Art in the life of the Gonja with special reference to the ceremonies at birth, puberty, marriage and death

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A close observation of Africa and it societies will reveal that art is at the root of Africa culture and like their religion is their determining principle of Africa life. Like most Africans, art features in the stages of the existence (birth, life and death) of the Gonja. It is no exaggeration, therefore, to say in traditional Gonja, ‘art is life and life is art’. Gonjas are engaged in art in whatever they do – whether it be farming, fishing or hunting, or simply eating, drinking or travelling. Art give meaning and significance to their lives, both in this world and the next. It is hence not an abstraction but a part of a reality and everyday life. It should be apparent then to understand the Gonjas the influence of art on their lives must be fully appreciated. The author of this work is aware of the fact that this has not been the case for there has not been any detailed work done on the art of Gonjas. In trying to portray Art in the life cycle of the Gonja, the very first of such works on the tribe, the author has taken into consideration several things. Firstly, the Gonjas outlook the life; their belief in the Supreme Being, ‘Ebore’, Nature Spirits, magic and witchcraft. The Gonjas are a people who in all things are religious. The author also has taken note of the Pre-Natal belief of the Gonjas; birth, childhood and babyhood. Except for children who were born through the help of the fetish the Gonjas have no formal initiation ceremonies for children into adulthood. In Gonja the training for full membership of the society is a long and continuous process that begins from very early childhood and continues to the time they go into marriage. Thirdly, the author has considered art in the death of the Gonjas with special reference to lepers, pregnant women, and the bloated person, a young baby, the commoner, the sub-chief and the paramount chief. Fourthly, art in the succession of the Gonja paramountcy has attracted the author’s attention. The author has given an insight to the festivals of the Gonjas as well as the joking relationships system in the society. The desire of the author in this work has been to record something of the old tribal discipline and the society’s regard for art now regrettably slowly and surely passing
A thesis submitted to the Board of Postgraduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the Degree of Master of Arts in African Art, 1982