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Histoire, Anthropologie

Sakrobundi Ne Aberewa

Sie Kwaku the Witch-Finder in the Akan World
T.C. McCaskie
p. 101-113

Résumés

Cet article retrace l’histoire d’un mouvement anti-sorcellerie, Aberewa, apparu vers 1874, et qui s’est greffé sur un mouvement préexistant Sakrobundi, répandu chez les Abron de Côte d’Ivoire. Aberewa se développe dans les années 1880s-1890s et s’étend au pays asante, en proposant une autre forme d’autorité prévalant sur celle, institutionnalisée, des détenteurs d’office asante. L’auteur donne une description détaillée de ce culte anti-sorcellerie, en explorant les liens ruciaux et constitutifs qui l’unissent à Sakrobundi. Plus important, il propose une reconstruction minutieuse de la vie de Sie Kwaku, né vers 1845, acteur principal de Sakrobundi et d’Aberewa, et figure importante de l’histoire trop souvent négligée des croyances akan. Il s’agit d’un essai d’histoire sociale asante, centré sur un culte anti-sorcellerie.

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Texte intégral

Revisiting Aberewa

  • 1 McCaskie (1981).
  • 2 Public Records and Archives Administration Department (Kumase), ARG 1/30/1/6, ‘Chief Fetish Priest (...)
  • 3 Terray (1979), 166 mentions Sie Kwaku in the only published reference to him known to me.
  • 4 See, most helpfully, IV, ‘The Life of Sei Kweku taken down from his own Words’, recorded by A.A. Ba (...)
  • 5 See McCaskie (1998; 1999; 2000; 2000a; 2000b).

1In 1981, I wrote a synoptic review of the history of anti-witchcraft movements in early colonial Asante. In that paper, I discussed Aberewa, which enjoyed a brief but spectacular success in the early 1900s1 I now revisit Aberewa in the light of a mass of evidence that was unavailable to me two decades ago.2 In this present paper I set out to do three things. First, I provide a more richly detailed reading of Aberewa than I was able to give before. Second, I recount and explore the crucial links between Aberewa and the earlier anti-witchcraft movement known as Sakrobundi. Third, and perhaps most importantly, I furnish a life history of the hitherto overlooked but remarkable Sie Kwaku of Welekei in Gyaman, the leading actor in both Sakrobundi and Aberewa and a significant figure in the still understudied history of Akan belief. 3 Sie Kwaku is central to this paper, and the several autobiographical testimonies that he gave to literate fellow Africans and British colonial officials are indispensable to my account of him. 4 In this last regard, this paper may be seen as a companion piece to a number of recent publications in which I have explored individual lives in an effort to come to grips with Akan social history. I continue to think that what is needed to recuperate that history in meaningful terms is close focus on detailed evidence, a common enough priority in many fields of historical endeavour, but less so in African historiography where sustained, long-term investigation of individual societies is still not as common as it might be.5

  • 6 See especially Terray (1979; 1995). I have also benefited from reading Viti (1998); Valsecchi (2002 (...)

2Like its forebear, this paper is mainly concerned with Aberewa in Asante, but it also takes full account of its origins outside of Asante in the wider Akan world. There is much to be said for seeing the Akan whole, so to speak, over and above the contingent divisions imposed on them by European imperialism and perpetuated by postcolonial states. One significant but regrettable consequence of these partitions is a continuing degree of estrangement between English and other language scholarship about the Akan and their neighbours. On this point, I place on the record here the fact that this paper would not have been possible in its present form without the studies of French and Italian researchers on the western Akan and surrounding peoples. Most particularly, it would not have been possible without the research and many publications of my French colleague (and friend) Emmanuel Terray on the Abron kingdom of Gyaman. It is his magnificent historical ethnography of the Abron that has allowed me access to an understanding of the world that gave birth to Sie Kwaku, and permitted me to make crucial connections between the Asante and wider Akan dimensions of that individual's’ life.6 That Sie Kwaku’s footprints can be traced in two Akan historical traditions, Abron and Asante, only serves to underscore his impact and significance. It also reinforces my general point about trying to see the interconnectedness of Akan peoples, and the contours of the world they made and lived in with their non-Akan neighbours. What follows then is an essay in Asante history, intermeshed with and informed by a study of a broader West African cultural landscape.

Sakrobundi ne Aberewa: The World of Sie Kwaku

Sakrobundi ne Aberewa: The World of Sie Kwaku

Sie Kwaku of Welekei (1840s-1860s)

  • 7 Terray (1995), 509, 841-2 and 848.
  • 8 In addition to biographical materials already cited see IV, Lt.-Gouverneur to CCA, dd. Bingerville, (...)
  • 9 On Begho see Posnansky (1987); on Bonduku see Terray (1995); on Buna see Boutillier (1993); on Wa s (...)

3Sie Kwaku was born about 1845 in Welekei (OulikJ) just to the north-east of the historic Muslim Juula commercial town of Bonduku in the Abron kingdom of Gyaman. Like many Gyaman villages, Welekei had a mixed population. It was originally and remained predominantly Nafana, but gained a significant Abron minority after the Gyaman Penangohene removed his seat there from Bohi in the mid-eighteenth century. It also had Kulango and Juula inhabitants. 7 Sie Kwaku’s descent is a complex matter. Welekei informants claimed that his father was a Nafana from that people’s residential quarter (Ganbin) in the village. This seems to have been the case, for descent from the patrilineal and patrilocal Nafana played a key part in Sie Kwaku’s later life. But Sie Kwaku is a Twi not a Nafana (Senufo) name, and its bearer stated he was of mixed Nafana and Abron descent, and commonly represented his mother as being an Akan woman called Afua (or Adwowa) Bihi. Was his father Nafana and his mother Abron? Likely or not, the truth is obscured by the sheer heterogeneity of the Welekei community. What is certain is that Sie Kwaku spoke both Twi and Nafana, but then again he could also communicate in Kulango, Juula and other languages including, eventually, French and English. He had relatives in nearby Asikassiko (Sampa) and Duadaso, and clear if undetermined connections with both Zanzan in south Gyaman and Buna to the north in Kulango country. He also had kin (or associates) far away to the west in Gaase on the Komoe river, and even more distantly in the Senufo town of Dabakala in the district from which the Welekei Nafana originated. 8 This pattern of connections is detailed and diverse, but it tells us less than it might about Sie Kwaku for there was nothing very unusual about it. Centuries of trade in the basin of the Black Volta river, centred first on Begho and later along the Bonduku-Buna-Wa corridor, produced many multicultural communities like Welekei with widely dispersed affiliations across today’s central Ivory Coast, Ghana and beyond.9

  • 10 Tauxier (1921) translates danifo] as loups-garous [werewolves].
  • 11 See VI/2, ‘How Essimassi came to destroy Witches and Wizards’, n.d. (but recorded in Takyiman, ca, (...)
  • 12 In V, ‘The Pontifex Maximus (High Priest) of Abiriwa Fitish’, recorded by Aug. Aning, dd. Menji, Ma (...)
  • 13 IV, ‘The Life of Sei Kweku taken down from his own Words’, recorded by A.A. Baidoo and T.E. Fell, d (...)

4In adolescence Sie Kwaku became associated with a group of Nafana men in Welekei who trafficked in charms against sorcerers. They also performed Yoggon, one of a series of witch-finding masquerades imported into Gyaman from among the Senufo to the west along the Bandama river. Such masquerades were adapted and deployed by the Abron, Kulango and Nafana to counter their shared belief in and fear of witchcraft. Sie Kwaku became an adept of Yoggon, and started to have visions in which neighbours appeared to him as shape-shifters in the form of talking animals and supernatural beings. These entities were familiar to all of Welekei’s people, and were called in Abron Twi danifo] [der. adannan, ‘to alter repeatedly’]. They were practitioners of malign witchcraft and a deadly threat to any community. They practised occult vampirism, polluting, depleting and finally killing their victims at night by feasting on their blood. 10 Sie Kwaku’s visions showed him where to find a supply of medicine [dufa] in the forest to combat this evil. Detection of malefactors took place at a village assembly. At this, Sie Kwaku wore a mask representing the Bongo antelope, and was inhabited by the persona of the witch-finder Asiamasi [‘he whose name cannot be uttered’]. Evildoers were pointed out and dragged from the crowd. Those so accused might save themselves only by confessing and swallowing some of Sie Kwaku’s medicine mixed in water. 11 A refusal to confess was confirmation of unrepentant witchcraft and led to a beating with the staves used for pounding food. 12 A few died, and persistent offenders were expelled from the community. But most confessed and were rehabilitated. Sie Kwaku received modest fees in kind from those he purged, and fines from the kin of those refusing his aid. As with Yoggon, the great majority of Welekei folk took part in Asiamasi. Sie Kwaku recalled that witchcraft was ‘going to boiling point’ at this time.13

Witch-finding in Gyaman

  • 14 See Bravmann (1974; 1979), and Arnaut and Dell (1996).
  • 15 IV, ‘The Life of Sei Kweku taken down from his own Words’, recorded by A.A. Baidoo and T.E. Fell, d (...)

5By the nineteenth century, witch-finding and other sorts of masquerades were widespread in the Abron country. They seem to have originated among the earliest Nafana and Kulango settlers on the land (and with smaller groups like the Degha). They were adopted and adapted by incoming Twi-speaking Abron who founded the Gyaman polity in the early 1700s, and reduced the already resident peoples to subject status. Thereafter, this syncretism was constantly being supplemented and reformulated as a succession of newer masking traditions were imported by the Nafana and others from their kin in the wider Senufo and Gur worlds, and as local Muslim Juula magical techniques were incorporated into masquerades.14 Over the same time span and in much the same way, the Abron, Asante and other Akan also imported a succession of witch-finding shrines without masks from the peoples of the northern savanna hinterland. A history of these imports, and of fusions between them and already syncretistic masquerading, is quite unrecoverable in detail. Our glimpses of it are tantalisingly brief. Thus, Sie Kwaku himself mentioned a northern witch-finding medicine from around Gaoua that was active against Gyaman sorcerers in the 1860s. It was called Baane, and while it did not use masks in Welekei it did so in nearby Sorobangho. One practitioner of Baane was reportedly convicted of a grave but unspecified offence and executed by Gyamanhene Kwaku Agyeman.15

  • 16 This is documented in British (Cardinall, Fortes, Rattray) and French (Clozel, Delafosse, Tauxier) (...)

