Jimi Hope being at the forefront of the folk-like and percussion based style.