What does the West African nation of Benin look like from the sky? A young man from Benin was tired of negative stereotypes about his country and decided to film with a drone to get a bird’s eye view of his country. His footage gives new insights into Benin and its geography, sometimes revealing hidden places of striking natural beauty.
Mawunu Feliho, a 23-year-old French-Beninese blogger, is the brains behind the series of short films which he has jokingly baptised "Fly shit only", which are all filmed with a drone. Since he first launched the project on September 14, 2016, Feliho has made 19 different two-minute-long episodes, each one focusing on a different region in Benin. He likes to focus his lens on areas that don’t usually get much coverage and that people might not know about.
Inspired by the documentary series "Vu du ciel " (“Seen from the Sky”) by French photographer Yann-Arthus Bertrand, Feliho is interested in using his project to show off his country’s natural beauty, thus inspiring tourism from abroad and growing concern for the environment amongst people in Benin. In the first part of his series, Feliho focuses his lens on the Beninese capital, Cotonou. In the second part, he shows footage of the smaller towns between Cotonou and Parakou, which is located in the centre of the country. His next instalment will focuses on cities in the north of the country.
"It was only when I was far from home that I discovered the extent to which I love my country”
I spent some time studying in Europe and I was always very surprised by the negative image that people from the West had of Africa. I heard the same stereotypes about Benin again and again — for example, people would always ask about voodoo. I wanted to try and change these perceptions because it was only when I was far from home that I discovered the extent to which I love my country.
I felt like in order to get people to see Benin from a different perspective, I needed to show them the country from a different angle. In April 2016, I randomly started getting interested in drones and the footage that they could capture.
I taught myself how to do it and I made my first video using a drone about five months later. It focused on Red Star Square in Cotonou. It might sound crazy but lots of people told me that, until they saw my film, they had had no idea that there was a red star in the middle of the roundabout that they passed on a daily basis [Editor’s note: Red Star Square was built by the Soviets during the 1970s and inaugurated by General Mathieu Kérékou who took over Benin in 1972 after a coup. The roundabout itself is partially hidden by trees].
"I’m not trying to sell people dreams, but teach them how to look at things differently"
Sometimes, the footage reveals things that we might not be aware of when our feet are on the ground. For example, I realised, while flying my drone over Cotonou, that there are still a lot of homes made out of sheets of corrugated metal. Residents in homes made out of sheet metal are at risk for health problems because the metal traps heat inside. I realised that there is a lot that still needs to be done in my country. The indirect message in my footage is that we still have a lot of progress to make.
My main aim with these videos is aesthetic: I want to show people that my country is beautiful. But I make an effort to keep it real — I’m not trying to sell people dreams. I just want to provide people with new information so that they realise that they live in beautiful cities, and that they just need to learn to look at them with different eyes.
"I’d like to fly the drone over more African capitals"
For the time being, I’ve been focusing on cities in Benin, mostly for financial reasons because I fund the project myself. I did make one video in Assinie, a city in southeastern Ivory Coast and one in Lomé, Togo where I went on vacation.
My longterm goal, however, is to fly over the maximum number of African capital cities. If people like my project and want to participate in order to shine a light on the more unknown sides of their city, I’m definitely in!