This Togolese explorer escaped a snake cult initiation at 16 and became a global sensation in Greenland

Tété-Michel Kpomassie

In his book, An African in Greenland, Tété-Michel Kpomassie shares the account of a 16-year-old boy who left his home country in West Africa and set for Greenland, an island in Europe he longed to call his new home.

The colourful and adventurous escapade of the young teenager who had never travelled outside his village and how he made it to Greenland is the true life story of Tété-Michel Kpomassie himself.

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An African in Greenland

At 16, Tété-Michel found himself in the deep thick forest getting cured by the traditional python priestess after his dad took him to see her following his slim escape from death. As a young boy, he collected coconuts and while doing so, he fell from the tree after attacks from a python. His father believed that the sickness that followed shortly after his great fall was as a result of the bad omen of encountering a snake.

Tété-Michel spent some time in the snake-infested cult with the priestess and was more than happy to be declared free, however, the news that followed would make him yearn to leave his village.

This Togolese explorer escaped a snake cult initiation at 16 and became a global sensation in Greenland

His father, who was a very prominent man in his village with eight wives and 26 children, was told by the priestess that his son had been chosen to be initiated into the snake cult to be trained as a priest as payment for the cure. When his father, who was a staunch traditionalist did not argue with the new developments, Tete knew that he did not want to spend the next 7 years in a snake cult far in the thick forest for training.

It was during his wait to be sent off for good into the forest that Tété-Michel came across a book in a library that was about Greenland. At that point in his life, Greenland presented itself as a safe haven where there were no snakes or people to tell you how to live your life and he wanted to escape and live his life there.

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Tété-Michel in Greenland

With no money, Tété-Michel spent the next twelve years of his life making his way to Greenland in Europe and spending less than six months in every space he found himself.

While making his way to a land he had only read about, he learnt several languages and developed an interest in sights and scenes of places in West Africa and Europe.

This Togolese explorer escaped a snake cult initiation at 16 and became a global sensation in Greenland
Tété-Michel Kpomassie – Ilulissat, Greenland, 1965

Finally, in the 1960s, he found himself in Greenland after joining a boat headed to the promised land from a closer European country.

During his first few years in the country, Tété-Michel documented his adventure from a small village in Togo where he was to go through a snake cult initiation to a land with strangers where he felt at home. Published in 1977, the book gives a very detailed account of his adventures to Greenland which has been described as very thrilling by some and somewhat unbelievable by others.

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For his book and knowledge of so many countries, Tété-Michel was awarded the Prix Littéraire Francophone International in 1981. In 2009, an exhibition called Arctic Book Club organised by the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts and Flux Factory in New York was centred around his book. He was the guest of honor throughout the exhibition and resold several copies of his book.

Last Edited by:Victor Ativie Updated: May 16, 2020


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