6Malign otherworldly power was ubiquitous and witchcraft [bayisem] was its terrifying manifestation. In Akan belief a witch was phenomenological, a channel or medium [adebisa anaa b]ne honhom] used by supernatural forces to destroy community. Witches were dwirifo] [der. dwiri, ‘to demolish’], people set on breaking down established human order by inverting its norms and values. The forces that governed them were violent powers that came from baabi, a term meaning both the physical ‘somewhere’ of a place and the metaphysical ‘elsewhere’ of a beyond. In either case, these powers were alien intruders in the Akan world. It was believed that they could only be dealt with by countervailing powers from the same source as themselves. In consequence, the Akan looked to their own alien ‘others’, cultures in the savanna to the north and west, for supernaturally charged resources to combat the forces that generated witchcraft.16 Aid of this sort had a political dimension. It was foreign, and nineteenth-century political elites in Gyaman and Asante sought to bring it under the control of their legitimising authority. Chiefs and commoners shared in the Akan cultural idiom that explained witchcraft affliction and remedy, but political power sought to monitor and license imported powers (masks, shrines) in case they became a focus for an alternative authority, a different reading of the social world. The Gyamanhene encouraged the idea that he was a sorcerer without peer; the Asantehene presided over a political ordering of public belief itself. But Akan rulers and subjects knew state cults were impotent when it came to witchcraft. A believing and prudent king, faced with a cyclical upsurge in witchcraft accusations, sought remedies in baabi and kept an eye on those who imported and manipulated them.

  • 17 Terray (1979), 157-8.
  • 18 The best narrative accounts are ibid. (1995), 601-76 and 890-921, and Wilks (1975), 271-3, 292-4, 4 (...)
  • 19 IV, ‘Aberewa komfo SK na esren no’, recorded by A. Afari-Mensah, dd. Duadaso, June 1907.

7Informants told Terray that one such cyclical acceleration in witchcraft fears and accusations occurred in Gyaman after 1850, and that its baleful effects were compounded by the corrupt use of witch-finding to settle personal scores17 killing escalated to levels that alarmed the political elite. Whatever its cause or reason, this produced generalised anxieties and breakdowns in communal order that were perceived as being crises of belief and morality. Unease was exacerbated by sweeping changes that overtook the Abron polity from the mid-1870s. Thus, when Sie Kwaku was born Asante claimed sovereignty over Gyaman by right of conquest, a claim last enforced in 1818-9 when Asante troops devastated the Abron kingdom. Then, after Asante’s defeat by Britain in 1874, Gyaman affirmed its independence but spent over a decade disentangling itself from Kumase.18 The end of the Asante threat liberated Gyaman into novel and challenging experiences. A commercial intercourse with coastal European enclaves, formerly interdicted by Kumase, created newly wealthy trading entrepreneurs. It also exposed Gyaman people to difference, and to the imagining of alternative ways of being in the world. Rapid and disordered change fostered possibility, but it also deepened anxiety about the erosion of certainty and stability. The strains of this paradox proved too much for the Abron ruling elite. Caught up in doubts about how to preserve the past and predict the future, it fell into a conflict over revising political arrangements in its own best interest. At village level, these same strains further increased tensions and divisions. This resulted in a vicious circle. Witch-killing intensified even further as people tried to explain and allay their unease at a crisis that now seemed to be threatening anarchy. Terray, who carried out fieldwork research in depth on the memory of this crisis, was led to conclude that at some point during these years of disarray the political elite finally acted to stabilise the situation. Quite predictably, this involved the importation of a new witch-finding power sanctioned by the Gyamanhene and embraced by his subjects. But when was this introduced? Terray has suggested a date between 1850 and 1888 (derived from the known regnal incumbencies of the Gyamanhene Kwaku Agyeman and Penangohene Yao Kosonu of Welekei, both of whom played their part in introducing the new power). But as Sie Kwaku is more intimately associated with this innovation than anyone else, credence must be given to his assertion that it took place shortly after 1874.19 Certainly, belief in this new power rose, spread and reached its crescendo in the troubled 1880s-90s.

Sie Kwaku and the coming of Sakrobundi (1860s-1880s)

  • 20 Christian Twi speakers glossed Sakrobundi as ‘the rejection of sin’; see I, Benjamin Ampofo to DC ( (...)
  • 21 Ibid., ‘The Life of Sei Kweku taken down from his own Words’, recorded by A.A. Baidoo and T.E. Fell (...)
  • 22 For Kandia see Wilks (1989), 50 and 55; for Welekei traditions about Dangabo of Kandia see Terray ( (...)
  • 23 IV, ‘Sakrobudi ne Abiriwa’, recorded by Chas. Boafo, dd. Asikassiko, June-July 1907.
  • 24 These names are recounted from Welekei tradition in Terray (1979), 166.
  • 25 See IV, ‘Aberewa komfo SK na esren no’, recorded by A. Afari-Mensah, dd. Duadaso, June 1907; and V, (...)

8The new witch-finding power was called Sakrobundi in Abron Twi, the derivation being sakra [to turn away from, to turn the back on] and b]ne [wickedness, evil], i.e. ‘the repudiation of evildoing.’ 20 Thus, Sie Kwaku came to wear Sakrobundi medicine bound to his back in a bundle tied up in red and black cloth, because ‘it is a turning of the back to bad things.’ 21 Welekei Sakrobundi was procured from a man named Dangabo who lived in Kandia, one hundred and thirty-five miles north of Bonduku. Kandia was an extinct Gonja divisional chiefship, but in the nineteenth century it was part of the Busa division of the Wala polity. The Wala capital of Wa lay only twenty miles north-east of Kandia. The inhabitants of Kandia were Gonja and Tampolense, with some Wala residents.22 Little is known about Dangabo. In one of Sie Kwaku’s testimonies Sakrobundi is associated with a Dan Garba (a Muslim Hausa?), but nothing else is said about him apart from his name.23 Whatever the case, Welekei accounts record what transpired. By the time Sakrobundi was brought into Gyaman its reputation was already known beyond Kandia. In the 1860s it was firmly established among the Banda Nafana, and the Abron may have first heard of it there. When its use was sanctioned by the Gyamanhene, Welekei was the first community to send envoys to Kandia to get it. They returned home with Dangabo, who came to give instruction in the use of the witch-finding medicine. Welekei village elders then chose Sie Kwaku to ‘sit by’ Sakrobundi, that is carry its shrine, attend to its worship and give voice to its judgments. This office remained in Sie Kwaku’s Nafana patriliny thereafter (he was succeeded by his son Kobena Huengu, and then by their patrikin Sina and his son Kwadio Dongo).24 Why was Sie Kwaku chosen? Welekei traditions say no more than that the job called for intelligence and tact. However, we know from Sie Kwaku himself that he already had admired skills as an occult practitioner. Sakrobundi, he said, was ‘the best good power that made itself known to then’ for finding out witches, and it ‘embraced’ him saying ‘go straight ahead for the way is cleared for you.’25

  • 26 Cardinall (1927), 205-13 has a discussion of the ubiquity of ‘wer-hyenas’ (sic) in northern savanna (...)
  • 27 Delafosse (1908), 122-34 visited and described the Welekei shrine complex in June 1902. He was admi (...)
  • 28 IV, ‘The Life of Sei Kweku taken down from his own Words’, recorded by A.A. Baidoo and T.E. Fell, d (...)

9It is not clear if masks were used in Sakrobundi in Kandia, or if masquerading was added to its worship by Welekei Nafana. Certainly, two masks at least came to be used in Welekei. These were ‘Kumbi’, in the form of a hyena [Nafana, kombo], and another representing an antelope or wild ox. 26 Both masks and medicine were kept in a dedicated shrine house situated on the boundaries between the Abron, Kulango and Nafana quarters of Welekei (by 1902 this shrine was a complex of three buildings).27 Sie Kwaku was in charge of the masks, and wore one of the two every fiada [Friday] when he led performances of the Sakrobundi masquerade. The purpose of Sakrobundi was witch-finding. It did this by searching out and killing them on its own recognisance and, so it was believed, without any human intervention or aid. It was infallible, and so anyone dying might be a witch or a wizard. Corpses were carried [afunsoa] to the shrine house and interrogated by Sakrobundi. It disclosed its verdict to Sie Kwaku and he spoke it aloud. If Sakrobundi said it killed the deceased for practising witchcraft, the corpse was abused and either cast into the bush or interred in a shallow pit lined with thorns. Kin were disbarred from grieving or performing customary funeral rites. However, since witchcraft was seen as an affliction inculcated by supernatural power its victims might save themselves from death by confessing and being redeemed by Sakrobundi. During the masquerade, confessions were heard and Sie Kwaku administered the shrine medicine to cleanse those admitting to witchcraft. As Terray has noted, the way in which Sakrobundi was seen to work restored impartiality to witch-finding. The process was taken out of human hands. It was Sakrobundi alone that accused, punished or redeemed. This removed the divisive blight of human self-interest from witch-finding. It also curtailed witchcraft accusations, for there was no point looking for suspects if an all seeing Sakrobundi infallibly detected and killed the guilty. It is surely correct to see Sakrobundi as a structured attempt to recall Gyaman society to moral and communal harmony, and there is direct evidence to that effect. Gyamanhene Kwaku Agyeman himself lauded Sakrobundi as the author of an ethical revitalisation. Sie Kwaku said he was ‘helping Sakrobudi fetish in doing good to all to bring a blessing of peace and prosperity in destroying of witches to every town.’28

  • 29 See Bravmann (1974), 102-3 and (1979), 46.
  • 30 See for example Delafosse (1908), 120.
  • 31 V, ‘The Pontifex Maximus (High Priest) of Abiriwa Fitish’, recorded by Aug. Aning, dd. Menji, March (...)

10The neutrality of Sakrobundi is plausible as an account of Gyaman need and intention, but it cannot be the whole story. In Welekei, Sie Kwaku gave utterance to its judgements. This was a position of power, influence and prestige, and one that publicly ruled out the possibility of subjective interventions by its holder. But it is not to deny Sie Kwaku his private investments in belief to note that he could exercise power without responsibility, or explain his dispositions to himself as the will of Sakrobundi. That he did this is both humanly inevitable and historically unprovable. We are on firmer ground if unknowable motivation is set aside and we look instead for externalised clues to Sie Kwaku’s role. French colonial officials, hardly unbiased commentators, saw Sakrobundi as an evilly murderous device for enriching its own spokesmen and servants (and with missionary support eventually moved to suppress it on those grounds in the 1920s-30s).29 It was said always to find the wealthy dead guilty of witchcraft, because it claimed part or even all of the movable estate of those so convicted. Sakrobundi split this income with chiefship, and so both had an incentive to commit murder to increase takings.30 We need not go along with this entirely hostile reading in acknowledging that Sakrobundi, like all Akan witch-finding, was a way of acquiring a status and making a living for anyone called to its service. It is also a fact that a part or sometimes all of the goods of guilty malefactors reverted to Sakrobundi. It may even be the case that some murders were contrived to generate income. But all these sceptical interpretations pose the wrong questions and miss the larger point. All the evidence shows that Sakrobundi was welcomed everywhere and by virtually everybody in Gyaman. It met a yearning need, and its spokesmen were much admired and suitably rewarded. Sie Kwaku became widely known and comparatively wealthy. ‘This Fitish’, he said, ‘was applauded by all men as the Sakarabudi of great effect’, and wherever he went he was ‘given the best treatment in a payment for good works.’31 As we shall see presently, this is an overly innocent view of how Sakrobundi (and later Aberewa) operated, but it is still nearer to the known facts about its reception and popularity than is European condemnation.

