Art in the cult of the deities among the Anlo in South-Eastern Ghana

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When reference is made to the Volta Region, the emphasis is mostly on the Ewe. With the Ewe as the focal point of reference, all that is known about the religious inclination of the Volta Region is that there is juju, wrongly referred to as fetish, used only to destroy. Really sympathetic it is that at this era of scholastic intellectualism, academicians still come up with unresearched and baseless assertions of this kind. That juju or cult practices in the Volta Region are undertaken mainly for destruction is a claim by the uneducated literates who mistakenly regard themselves as intellectuals. Claims of this nature by empty vessels of the intelligentzia have their roots in emotions or better still instincts. The destructive use of such forces among the Ewe cannot be completely ruled out. Every phenomenon has its good and bad sides. The employment of the constructive aspects of the natural forces as they are exposes the destructive side. To protect one’s family or friends from enemies demands rendering of the enemies powerless there is therefore the need to destroy the powers of the enemies. Men therefore seek the most effective ways of damaging the enemy in terms of spiritual power, in order to save relatives and friends. Some of the eternal forces are such that their demolition costs the life of the recipient. It is also true that in order to make possible the curing of a disease caused by a witch or a sorcerer, it becomes necessary at times to destroy the witch or the sorcerer that causes the disease. As long as he or she lives he continues complicating issues and the ailment cannot be cured. It is as well true that greed and selfishness lead possessors of such forces into destruction for their own selfish gains. Nevertheless the constructive use of the cults by the Ewe exceeds the destructive side by far. Individuals as well as whole ethnic groups benefit immensely from cults of the Ewe in the Volta Region. Spill-overs of concealed and guarded knowledge have revealed that Okomfo Anokye who established the Ashanti nation with his mystic powers was an Ewe. Research by Mamattah (1976) reveals that in Agborney in Dahomey (Republic of Benin) there is an ancient sword planted by an ancient Priest-King with a mystery surrounding it like the famous Akomfo or Okomfo Anokye’sword in Kumasi (now vanished). Mamattah adds that “Anokye” may well be the Ashanti corruption of Notsie home of the Priest-King invited to give mystical stability to Osei Tutu’s new state. Okomfo of Notsie became Okomfo Anokye.[l] To further prove the falsity in the Ashanti origin of Okomfo Anokye, Ephson (1969) in digging out the Ashanti root of the mystic has ended up pointing to two home—towns. The Ashanti and Akwapim both claim that Okomfo Anokye originated from their respective areas – Ashanti-Agona and Akwapitn-Awukugua. According to the Akwapims, Okomfo Anokye’s father was Annor and his mother Asabia. Both Annor and Asabia lived in Awukug. The mystic’s name was Kwasi Frimpong. The Ashantis give Okomfo Anokye’s parents as Kyei Birie as his father and Owirawiri Kwa (daughter of Nana Dufie Gyampontima) his mother. Ephson reveals that his father was from Adanse. The Ashantis go further to mention that he was born in 1665 of the Agona clan at Adanse—Akrokere in Ashanti. The Ashantis have Agyei Frimpong as the infancy name of the priest. [2] How can one person have two different parentages and from two different sources? These claims have only succeeded in weakening the roots of his Akan origin. The contradictory assertions go to buttress the truth in the counter-claim that the man never originated from any of the above places Consequently Mamattah revelation could be true. Members of the Akan royal houses may know this but may not be prepared to reveal it. Asamang is a suburb of Kumasi in Ashanti. The town is known for bead making. The author of this work was at the town together with his mates during an excursion in 1991. The author was informed there by one of his mates who hails from the area that the house which is the bead production centre was established in a cult by an Ewe from the Volta Region in early 1950s. As at the time of the visit, the man was st,ill alive. The author had the chance of engaging in a very brief conversation with the man’s daughter in Ewe. The nature of the house shows that it is one of the most prosperous houses, if not the most prosperous house in the town. The buildings look modern, solid and firm. There is Afeli, a cult at the centre of the house. The Anlo and for that matter the Ewe reach out their cultic tentacles to help in other regions of the world. Kwadzovi Eku Kuatsikor, one of the writer’s informants, by the help of his cultic powers cured a chronic headache in Europe in 1970s, a problem which could not be solved by any of the hospitals attended with the malady. According to this informant, he has been solving infertility problems for women from Jamaica, Zaire, Cameroun, the United States of America and so forth. Also, people from countries such as Senegal, Sierra Leone and some countries from Europe have been receiving cure for various ailments from this chief priest. According to him he was invited on three occasions to Sheffield and London where he healed Britons of various diseases and also performed some rituals upon request. Some American citizens have been visiting him for charms, amulets, cults and so on for protection. The case involving individuals such as soldiers, industrialists, traders and so forth, flocking to the Volta Region for spiritual fortification is but the tip of the iceberg. Time and space can however not allow citing more of the countless instances of the positive use of the occult powers by the Ewe of the Volta Region. It is therefore not a healthy assertion, that juju or cult from the Volta Region is mainly used to destroy. To the Anlo and therefore the Ewe this is salvation. Gaba (1973) says:”Salvation then is equivalent to deliverance from material want in all its manifestations, and peace can be equated with material contentment.”