Sie Kwaku and the spreading of Sakrobundi (1880s-1890s)

  • 32 See Bravmann (1979), 47 for oral testimony about the ‘high priest’ of ‘the parent cult’ of Sakrobun (...)
  • 33 Public Records and Archives Administration Department (Cape Coast), ADM 47/1/08, ‘Fetishes: A Repor (...)

11Sakrobundi was dispersed from Welekei to Bonduku and other settlements throughout Gyaman. People came from far and wide to acquire it and take it home, with the result that Welekei became known as the headquarters of Sakrobundi.32 Its initial success was due to its reputation for witch-finding, but its procedural impartiality also conferred upon it the status of a guardian of moral goodness and communal harmony. The two features were conflated together. Witches attacked human society. Sakrobundi killed witches, ergo it was seen as the incarnation and source of the ethical values underpinning that society. This breadth of appeal contributed to its remarkable success. Sakrobundi was without precedent in the range of its distribution. During the 1880s-90s, it went from Gyaman north into the Kulango country, west through Nassian to the Komoe river basin, south through Ndenye to the coast, and east through Duadaso to Takyiman and the northwestern Bron villages. By 1890, British officials were alarmed at the growing influence of Sakrobundi around Winneba on the central Gold Coast, nearly two hundred miles from Welekei.33

  • 34 VI/1, ‘A New Witchfinder (French Territory) declares Himself’, anon., 1908 (?).
  • 35 IV, ‘The Life of Sei Kweku taken down from his own Words’ recorded by A.A. Baidoo and T.E. Fell, dd (...)
  • 36 See IV, ‘Sakrobudi ne Abiriwa’, recorded by Chas. Boafo, dd. Asikassiko, June-July 1907; and II, ‘S (...)

12Sie Kwaku travelled extensively among the Kulango and Bron, proselytizing by ‘carrying word of Our Master Sakrobundi to a needful people.’34 In one reminiscence, he described a journey he made in the mid-1880s to Takyiman at the request of its ruler Gyako Kumaa. He went first from Welekei to Menji. Sakrobundi was already established there, under the leadership of a former slave named Akutuabi. Sie Kwaku had trained this man at Welekei in ‘dancing with the Mask.’ During Sie Kwaku’s stay in Menji, envoys arrived from Nkyiraa thirty miles to the east to ask for and be taught the use of Sakrobundi. ‘I gave them medicine’, he said, ‘and they thanked me with a cow and a sheep and cowries.’ From Menji, Sie Kwaku travelled south to Buoyim. Here he tried and failed to get the people to accept Sakrobundi. Buoyim was ‘strong for Catahawuri’ (the Bron witch-finder Katawere), and this local power refused to countenance the presence of an interloper. By contrast, Takyiman welcomed Sakrobundi with relief. Its people blamed witchcraft for a series of crop failures. Sie Kwaku presided over the building of a shrine house for Sakrobundi, and initiated ‘three Priests to serve Our Master.’ The leader of this trio was Kofi Pon, a nephew of Takyimanhene Gyako Kumaa’s predecessor in office Kwabena Fofie (d. 1883). Both these chiefs had taken Gyaman’s side against Asante, and both had lived as refugees at Gyamanhene’s court. In this case, Sakrobundi may have been welcome for political as well as other reasons. Certainly, Sie Kwaku was rewarded lavishly for his services. He was given ‘gold ornaments such as gold rings and bangles together with [gold] dust to a value of £16 [i.e. two mperedwan] and seven country cloths.’ In turn, Sie Kwaku named Kofi Pon ‘Head of Sakrabudi in Tekiman’, and instructed him to forward to Welekei half of all the valuables impounded from those killed by Sakrobundi for practising witchcraft. This was a business, and the Welekei shrine received regular remittances from ‘[Kofi] Pong and also Yao Atiwa who was then chief helper.’ 35 Yaw Atiwa of Takyiman, a self-described ‘Fetish Priest of Sakrobudi’, eventually became Sie Kwaku’s principal emissary in spreading Sakrobundi north towards Bamboi and Kintampo. He lived for some time in Banda and was often in Welekei. In the process of his busy wanderings, Yaw Atiwa gained a great reputation for witch-finding. He was also well known for his ruthless acquisitiveness. 36 He will reappear in this story.

  • 37 See Person (1975), 1579-93.
  • 38 Ibid., 1694-9; see also Terray (1995), 971-82.
  • 39 For Banda see Stahl (2001), 193-4; for the Dagara country, already under attack from the Wala and Z (...)
  • 40 Boutillier (1993), 120-46.

13By the early 1890s, Sakrobundi was at the zenith of its influence. Sie Kwaku was known and esteemed throughout Gyaman and beyond. It was at this point that seismic political events overtook the Abron polity and impacted on its peoples and their neighbours to produce great instability and change. In 1893 an Anglo-French agreement partitioned Gyaman in a first attempt to demarcate a boundary between the colonies of the Gold Coast and C`te d’Ivoire. This was a paper accord, but it was given substance by a newly threatening development. In 1894, the formidable state-builder Almami Samori Turay withdrew eastwards under French pressure, and relocated in the Gyimini-Dabakala area between the Bandama and Komoe rivers.37 From there he entered into an alliance with the Watara of Kong and moved to take control of the trade of the Black Volta basin along the Bonduku-Buna-Wa corridor. Gyaman was now faced with invasion. In desperation it asked for French aid, but this was not forthcoming. Then in 1895, Samori Turay defeated Gyaman militarily and negotiated the surrender and occupation of Bonduku. He garrisoned Asikassiko and Duadaso, and opened communications through Berekum with Kumase. The Samorian occupation of Gyaman was traumatically destabilising for village communities. There was no wholesale devastation, but villagers had to bear the burden of an occupying army that confiscated food on an unsustainable scale and enslaved individuals in an arbitrary way. North Gyaman (where Welekei was situated) was particularly afflicted by these disruptions, and numbers of its people became refugees from panic at the mounting uncertainties suddenly overwhelming their lives. At the end of 1895 Samori Turay returned to Gyimini, leaving his son Sarankye Mori in charge of operations on the Volta.38 The invaders now turned north, moving through north Gyaman and devastating the Kulango country before crossing the Black Volta to set up a base at Bole. In 1896, they raided south to Banda, and then turned north to seize Wa and plunder Dagara villages in a wide swathe along the present Ghana-Burkina Faso border.39 Sarankye Mori now went south again to escape any French advance from Wagadugu. He put Buna to the sack, massacring, enslaving and displacing thousands. 40 By this time the British had seized Kumase, concluded a pact with Wa and sent troops north to garrison that town. Sarankye Mori returned to Wa and evicted the British. It was his swansong. Confronted by an intensifying Anglo-French threat, he quit the Volta basin to rejoin his father in the west at Gyimini. Thereafter, in 1898-1902, France and Britain occupied the region and formalised the borders between their possessions. Most of Gyaman was assigned to France, but its easternmost districts became ‘British Jaman.’

A changing Akan world

  • 41 Terray (1995), 933-41 and 982-9.
  • 42 Delafosse (1908), 122-34.
  • 43 See Public Records and Archives Administration Department (Accra), ADM 11/1137, ‘North West Distric (...)
  • 44 Ibid., Soden to Resident (Kumase), dd. Seikwa, 3 June 1902.

14Welekei was spared the worst of these alarums and excursions, but the world around it was remade in the space of a few years. Gyaman itself was overrun by Samori Turay and then partitioned by European colonial powers. In these fraught times, historic cleavages within the ruling Abron dynasty resurfaced and provoked conflict and secession. 41 Gyaman north from Bonduku through Tagadi to the Volta and up the river to the Vonkoro crossing was still in ruins in 1902.42 Central and most particularly eastern Gyaman were also impoverished. Asikassiko and Duadaso were depopulated, and from Suma to Drobo poor soils inhibited full recovery for years after the Samorian army looted the crops and scattered the farmers. Along the new colonial border, villagers turned to smuggling and robbery to survive. Disorder increased here in 1901 as the Gyaman borderlands filled up with armed Asante fleeing final defeat by the British. Rampant lawlessness on both sides of the frontier was exacerbated by European demands for taxes, a harbinger of the sudden and inexorable monetization of social relations. At one point, new colonial subjects were raising cash to meet French and British imposts by going about in armed gangs extorting ‘contributions’ to Queen Victoria’s funeral expenses.43 Beyond Gyaman itself, the situation was even more parlous and uncertain. Buna was ruined, Wa enfeebled, Takyiman and the Bron towns internally divided, and the Komoe forest and Gaoua grassland full of refugees. In all this chaos, alien European colonial orders provoked new anxieties and sharpened existing ones. Witchcraft itself, so it was reported from Kokua in British Gyaman in 1902, was ‘everywhere increasing more and more now because it is become a matter of money for those seeking to gain by it as for those trying to procure its end.’44

  • 45 See IV, ‘Sakrobudi ne Abiriwa’, recorded by Chas. Boafo, dd. Asikassiko, June-July 1907; V, ‘The Po (...)

15A little is known about Sie Kwaku’s life during this time of confusion. As Samori Turay’s army ranged over Gyaman, he travelled with some Juula companions into the Bron country. He ‘licensed use’ (his own term, and a significant one) of Sakrobundi in Bedu and Wenchi, and was paid in both places. At some point he revisited Takyiman, because Kofi Pon had died. Yaw Atiwa was named his replacement in charge of Sakrobundi in the town, and Kofi Pon’s nephew was sent to proselytise in Atebubu (with no success, as it turned out). After the Samorian incursion was over, Sie Kwaku journied north from Gyaman to Saye and other remote Kulango settlements, and from there further north still to the Kampti district among the Birifor. Whatever inspired this trip, it resulted in the discovery of magical stones that were added to the Welekei shrine house. Lastly, in one account Sie Kwaku claimed to have gone to the coast during this time, and made mention of Sakrobundi in Beyin. Clearly and unsurprisingly, demand for Sakrobundi was buoyant. That supply was able to go on meeting demand was largely due to the fact that Welekei suffered little if anything at the hands of Samori Turay. Such evidence as exists implies that this was because of Muslim Juula in Welekei and Bonduku. Samori Turay had many sympathisers among his Gyaman co-religionists. The Muslim Juula mediated the surrender of Bonduku, and kept up a dialogue of negotiation with the invaders until they struck camp for Bole and the north. It would seem that Sie Kwaku believed that Welekei was saved by Juula intervention. By his own account, he briefly considered converting to Islam but was led to understand that Sakrobundi disapproved. Nevertheless, he now cultivated amenable members of the Muslim community, took them with him on his travels (as we have seen), and paid them for talismans he wore on his person. In a larger sense, there was nothing unusual in this. As Sakrobundi became successful, it incorporated ever more culturally diverse artifacts into its ritual being. This was at once a response to demand and an article of belief. Like all established powers Sakrobundi required periodic strengthening, whether through Islamic charms, magical stones or some other means.45

  • 46 McCaskie (2000), 240.

16When Delafosse visited and described the Sakrobundi shrine complex at Welekei in 1902 it seemed at the apex of its power and influence. He represented it as such, but his account also gives hints of decay and decline. The shrine buildings were imposing, but in disrepair. The importance of these clues might pass unnoticed but for a simple fact. In or about 1900 Sie Kwaku passed through a crisis, and resolving this led him away from Sakrobundi and towards belief in a different supernatural power. The evidence for this is unequivocal and the outcome is clear. However, it is difficult to interpret the overlapping and sometimes contradictory drives, motives and choices shaping Sie Kwaku’s actions. My reconstruction is Occamist. It entertains plausibilities sustained by what is known, but discounts possibilities implied by what can only be guessed at. Paradoxically, we know both too much and too little, and in setting out the former I have resisted speculating about the latter. I have noted in another context that Africanists dealing with individual historical lives are commonly if sadly denied access to the world of subjective contemplative inwardness [Innerlichkeit], and that is the case here with Sie Kwaku.46

Sie Kwaku and the coming of Aberewa (ca. 1900)

  • 47 See ibid., 180.
  • 48 This narrative is a minimally agreed account constructed from all of the testimonies already cited. (...)

17In Sie Kwaku’s biographical testimonies his wife and children are never named. We know he had at least four children, and that one son succeeded him in serving the Welekei Sakrobundi shrine. We know too that in or about 1900 Sie Kwaku’s wife and two of their children suddenly died within a short space of time. Whatever actually killed them, Sie Kwaku was left brooding over unanswered questions of reason and responsibility. He asked Sakrobundi for answers. But it imparted nothing to him and then fell silent altogether. Sie Kwaku and all Welekei feared that the witch-finding and protective powers of Sakrobundi were weakening. Waning vigour was not an unusual problem in established shrines, but if it persisted the result was dormant impotence. The solution was to add a new and vigorous power to its being. This procedure was full of hazards. Unions were often disharmonious, and rivalries might end in conflicts that harmed effectiveness. Most dangerously, quarrelsome powers became enraged and turned against their human hosts.47 Sie Kwaku knew all this and waited for a sign to guide him. A succession of recurring visions and dreams told him to go to the north where a new and massively potent medicine would reveal itself to him in a swampy area by a river. He was advised to proceed to Bole. There he would learn what he must do next. At Bole he felt compelled to join a kola caravan bound for the north. It travelled via Wa to Lawra, and there voices told Sie Kwaku to ask a learned Muslim where he must go next. He did so and was advised to travel east (towards Mecca?). He duly set off along the Kambali river until he reached the marshes just west of Han. There, he came upon a large black ball that looked like a human head lying on the ground. It addressed him in a staccato and unintelligible tongue, all the while shuddering with rage. Sie Kwaku talked back to it in soothing tones until it stopped shaking and lay still. It then sighed and said ringingly in Twi momfa me nk] [‘take me and go’].48

  • 49 I, Benjamin Ampofo to DC (Kumase), ‘Some Details about Fitich Aberewa (from native informants) ’, d (...)

18Once in Welekei, the black ball explained itself. ‘I am’, it said in the fullest account known, a very Strong Power sent from the Heaven by the Creator unto you all. Because the Creator had from the commencement of Creation fixed the fate of every Creature that all may depart from this world in their old ages with gray hairs to Heaven; but now lot of the Creatures had come to us in the Heaven without being called and we learnt from them they were sent out from this world so prematurely by Witches and Poisoners. Therefore I am the strongest Medicine sent to this world and whoever will drink some shall never be perished prematurely by Witchcrafts and Poisoners but live in good length of years and [be] translated to the Creator in gray hairs.49

  • 50 V, ‘The Pontifex Maximus (High Priest) of Abiriwa Fetish’, recorded by Aug. Aning, dd. Menji, March (...)
  • 51 Understandably, this list of names confused the British. See ffoulkes (1909); and on ffoulkes see I (...)

19It then instructed Sie Kwaku ‘how to use its Powers to satisfaction and success in pushing off the Great Evil of Witches to gain peace for all.’50 The ball was placed in a basin on the ground in the precinct of the Sakrobundi shrine complex and ‘fed’ with eggs to strengthen its attachment to its new home. Ritual interaction with it led it to disclose its name. It was called Aberewa – ‘the old woman’ – for, like a wise old grandmother, it had come to save its ‘children’ from witchcraft and to restore protective harmony among them. Once established, it declared that its husband had joined it. This was Burogya [‘firefly’], also named Mmannuro [‘he is decreed to come from afar’]. The couple’s factotum Abunnyamo [‘he is the one empowered to end your days’] then arrived, bearing a whip [abaa] and a club [aporibaa] to punish malefactors. This ‘family’ group talked together incessantly, and Sakrobundi felt somewhat excluded. This changed with the coming of Bundwira [‘call out loud to crush it’], a trickster figure who served as a mediator to reconcile Sakrobundi to the others.51

Sakrobundi ne Aberewa

20What was the practical relationship between Sakrobundi and Aberewa? The latter was there to revive and strengthen the former, and to many the two were indivisible. Sie Kwaku himself said the two were one, being ‘front’ [anim] and ‘back’ [akyiri] of a single entity. He wore both on his person in precisely this configuration, and said the Aberewa medicine bound to his chest complemented and completed the Sakrobundi counterpart he had long carried on his back. The combined medicine was incredibly strong, and so could look witchcraft fully in the face as well as shunning it by turning away. But whatever the presumption of parity between the two, the newer Aberewa soon emerged as the senior partner. A most acute appraisal of this relationship in its fully realised form was provided by a follower of both powers in Sunyani in 1908.

  • 52 I, ‘A Sworn Statement by the Linguist of Sunyani before His Honour T.E. Fell’, dd. Sunyani, 1908.

21Abirewa was tried about ten years ago under the name of Sakrobundi. That came from French land from a place called Natabanye. It lasted as a fashion for six years or so and died out. I believed it first and took some of the medicine. I found it was no good. Sakrobundi spread all over the country to the coast. Sakrobundi had the same form of burial as Abirewa. There was no actual poisoning in it. Sakrobundi found witches in the same way and had the same laws. I think Abirewa will die out in the same way. Sakrobundi and Abirewa both take the property of the deceased person who had taken medicine of either fetish.52

  • 53 I, Benjamin Ampofo to DC (Kumase), ‘Some Details about Fitich Aberewa (from native informants) ’, d (...)

22It came to be said Sakrobundi arrived first because its role was that of the spokesman who customarily preceded the chief, Aberewa. This was picked up on by Christianised Akan who referred to Sakrobundi as ‘the precursor John the Baptist.’ The same reasoning inspired the westernised conceit that the earlier power was no more than a ‘surname’ sometimes applied to Aberewa.53

  • 54 See I, T.E. Fell to CCA, dd. Sunyani, 1 June 1907; and II, ‘Notes of a Meeting held on the 6th Augu (...)
  • 55 For the market model see McCaskie (1981).

23Sakrobundi and Aberewa were witch-finding powers. Both interrogated the dead about witchcraft. Both invited confession during ritual performances. Both purged. Both punished. Both safeguarded morality and order. In all these aspects, Aberewa renovated and renewed Sakrobundi. But Aberewa was different from its predecessor in a fundamental way. It made no use of the masks and masquerading that were at the core of Sakrobundi belief. When Sie Kwaku danced Aberewa he wore no mask. He was dressed as an Akan ‘priest’ []k]mf]] with his bared face, torso and limbs streaked with white clay. He brandished the small ritual knife carried as a badge of office by Akan witch-finders. What was intended here? The British thought Aberewa wholly instrumental. To them, Sie Kwaku was doing no more than responding to and manipulating changes in demand in ‘a ready market for superstition.’ He ‘coined’ Aberewa, they said, because Sakrobundi was old and ‘becoming unfashionable and was not so lucrative as it used to be.’ This ‘repaid’ him, for Aberewa was ‘sold all over ’, ‘caught on’ and spread like ‘wildfire.’54 There is some credibility in this market model. We have already noted the endless cycle of new solutions to the intractable problem of witchcraft. Moreover, there is evidence aplenty that in a rapidly monetising colonial economy Aberewa was more fixated on wealth accumulation than Sakrobundi had been.55 It sold its services and gathered in its share of witches’ estates with a zeal for accountancy that was not so distant from colonial business practices. But if we bear this rather obvious point in mind, then we are still left with questions. British ideas were rooted in an ideological but unreflective bundling together of stereotypes about ‘native’ cupidity and superstition, and not in any serious interest in or knowledge of Sie Kwaku’s beliefs and motives. What was it precisely that led Sie Kwaku to switch from a Nafana (Senufo) masquerade to a more transparently Akan model of witch-finding? What were the ideas and calculations that shaped his actions? Or (to return to the latent question implicit in British perceptions), what exactly was the new market possibility that Sie Kwaku identified and how did he come to see it?

Witch-finding in Asante

  • 56 On Asante security posts in the northwest see Arhin (1979); on Odumase see Wilks (1993), 262 and Mc (...)

24In 1888-9, R.A. Freeman took part in a mission to extend British protection over Asante and Gyaman. From Kumase, he travelled towards Bonduku northwest over the Tano river. He stopped at Odumase. This was a border town. Politically, it formed part of a chain of Asante security posts in the northwest. Created in the eighteenth century, these settlements maintained control over the Bron and marked the frontier zone between Asante proper and northwestern satellites like Gyaman. 56 Odumase stood on the cusp of a cultural and environmental divide that defined its political role. Beyond it, towards Gyaman, the Bron were mixed in with and eventually gave way to Abron, Nafana and Kulango villages. Beyond it too, the high forest of Asante began to shade away into scrub savanna to the northwest.

  • 57 The account that follows is based on Freeman (1898), 146-54; see too ibid., (1892).
  • 58 Ibid. (1898), 155 has two drawings of this figure.