[3] The negative views about the African Traditional Religion are militating against its upliftment. The current woeful moral cleavage and all other vices that plague the African society can be said to be a reflection of the decline in the Traditional Religion. A revival or the promotion of this religion will accordingly help restore the waning form of moral fibre within the Ewe society. Our grandparents grievously hated sin and to the disobedient they revealed real cruelty. But everybody was on the alert for sin and the youth who have taken to immorality were drastically dealt with. Some were fined, some sold while others received capital punishment, depending upon the magnitude of one’s offence. It is maintained, that the liar breeds antagonism in the family, bankruptcy easily lands one into the hands of robbers, and sometimes war follows these Most importantly however, about theft, adultery and seeking after someone’s life, it is said, he who engages in any of these vices is a nation wrecker. Because it was these that brought hardship to bear upon them in their exodus from Hogbe onto Anloland. [4] The Anlo cherish virtue. It underscores the totality of their culture. Another view which attracts dilation, should justice be done to this study is the contention that the forces involved in the Traditional Religion are enemies of God. The genuinely enlightened know this contention is unacceptable. Simple logic lays bare the truth. The deities that feature in the Cult of the Deities are brought into being by God. God is believed beyond every reasonable doubt, to be the creator of the universe and all that are within it. It has never been mentioned anywhere that the gods created themselves. It follows therefore that God is responsible for the existence of those beings as well. God is all-knowing. He knows the future as well. It therefore follows as a matter of natural sequence, that God is capable of knowing in advance what a being he is about to create will be after it has been created. If these forces were actually coming to be his enemies, as a school of thought claims, God would have known prior to their creation. He would have known in advance that these beings he was about to create would turn out to be his enemies, and as a result destructive. God would not have therefore created them. What is the use of bringing into existence a being whom one knows, is definitely coming to be an enemy and will consequently destroy good creations? It is as a result absurd to maintain that these forces are God’s enemies, which suggests that God did not know at the time of their creation, that, they would turn out to be his enemies. If he however knew that they were coming to be his enemies and seek to destroy his perfect works but went ahead to create them, what for? Did God then create them to be destroying his good works? This simple and straight forward analysis renders baseless the claim that these forces are enemies of God. By this assertion, God’s image is being lowered to an unacceptable level. These deities are never enemies. God created -them for a purpose. They are his ministers they are his messengers. To otherwise say that the deities were not brought into being by God makes the claim of God creating the universe and that there entire are within, false. Indeed God created and is always recreating the world and all that are within. To facilitate concentration during consultation, the Anlo think it wise to create a point of contact between him and his deity, besides what already exists in nature, such as rivers, mountains, trees and so on. These are the abodes. Karefa (1959) has this to say in favour of the basis for abodes: Although these beings themselves are invisible, the African, by reference to himself, concludes that they must have preferred places of abode; and, since their activity is observable everywhere, it is not inconceivable that every natural object should have its own ‘jinni’ (spirit) [5]. Man-made abodes mostly assume human forms. They are however abstracted human forms. The partly human face in these images may serve as a bridge to lead the observer from an everyday attitude to an awed contemplation of the supernatural. This is actually one of the chief functions of both masks and cult images, and it is reasonable to suppose that the total experience of the worshippers is somewhat along this line. He is sensitive to plastic form, but not necessarily interest in art for art’s sake. The design is for him inseparably blended with its human and superhuman association. Most of the literature on these issues of religious tone is initiated by Europeans. Being foreigners and from whom the African culture has been suffering degradation of immeasurable dimension, there are bound to be misrepresentations, stripping naked, meaningful African customs of their naturally rich messages. The western educated African scholar who ma1es the attempt of writing on this same theme does not go beyond echoing his masters’ voices. What he comes out with in content is either the same as what his white bosses, have manufactured or even more blasphemous to the detriment of the African’s religious image. Nevertheless as the times roll by, the old order is changing, yielding place to the new. Resultantly genuinely searching minds are revisiting and unearthing suppressed truths. As such, both the enlightened Africans and a few Europeans who cherish living by the truth have started registering historical reconstruction. Knowledge in earnest has thv3 been brought under review. Most of the literature reviewed has their births in the efforts of the enlightened Blacks and Whites who seek to give Africa her true identity. The probability of truth presentation on the branch of African Culture dealt with in this study is therefore very high.
A thesis submitted to the Board of Postgraduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the award of the Degree of Master of Arts in African Art, 1994