25Freeman sensed that he was in a borderland, and this was confirmed for him in Odumase where he saw and recorded ‘one of the most remarkable spectacles that I ever witnessed in West Africa.’57 This was the Sakrobundi masquerade, which he witnessed in the presence of a Gyaman envoy. ‘Sakrobundi, or Sakrobudi’, Freeman learned, was held in ‘great veneration’ in Gyaman and by its northern neighbours. He was told it was of quite recent origin, and he guessed it was of remote savanna origin. He described the large circle of participants, in the centre of which he observed ‘a most remarkable figure.’ This was ‘the chief fetish man.’ 58 He was enveloped from head to foot in a raffia ‘kilt.’ Atop this, there was ‘a huge wooden mask in the semblance of an antelope’s head surmounted by a pair of curved horns.’ The horns curved inwards at their points, and they were painted in alternate red and white rings to represent natural growth. A ‘grotesque’ human face with eyeholes was incised into the mask. This figure danced with energetic agility, directing his attendants and touching participants with ‘a small switch.’ Was this Sie Kwaku himself? Was he wearing one of the Welekei masks? We do not know. Later in his journey, Freeman encountered Sakrobundi again in the Gyaman Nafana village of Duadaso. In summing up his encounters with Sakrobundi, he made a most telling observation. ‘I never met with any traces of the worship of this fetish’, he remarked, ‘in Ashanti.’

  • 59 For pertinent comment see McLeod (1981), 67-8; and compare Bravmann (1979), 45-6.
  • 60 McCaskie (1981), 129-33 and ibid. (1995), 133-5.
  • 61 See I, Kofi Nsenkyire to CCA, dd. Kumase, 4 August 1908; II, Kwabena Safo to CCA, dd. Kumase, 3 Aug (...)

26Unlike the western Akan Abron (or Baule even further west), Asante society made no use of masks or masquerades. Asante was distant from the Senufo and other masking cultures, and it had no significant resident population (like the Gyaman Nafana) drawn from or in continuous contact with them. But the absence of masking in Asante was more than circumstantial. In Asante Twi, krakrabotoni [mask] was a term more associated with duplicitous disguise (‘two-faced’?) than asserted belief. The face, anim, is literally ‘the space in sight’, and to cover or conceal it implied evasiveness, deceit or malign intent. The mask was ethically dubious. It was also and in consequence politically suspect, and most particularly in the context of masquerading. To the Asante political elite, masquerades were subversive. They were an alien performance of belief, masterminded by disguised initiates who accessed unseen powers through the secretive rites that enshrouded the making, keeping and handling of masks.59 Objections to masks and masquerades were a precise and extreme instance of a more widespread phenomenon. In Asante, as I have shown elsewhere, political power was deeply suspicious of any supernatural power that seemed to support beliefs or acts with the slightest hint of unauthorised or unregulated independence. And in those cases where such beliefs overtly challenged or set themselves up as rivals to political power, the Asante elite moved against anyone involved with ruthless dispatch. Thus in 1880, only ten years before Freeman’s encounter with Sakrobundi in the Asante-Gyaman borderlands, Asantehene Mensa Bonsu barely escaped assassination in his palace by adherents of the Domankama witch-finding movement. In the event, as I have described elsewhere, he suppressed Domankama in a wave of executions.60 What is germane in the present context is the way in which the shock of Domankama hugely reinforced Asante elite suspicion of any and all witch-finding movements (and their hidden subversive agendas). As late as 1907, two Kumase chiefs who had witnessed Domankama resurrected its memory to paint a graphic portrait of the anti-establishment dangers lurking in supposed witch-finding movements; and nearly sixty years after the event, Asantehene Osei Agyeman Prempeh II denounced Domankama as a salutary warning of the violent anarchy residing in all unsupervised ‘witchcatching which is a domain of greedy and unscrupulous people, many among their numbers vagabonds who come into Ashanti from outside our country.’61

The moral economy of Asante Aberewa

  • 62 IV, ‘The Life of Sei Kweku taken down from his own Words’, recorded by A.A. Baidoo and T.E. Fell, d (...)

27Sakrobundi made no inroads into Asante. Freeman found it among the Odumase Bron in the late 1880s, but this was because Asante no longer controlled its northwestern borderlands. Even so, and despite the diminished power of Kumase, Sakrobundi never succeeded in crossing the Tano river to establish itself in Asante proper. What did Sie Kwaku think of this, his only failure? It was a source of anguish, in that Asante people were being denied spiritual relief from the scourge of witchcraft. Mixed in with this was a worldly regret that the richest polity in the Akan world was closed to him. To Sie Kwaku, Sakrobundi was being prevented from realising its fullest potential in every sense by Asante obstruction. How then did he explain this to himself? He did so historically, in terms of overweening Asante attitudes towards outsiders in general and Gyaman people in particular. ‘In Ashanti’, he said, Sakrobudi is not taken to heart as Tekiman, Dorma etc. Ashanti people are too proud to live by it instead liking Ashanti ways in every thing. Ashanti Kings are vain and jealous to keep their power and not look to the good it brings among them. They do not like it. It is a Jaman God who they think of as slavish bondsmen like in the past times even although the Glory of Ashanti is in the dust. No Ashanti man will like any thing not his own.62

  • 63 I, Akua Afriyie to CCA, dd. Kumase, 31 July 1908.
  • 64 II, Osei Mampon to DC (Kumase), dd. Kumase, 12 February 1908.
  • 65 I, Kwaku Dua to CCA, dd. Kumase, 17 November 1907.
  • 66 Ibid., Rev. F.A. Ramseyer to CCA, dd. Kumase, 22 July 1908.

28Critics of Aberewa in Asante emphasised Sie Kwaku’s avaricious moneymaking and thought it inspired by revenge as much as greed. In 1908, when Aberewa was widespread throughout Asante, the exiled Asantehene Agyeman Prempe’s aunt Akua Afriyie made a distinction between its beliefs and practices. She thought it a socially useful movement against witchcraft, ‘were it not owing to the greatest amount of money being sent to Wurikye [sic] etc. which is rather wrong.’ 63 The Kumase Bantamahene Osei Mampon detested Aberewa, and most especially because ‘it is come in among us from Jaman in French Territory to take all the money out of the country in return for Ashanti Kings lording over this Jaman in the past.’64 His nephew Kwaku Dua drew a historical analogy, saying that ‘this Gaman Abiriwah’ was a provocation similar to Gyamanhene Kwadwo Adinkra’s ‘very insulting behaviour’ towards Asante in the 1810s.65 These Asante views were taken up by others. The Basel missionary Ramseyer, admittedly not an impartial witness but one with extensive Asante contacts, took the view that Aberewa had been deliberately manufactured in Gyaman to wreak monetary revenge on Asante. ‘The instigator or the Big Fetishman called Sie Kwaku’, he said, was ‘laughing in his fists at the stupidity of the Ashantees.’ The opinion of Sie Kwaku was that ‘as the Ashantees have formerly taken our whole property from us now it is our turn to rob them too.’66 The British came to echo all of this when they sought eventually to blacken Sie Kwaku’s reputation. ‘Aberewa’, declared CCA Fuller,

  • 67 II, ‘Notes of a Meeting held on the 6th August 1908 outside the Fort at Coomassie.’

was started by a Jaman – a clever man – who only had one idea in his head, and that was to make money. He was very clever about it, for he worked on the credulity of the people and he has succeeded beyond his own expectations, so much so indeed that today he is laughing at you Ashantis and saying to his brethren that at last they were receiving back part of the wealth that the Ashantis had taken from them in former times.67

  • 68 In IV, ‘Sakrobudi ne Abiriwa’, recorded by Chas. Boafo, dd. Asikassiko, June-July 1907, Sie Kwaku i (...)

29There is no doubt Sie Kwaku came to profit from Aberewa, and his critics fixated on this dimension of his work.68 But in the moral economy of belief from which Sie Kwaku sprang, there was no necessary contradiction between moneymaking and the authenticity of visions or the sincerity of convictions. The question must remain moot as to whether, at any conscious level, Aberewa was brought into being to supplant Sakrobundi with Asante in mind. In fact it is the wrong question, given the seamlessness of the perception that said belief was proven valid by success that in turn was productive of riches. And if Sie Kwaku brought himself to believe that Sakrobundi must be renewed or replaced by Aberewa as a matter of urgent human need, then that disinterestedness in no way prevented him from working hard to enlarge the influence and rewards of his new movement once it began to make inroads into Asante. I would go further, and say that the pervasive western identification of the altruistic with denial has no part in this, for here we are dealing with a belief system in which working for others whilst working for oneself formed a unity in which no distinction was made between spiritual and material wellbeing. It is now time to look at Aberewa in practice. How did it enter into and spread throughout Asante? How did it function there and with what effects? What were the attitudes of Asante people and the colonial order towards it? And what part did Sie Kwaku play in all of this? These questions are addressed below.

Sie Kwaku and the spreading of Aberewa (ca. 1900-1906)

  • 69 II, ‘Statements taken at Tekiman from the Two Chief Priests Yao Atiwa and Amangena’, recorded by T. (...)
  • 70 Apeatu (1908).

30Aberewa spread very rapidly in the early 1900s. In 1902, as noted, Delafosse visited Welekei and made much of the influence of Sakrobundi but did not even mention Aberewa. In 1903, Sie Kwaku appointed his old associate Yaw Atiwa and one Kwaku Amangyina as ‘Chief Priests’ of Aberewa in Takyiman, ‘the Head Quarters of the New Cult in all Ashanti.’ Four years later, Yaw Atiwa described himself as ‘head of Aberewa’ in Asante, but said he continued as ‘Fetish Priest of Sakrobudi’ which had now been relegated to the role of ‘Linguist to Aberewa.’ 69 By 1904, Aberewa had spread west of Gyaman as well as east among the Bron. In that year a Basel Mission catechist travelled from Kumase to Bonduku, and then west for three days to inspect the ‘notorious town’ of Gaase on the Komoe river. The ‘show piece’ he had come to see and condemn was a hugely popular Aberewa shrine. He observed the mass drinking of shrine medicine to ward off evil, and described how all those who died were suspected of breaking ‘codes of practice’ about trafficking with witchcraft. He derided the credulity of the ‘worshippers’, and deplored the fact that Aberewa was now ‘in every town and village’ in Gyaman.70

  • 71 Consult I, T.E. Fell to CCA, dd. Sunyani, 1 June 1907 and 3 September 1908; and IV, ‘Sakrobudi ne A (...)
  • 72 IV, ‘Aberewa komfo SK na esren no’, recorded by A. Afari-Mensah, dd. Duadaso, June 1907.
  • 73 Idem.

31Sie Kwaku worked to persuade people to accept Aberewa, and particularly in communities that already had Sakrobundi. In the 1890s, Asikassiko acquired Sakrobundi from him when it suffered a ‘big plague of witches.’ He went there often to ‘strengthen’ the shrine medicine. The Sakrobundi masquerade was regularly performed and, in time, the incidence of witchcraft abated. Then, in 1904, Sie Kwaku came to Asikassiko to introduce Aberewa. The villagers expressed their satisfaction with Sakrobundi, and said they would ‘not bother themselves with Abirewa.’ But Sie Kwaku declared that, as the ‘Fetish Priest of both’, he recommended Aberewa because it was a ‘senior brother’ of Sakrobundi. His blandishments worked, and Asikassiko handed over £1 to him for a cairn of stones that he erected on a spot where he ordered a new shrine house to be built. 71 In Debibi, just east of Asikassiko, the Sakrobundi shrine fell into disuse around 1900. It had failed to halt a sequence of sudden deaths in the village. In 1905, Sie Kwaku came to Debibi and told the community that it was in continuing peril from witchcraft because it had abandoned ‘a true and sure protection.’ Whatever he said alarmed the villagers and they paid over £4 for Aberewa, on the grounds that it was ‘the same as what was here before but in a better way of ridding the town of witches.’ 72 Badu near Takyiman did not have Sakrobundi. In 1905, Sie Kwaku visited it with Yaw Atiwa. Upon discovering ‘Bedoo maidens were failing to conceive’, the pair talked eleven village women into drinking Aberewa medicine to ‘cancel out the evil causing barrenness.’ Over the following year seven of these women became pregnant. When Yaw Atiwa returned to Badu he was greeted with wild enthusiasm, and the villagers parted with £8 to acquire an Aberewa shrine. 73

  • 74 IV, ‘The Life of Sei Kweku taken down from his own Words’, recorded by A.A. Baidoo and T.E. Fell, d (...)
  • 75 See II, ‘A Report on Abiriwa at Sabronum’, recorded by Capt. S.H. Chapin, March 1908, encl. in CCA (...)

32British Gyaman and the western Bron villages were proselytised from Welekei and Takyiman, with Sie Kwaku and Yaw Atiwa working in tandem. However, the advance of Aberewa into central Asante was largely coordinated from Takyiman. Sie Kwaku was nervous of travelling in Asante, not from fear of British colonial officialdom but because of the chiefs and their ‘power in using the knife.’74 His reflex was anachronistic by the early 1900s, but conditioned by the long history of Gyaman subordination to Asante authority. In consequence, Yaw Atiwa was charged with spreading Aberewa in Asante. It would seem that its initial line of advance was down the main Takyiman-Ofinso-Kumase road, and that it was achieved by a mix of persuasion, propaganda and word of mouth. In 1905 it was established in many of the settlements from Kuntunso south to Sabronum. In the latter place, it was quite literally carried into the village by Atua Yaw, a lieutenant of Yaw Atiwa’s from Takyiman, with a retinue of supporters clad in white cloth to signify victory. Sabronum was riven by the behaviour of Abena Amanhyia, a woman who spoke in tongues, was allegedly promiscuous, and was driven by ‘the evil spirit dwelling in her’ to encourage her fellow wives to commit adultery. Atua Yaw removed her affliction by making her drink Aberewa medicine. She confessed she was a witch and named other women as her associates. All were purged and several of them were severely beaten on the orders of Atua Yaw. Following this, the men of Sabronum handed over £24 for an Aberewa shrine to keep their womenfolk in order. We will return to issues of gender below.75 By 1906, Aberewa was in Ofinso and beginning to spread eastwards towards Agona. It had a bridgehead in north central Asante, but what happened next was crucial to its success in planting itself throughout the country.

Aberewa in Edweso (1906-1907)

  • 76 Ibid., ‘A Palaver held on the 3rd August 1907 in Connection with Certain Allegations brought agains (...)

33In 1906 Kwasi Boakye of Edweso just east of Kumase heard rumours about the stunning achievements of Aberewa in north Asante. He travelled to Takyiman, and was initiated into Aberewa by ‘High Priest’ Yaw Atiwa. The latter gave him a supply of medicine, and ‘taught me that the Fetish will cure barren women, that it was an antidote to poison, that it kills wizards or witches that do wrong, [and] that it kills a man who tries to kill his friend.’ Kwasi Boakye was given three knives to signify his status as a ‘Priest’, and was charged with spreading Aberewa in the Edweso villages. This he proceeded to do with a deal of success. He also made money. Men, women and children swallowing his protective medicine were charged respectively 1/3d, 6d and 3d each. The property of all those ‘killed off by Abirewa’ for witchcraft was split in three, with one third going to Yaw Atiwa in Takyiman (for onward transmission to Welekei), another third divided between Kwasi Boakye and the village chief of the deceased, and the remaining third returned to the dead person’s kin. Kwasi Boakye’s financial arrangement with Edweso office holders was initially ad hoc, a practical means of smoothing the way for the more rapid spread of Aberewa. But in a very short time it became institutionalised. In 1907, Sie Kwaku acknowledged that in Asante ‘nothing is done without Chiefs’, and he listed Edweso first amongst the places where Asante office holders ‘took care’ of Aberewa.76

  • 77 Public Records and Archives Administration Department (Kumase), ARG 1/2/13/2, ‘Disturbances at Ejis (...)

34Indeed, it was in Edweso that some Asante chiefs and village heads first came to realise the potential in Aberewa. If they patronised it, sanctioning and supervising its representatives, then it could make them money and earn them popularity among their subjects. Thus in early 1907, Kwadwo Tawia the chief of Abanase in Edweso sent his subjects Yaw Heman and Kwasi Nkonson to Nsoko (Nsawkaw), between Takyiman and Menji, to ask about acquiring Aberewa. The Nsoko ‘priests’ forwarded this request to ‘Sia Kweku’, the ‘Head Priest at Wirenche.’ Sie Kwaku then came to initiate the Abanase emissaries in person, and he ‘administered this Religion to us at Nsoko. He told us that Abirewa hated Wizards and Witches.’ He then accepted the £14/10s sent by Kwadwo Tawia to secure Aberewa, and issued an order that any fees accruing in Abanase should be divided in three parts and distributed in the manner already described. His own third, he said, was to be forwarded to his representative Kwame Dente of Nsoko for transmission to Welekei. Finally, Sie Kwaku appointed Kwasi Nimo of Nsoko to return home with the two men to take charge of Aberewa in Abanase. The party travelled to Abanase via Edweso town itself. But in the divisional capital, Edwesohene Yaw Awua arrested and detained all three men. He charged his sub-chief Kwadwo Tawia with insubordination and impounded the Aberewa intended for Abanase. He then summoned thirty-three Edweso office holders before him, and announced he had learned that ‘they have obtained a certain Fetish called Abriwah’ without ‘consulting me.’ Yaw Awua ‘asked them their idea of bringing such a Fetish into their villages’, and when they convinced him it was ‘altogether good’ to ‘drive [out] witchcrafts’, he agreed to its use on a case by case basis sanctioned exclusively by himself. In effect, he had monopolised Aberewa in Edweso. He ordered that one third of all fees and fines arising from its use were to be sent to him. An incensed Kwadwo Tawia noted simply that ‘Yaw Ewua is in charge of the Fetish Abriwah now.’ Yaw Awua then sent Kwasi Nimo to Welekei with a message for Sie Kwaku to the effect that the two of them were now business partners. It is not known if Sie Kwaku replied, but in another context he observed that ‘big Ashanti Chiefs like Ejisu, Offinsu etc. try to rob Abiriwa offerings.’77

35The dissemination of Aberewa throughout Edweso also signalled its increasing naturalisation to Asante understandings of supernatural power. It was now far removed from Welekei, and Edweso worshippers felt free to inscribe in it their own culturally determined interpretations of its being and behaviour. The following account of the origins of Aberewa medicine spread from Edweso throughout Asante.

  • 78 I, Nicholas Osei to F.A. Ramseyer, dd. Boankra, 17 July 1907; see too ibid., Benjamin Ampofo to DC (...)

Two deadly snakes, one very long and one short, follow after Abiriwah wherever it goes. Both are given eggs to eat by the Fetish Worshippers. They are allowed to roam free and unmolested in every Town where there is Abiriwah and the fetish kills anyone who even thinks to destroy them. Only Abiriwah Worshippers can see them. They are quite invisible to anyone who has not tasted the Fetish Medicine. When more of the Medicine is required the long snake is fed full with eggs and yams mixed together. When it is ready to discharge the smaller serpent stands ready by it and tells the Priest to bring a calabash. The long snake then vomits up a prodigious amount of white sticky paste into the calabash held by the Priest. All the Worshippers are glad and the Priest anoints them with the white paste, placing some on the tongue for them to swallow. This is the Fetish Medicine and when it is finished the big snake is again fed and so renews the supply. These snakes are called Anini and Papamsuru, the big one and the little one. They talk to the Priest and bring messages down a long stick from the Sky for him to hear.78

  • 79 Afari-Antoa (1907).
  • 80 See II, C.N. Curling (Commissioner of the Eastern Province of the Gold Coast) to SNA (Accra), dd. K (...)

36The snakes were anini the python [Python sebae], and pampamsurod] the egg-eating snake [Dasypeltis spp.]. In Asante, female pythons were said to talk with oracular power and to be found in the company of egg-eating snakes. Both were ‘prophets’ of a supernatural presence, and as such were often kept in the precincts of a shrine. Indigenised elaborations and variants of stories about Aberewa became widespread throughout Asante. Thus, for example, the Basel Mission catechist Afari-Antoa’s account of Aberewa coming down from the sky by winding itself about a pole (which he recorded in Asante) is clearly cognate with the story of the message-bearing snakes.79 Similarly, the generalised Asante belief that Aberewa was discovered by an old woman near Buna is evidently derived from association with its name, and broadly accurate as to geography. As Aberewa spread ever further distant from Gyaman, Sie Kwaku himself vanished from accounts of its provenance. Thus, in 1907 Aberewa passed via eastern Asante into Akyem. In Asiakwa and other Akyem villages it was known as ‘the Kumasi fetish’, and it was believed to have originated in the Asante town of Esaase. There, so the Akyem recounted, ‘a great female python’ appeared to a man named Apea and revealed Aberewa to him, saying that it had come to find out witches and ‘to separate the evil from the good by destroying the evil.’80

Aberewa, Asante chiefs and British officials (1907)

  • 81 Colonial Reports (Annual): No. 564, Ashanti (1907), 10; and I, CCA to Colonial Secretary (Accra), d (...)
  • 82 Ibid., CCA to Fell, dd. Kumase, 2 February 1907.
  • 83 Ibid., Fell to CCA, dd. Sunyani, 26 May 1907.

37Early in 1907, CCA Fuller became aware that Aberewa was spreading across Asante ‘with astonishing rapidity.’81 He was bombarded with confusing and contradictory intelligence about it. It was clear that Aberewa had entered Asante from the west via Takyiman, and so he instructed Fell (Commissioner of the Western Province, Asante) to gather information in and around that town. 82 Fell set to with a will. It was thanks to his efforts that the British learned of Sie Kwaku and of his lieutenants in Takyiman. In May, Fell was told by Yaw Atiwa that Sie Kwaku was about to visit Takyiman and to pay his first visit to Sunyani. He then intended to visit Aberewa shrines in many villages on his way back from Sunyani to Welekei. On 25 May and for several days thereafter, Fell talked with Sie Kwaku ‘the introducer of Abirewa’ in Sunyani.83 Among other things, he (and A.A. Baidoo) recorded Sie Kwaku’s life story and asked that others do the same elsewhere if and when opportunity presented itself. Fell liked Sie Kwaku and thought him sincere if misguided in his beliefs. Told that ‘the main rules of Abirewa are to have no quarrels with anyone’, Fell expressed approval. The sticking point came when Sie Kwaku said the chief task of Aberewa was witch-finding, and then gave what Fell regarded as a careful but evasively self–interested account of the custom of inheriting the property of dead malefactors. ‘A man who has taken Abirewa and dies’, it was explained,

  • 84 Idem.

need not necessarily be killed by Abirewa and if on account of witchcraft or bad medicine or Fetishes he has been killed he will invariably confess to his evil practices before death and that it is Abirewa who has done the trick in finishing him off. In these cases Abirewa then becomes entitled to a share of the deceased’s property. Sei Kweku himself, except where he immediately works this Fetish, does not get a share but in the towns where Abirewa is accepted he appoints some man to be in charge or priest of the Fetish and he then gets the shares.84

  • 85 Ibid., Fell to CCA, dd. Sunyani, 1 June 1907.

38Fell was a little concerned about this, but concluded overall that ‘there is no great harm in the Fetish.’ Aberewa ‘tends rather to settle than unsettle the people’, he declared, and ‘it should not be forbidden by the Government.’85

  • 86 Ibid., ‘A Memorandum by CCA Fuller on the Fetish Abiriwa’, dd. Kumase, 14 January 1907.

39Fuller was inclined to agree with Fell’s judgement, but his initial tolerance of Aberewa was eroded by a number of troubling reports that began to come across his desk. These were rumours that the bodies of those killed by Aberewa for practising witchcraft were physically abused, denied proper burial and ‘just thrown into holes with broken bottles, beaten with sticks etc.’86 Moreover, it was said that worshippers practised afunsoa, and this carrying of corpses had been banned as a barbarous custom by the British in 1902. Fuller might still have let all this pass, but these tales were taken up by Basel Mission Christians and used as propaganda in an assault on Aberewa and a demand that it be prohibited. Thus, in March 1907 the BM catechist N.V. Asare, a staunch Christian with a strong interest in Asante culture, wrote a scathing ‘Story about Aberewa’ which he forwarded to his superior Rev. F.A. Ramseyer. ‘They usually poison the rich people’, he began, ‘because the property of the one killed goes to the possession of the Fetishman and the Chief, hence the death of every rich man is attributed to the fetish in order to own his personal estate.' He then went on to condemn the ‘cruelties’ inflicted by Aberewa on the dead.

  • 87 Ibid., ‘Story about Aberewa’, by N.V. Asare, dd. Kumase, 6 March 1907. An almost verbatim copy of t (...)

When a man is supposed to have been killed by the fetish, the dead body is violently dragged to the ground and covered it with a nasty clothe [sic] and then dug a shallow grave for it. The thick part of palm branches called Papadenkese with prickly thorns are to be put at the bottom of the grave, then lowered the poor dead body upon it and after that, fresh thorns are placed again upon him and trampled upon same before they cover it with more or less clay. Such people are thus treated because all of those killed by the fetish are considered wicked and abominable persons. 87

  • 88 I, Ramseyer to CCA, dd. Kumase, 22 July 1907; see too ibid., Ramseyer to CCA, dd. Kumase, 22 July a (...)
  • 89 See ibid., Colonial Secretary (Accra) to CCA (by Telegraph), dd. Accra, 17 and 18 July 1907; ibid., (...)

40Ramseyer demanded that Fuller end ‘all Aberewa’s cruelties’ by banning this ‘nonsense fetish’ with its ‘devilish practice.’88 The CCA demurred, but almost immediately came under an even greater pressure to act against Aberewa. In the Gold Coast Colony, educated public opinion used the press to mount an organised campaign against Aberewa. This was sharpened by widely reported accounts of ‘witch fetish murders’ in Akyem and Cape Coast. In July 1907, the Accra government bowed to the growing gale of protest from ‘the leaders of African society’ and, in silent agreement, banned Aberewa and a number of other ‘obnoxious fetish practices.’ The Gold Coast Colony Order in Council suppressing Aberewa was not applicable in the separate jurisdiction of Asante, but the Governor let it be known that he expected Fuller to comply with the banning order. The CCA regarded this as undue interference in Asante affairs and asked for time to assess the situation. Accra conceded this with an ill grace, contenting itself with the thought that Aberewa in Asante would ‘all the same end hanged on the Chief Commissioner’s rope regardless of his impudent foot dragging.’89

  • 90 II, ‘A Palaver held on the 3rd August 1907 in Connection with Certain Allegations brought against t (...)

41On 3 August 1907, the CCA convened an extraordinary meeting of the Kumase Council of Chiefs, and invited a number of other Asante office holders to attend. The ostensible aim was to review ‘allegations brought against the “Abirewa Fetish” worship’, but Fuller’s real purpose was to find out what the most powerful men in Asante thought of Aberewa. Edwesohene Yaw Awua, supported by Dadiesoabahene Kwabena Sekyere, Asafohene Kwaakye Kofi, Oyokohene Kwame Dapaa, and some lesser chiefs spoke in favour of Aberewa. It was a protector of human life, a force for good, a calming influence, and did not ‘break the laws.’ However, the great majority present spoke against it. Bantamahene Osei Mampon complained Aberewa worshippers disrespected chiefs; Adontenhene Kwame Frimpon agreed, declaring that ‘Abirewa undermines the power of the Chiefs’, and adding that it had killed one of his subjects at Akyawkrom; Akyeamehene Kwasi Nuama, a confidant of Fuller’s, complained that villagers ‘did not consult the Chiefs before introducing it’, and said he had heard the rumours about the abuse of corpses; Antoahene Kwaku Ware and Gyaasewahene Kwabena Asubonten stated they had heard that Aberewa mutilated bodies; Adumhene Asamoa Toto complained of extortion by Sie Kwaku, and said ‘I do not like the property leaving the country’; and most others present supported one or another of these views. The issue that no one mentioned was moneymaking by the chiefs from Aberewa. We have already seen how Yaw Awua, the leading supporter of Aberewa, took steps to control it in his division and generate income from it. Obversely, it is known that Osei Mampon and Kwame Frimpon, two leading opponents of Aberewa, were trying to but had not achieved a like mastery of profit taking from it in the villages under their control. Aberewa money was the silent presence at this meeting, and questions of access to it determined attitudes towards its source. Underpinning this were historic elite perceptions about the right of and need for chiefship to arbitrate the power of shrines. Thus, tied to seigneurial expectations of moneymaking were expressions of concern about ‘youngmen’ [nkwankwaa] being led astray (again, cf. Domankama in 1880) by ‘fetishes’ into insubordination and worse. Some chiefs even hinted that the purpose of Aberewa was to seduce nkwankwaa to overthrow the British in the name of the deposed and exiled Asantehene.90

  • 91 I, Colonial Secretary (Accra) to CCA (by Telegraph), dd. Accra, 4 September 1907.
  • 92 See Fuller’s complacent remarks about his measures in Colonial Reports (Annual): No. 564, Ashanti ( (...)

42The CCA was not fooled by any of this, but he had gotten what he wanted from his meeting. So had the chiefs, his allies in running Asante. It was decided that henceforth Aberewa might only be introduced into Asante villages by sanction of chiefship. By corollary, chiefs were made jointly responsible with ‘priests’ for any mistreatment of the dead carried out in the name of Aberewa, and for any other breach of colonial law attributable to it. All concerned were to try to ensure that no share of any dead person’s property was sent out of Asante to Welekei or anywhere else. Finally, it was agreed that nobody was to have Aberewa medicine administered to them without the prior approval of their chief. Fuller now told Accra of his decision not to ban Aberewa in Asante, and outlined the conditions of its continuance. The Colonial Secretary to the Governor wrote back agreeing to Fuller’s proposals, but noting that any abuse or breach of what was proposed would result in an official inquiry.91 It is hard to resist the conclusion, implicit in every strained communication over this compromise, that what was going on was an episode in the intermittent struggle between the Asante and Gold Coast administrations over jurisdiction. It is palpably clear that Accra anticipated the speedy collapse of these arrangements. For his part too, Fuller cannot have thought that he had constructed a lasting solution to the problem of Aberewa in his Asante bailiwick.92

The work of Asante Aberewa

  • 93 II, ‘An Account of the “Abirewa” Fetish’, prepared for the Governor by the Ag. Colonial Secretary ( (...)
  • 94 See V, ‘The Pontifex Maximus (High Priest) of Abiriwa Fetish’, recorded by Aug. Aning, dd. Menji, M (...)
  • 95 Basel Mission Archives (Basel), D.1,86, ‘Annual Report of the Basel Mission in Kumasi (1906)’, by N (...)
  • 96 Basel Mission Archives (Basel), D.1,86, ‘Annual Report of the Basel Mission in Kumasi (1906)’, by N (...)

43The British now recognised that Aberewa ‘emanates from a mind of a calibre out of the common sort.’ It was said that its ‘rite of confession’ and ‘commandments’, resembling the Decalogue, suggested that the ‘originator of this remarkable movement was not unacquainted with the Christian religion.’93 There was something in this surmise, for it is known that Sie Kwaku did see himself as being in competition with Christianity and made some efforts to attract its adherents. Most significantly, in Aberewa shrines the figure of Burogya (Mmannuro) was suspended from the roof in such a way as to suggest Christ on the cross. Sie Kwaku acknowledged and encouraged this comparison, declaring that ‘the son of God of the Christians’ was ‘welcomed and sat by’ Aberewa. Frustratingly, there is not enough evidence for us to assess the balance between belief and instrumentality in this aspect of Sie Kwaku’s thought.94 Be all that as it may, and whatever the nature of its relationship to Christianity, Aberewa was adapted to meet the historic expectations of its Asante followers. In Asante (unlike Gyaman), established supernatural powers were cast in the role of ‘kings’ [ahene] and their influence was denoted by their possession of a kingly retinue. In Asante, successful Aberewa shrines had followers in the roles of king’s wives, cooks, spokesmen, swordbearers, messengers, and other specialised royal servants [nhenkwaa]. Worshippers said ‘I am going to the King’s house’ [me ko ahenfie] when visiting the shrine. Once inside, they spoke to Aberewa as if it was a monarch . When Aberewa pronounced, its spokesman prefaced the statement with the formulaic ‘the king says’ []hene se]. Food prepared for Aberewa was placed on a tiered dais in the manner of royalty, and whatever it did not ‘eat’ was distributed to onlookers. Aberewa at Dwaben even had royal kente cloths. One of these called ‘Akontompi’ [nkontompo] or ‘the liar’, worn by kings when deciding cases in their courts, was given it by its ‘brother’, Dwabenhene Kofi Boaten. 95 There is an important implication here. Like Domankama before it, Aberewa was structured to parallel (and to mimic and parody?) kingship and its courts of law. The suggestion here, greatly feared by chiefship as we have seen, was that shrines proposed an alternative and higher authority than that institutionalised in and dispensed by Asante office holders. Unlike Domankama, Aberewa was not insurrectionary, but it did instruct its followers to abandon chiefs’ courts and henceforth ‘decide all their cases before the priest of Aberewa in the villages, even the oath matters.’ This put chiefs in ‘a strait’, because their loss of the power to command and judge damaged their status and cost them a major part of their revenue in court fees and fines.96

44In spite of the CCA’s ruling that only chiefs could sanction Aberewa, very few of them managed to either control it or, like Yaw Awua, to make money out of it. In June 1908, Fell travelled to Bonduku to see the ‘parent’ Aberewa shrine at Welekei and to liaise with the French about it. While there, he managed to intercept a ‘present’ of £20 sent from Fiapra to Sie Kwaku. The donors objected, telling Fell plainly that ‘hundreds of pounds was sent annually as presents to this Fetish from the country round Kumase.’ Fell investigated and concluded that Sie Kwaku and his associates in Gyaman

  • 97 II, Fell to CCA, dd. Sunyani, 5 July 1908.

are becoming inordinately rich. I find as well as property large presents of money from throughout Ashanti are made to them. Over these payments the natives on the French side are laughing in their sleeve and that it is current gossip that the money is divided among the Chiefs of the neighbourhood privately, and that they clap their hands and say “By these tricks of Fetishes we are getting back from Ashanti all the moneys [sic] and tributes they took from us in the old days.97

  • 98 Ibid., CCA to Ashanti Chiefs (Circular), dd. Kumase, 14 July 1908.
  • 99 Ibid., Yaw Boakye to Commissioner of the Southern Province, dd. Bekwai, 5 and 29 June and 27 July 1 (...)
  • 100 I, Kwame Boakye to CCA, dd. Wiamoase, 13 February 1907; II, Kwame Boakye to DC (Kumase), dd. Agona, (...)

45The CCA passed this information on to the Asante chiefs, asking that they recommend to their subjects ‘not to have anything more to do with such flagrant swindles.’ 98 But a lot of money had already been paid over. By 1908 the standard fee for ‘welcoming’ Aberewa ‘priests’ into a village was £8, and many of these men carried more than £100 on their persons. Bekwaihene admitted he had contributed £24 for Aberewa on behalf of his subjects. Kokofuhene had tried and failed to get a share of the £1,000 already sent by his subjects to ‘French Territory.’ Kumase Kyidomhene estimated that £2,500 had been sent out of the Kumase district in a year to ‘the head priests’ of Aberewa.99 Some chiefs, realising that they would never make money from Aberewa, renewed their demands for prohibition. Agonahene Kwame Boakye said frankly that it had refused to pay him ‘taxes’ of any kind, and so he wanted it thrown out of his division. A dozen years after the event, Agona people recalled that Kwame Boakye had gone so far as to order an attack on an Aberewa shrine house. He burned it to the ground, but it was soon rebuilt by its adherents.100

Aberewa in Ofinso (1906-1908)

  • 101 II, CCA to Ag. Colonial Secretary (Accra), dd. Kumase, 22 July 1908.
  • 102 See for example, I, Kwabena Kufuor to CCA, dd. Kumase, 27 July and 6 August 1908; ibid., D.J. Willi (...)
  • 103 Ibid., C.N. Curling to Secretary for Native Affairs (Accra), dd. Abetifi, 11 July 1908, encl. ‘Rex (...)

46If chiefs resented Aberewa because they were unable to annex its moneymaking capacities to their own use, then the CCA came to worry about the scale on which it was siphoning off Asante wealth into the French C^te d’Ivoire. By mid-1908, this concern had increased to a point where he thought, perhaps, ‘the time has come to legislate against Abirewa.’ Of even greater concern to him was a growing dossier of reports that Aberewa was still, and if anything more, involved in those ‘ceremonies of a criminal or turbulent nature’ that he had specifically prohibited in August 1907.101 It was said that the corpses of ‘witches’ had been abused at Apatrapa, Breman, Nkawie, Odumase and Otikrom in a ‘sudden eruption’ of Aberewa ‘fanaticism.’102 It was reported from Kwawu that an Asante girl named Abena Dapaa had been killed by Aberewa in Abetifi. Her mother Amma Ata, ‘an Aberewa woman’, admitted to carrying her dying daughter into the street, as ‘we do so in Ashanti with people whom Abirewa has killed.’ The worshippers gathered around the corpse and kicked it savagely, after which it was wrapped up in a mat and thrown into a hole in the bush. 103 It was events in Ofinso, however, that brought these concerns to an unignorable head, and in the process revealed much that was unknown about the organisation and workings of Aberewa.

  • 104 Key sources include Manhyia Record Office (Kumase), ‘The History of Ashanti’, ms (with letters and (...)

47Ofinso lies fifteen miles north of Kumase, and the entire history of the place bore upon what happened there in 1908. Ofinso took part in the wars that created Asante. It was rewarded by the first Asantehene Osei Tutu (d. 1717) with the caretakership of lands seized from Domaa. Then, in the 1740s, Ofinso fell foul of Asantehene Opoku Ware I. It was occupied by Kumase troops, fined, and stripped of land and villages. It became a backwater, known only if at all for its unusually large numbers of shrines to all the many ‘gods’ [abosom] of the place. So things continued for one hundred and forty years till it saw and seized a chance to restore its fortunes. In 1883, Asante descended into five years of civil war. Wholesale devastation ensued, but not in out of the way Ofinso. As the conflict lengthened, Ofinso gained in importance because it still had reserves of fighting men. In 1888, it was among those places courted by Asantehemaa Yaa Kyaa to fight to make her son Agyeman Prempe the ruler of Asante. The price of its support was a restoration of land and villages seized in the 1740s. Yaa Kyaa agreed, and Ofinsohene Apea Sei was one of the victorious generals who ended the civil war and put Agyeman Prempe on the Golden Stool. Apea Sei died in 1893, but his successor Kwadwo Apea maintained Ofinso’s resurgence. Then in 1896 disaster struck. Agyeman Prempe was exiled by the British. Kwadwo Apea was one of those exiled with him. He never returned to Asante, dying in the Seychelles in 1922. Ofinso was left in the care of Kwadwo Apea’s mother and a young royal, Afranewa. It pined for the return of Agyeman Prempe, and the restoration of a status so recently confirmed and briefly enjoyed. Then in 1900, Ofinso troops, led by their Kontihene Kwadwo Antwi, joined in the final doomed struggle to evict the British and bring back the Asantehene. On 25 September 1900 a British column razed Ofinso to the ground, blew up its shrines and sacred groves, burned its villages and scattered its people. At the end of the war the Ofinso stool was given to the Mampon royal and British collaborator Yaw Beko. He was ordered to rebuild the town and keep order among its returning inhabitants. He was given much latitude, for the British thought Ofinso truculent and unreconciled to their rule. Yaw Beko set to with a will, imposing his authority with exactions and the lash until his excesses provoked a riot in 1905 and the British were forced reluctantly to remove him.104

48The British blamed the Ofinso royal Asona lineage for the riots, and thought the place was on the verge of insurrection. Ofinsohemaa Sewaa Nyaako named two royals in succession to succeed Yaw Beko, but the British vetoed both. The recently arrived CCA Fuller sought advice from Akyeamehene Kwasi Nuama and other Kumase chiefs. They took money to nominate a wealthy trader and gold dealer called Kofi Kese, then in business in Kumase Adum. He was imposed as Ofinsohene with Fuller’s support in July 1905. Kofi Kese came from Takyiman, and was related to the Aberewa ‘High Priest’ Yaw Atiwa there. Both belonged to an Asenie lineage with a history of serving the shrine of Takyiman Taa Kwame. Both became prominent in Aberewa. In 1906, Kofi Kese asked Yaw Atiwa to bring Aberewa to Ofinso. He wanted to use it as a means of controlling his unreconciled subjects. In effect, Kofi Kese and Yaw Atiwa became partners. They used witchcraft accusations to quash political dissent and enrich Aberewa in the process. Yaw Atiwa was often in Ofinso, and seems to have played a leading role in running the Aberewa shrine there. Throughout 1907, Ofinso came to the notice of the colonial authorities as a place in which high numbers of witchcraft accusations, deaths and confiscations took place. Kwasi Nuama, Kofi Kese’s original sponsor, and his brother Kwame Tua both warned the CCA of excesses committed by Kofi Kese and Yaw Atiwa in Ofinso in the name of Aberewa. The British chose not to investigate in case their probing inflamed dissent and subverted Kofi Kese’s authority. Then in mid-1908, as Fuller was becoming increasingly concerned with Aberewa practices, unignorable stories came out of Ofinso of wholesale mistreatment of the dead. The CCA sent ex-Gyaasewahene Kwame Tua to look into the matter. He reported on recent Aberewa witchcraft deaths at Annowu near Ofinso in which the bodies were paraded naked, jeered at, physically abused, sliced up, and kicked into a hole in the bush. The relatives pleaded to hold funeral customs and bury their dead in specially purchased coffins, but Kofi Kese and Yaw Atiwa forbade this and seized all the property of the deceased.

  • 105 See I, ‘Papers Relating to Offinso, 1908’, Testimonies by Kwadwo Baane, William Aye, Kofi Kese, Adw (...)

49The CCA sent Kumase Cantonment Magistrate Capt. S.H. Chapin to Ofinso to open an official enquiry and talk to witnesses. He began with the case of Amma Kumaa, said to be a follower of Aberewa. She died suddenly, and Kofi Kese sent for Yaw Atiwa who said that Aberewa killed her when it found out she was a witch in disguise. Her body was stripped of its head and pubic hair, its finger and toe nails, and a part of the tongue. The waist beads were wrenched away, and the naked corpse was carried on a mat through Ofinso to the ‘cemetery’ next to the Aberewa shrine house in the surrounding bush. There it was thrown down on the ground. The Aberewa worshippers danced around it, kicking the head all the while. Then it was pushed into a pit less than two feet deep that was lined with thorns. Yet more thorns were put on top of the body and the pit was partially covered over with loose dirt. The cloth worn by Amma Kumaa when she died was torn in two. One piece was hung on a ‘cemetery’ tree, and the other was cursed by all present and discarded. All of the while, two of Amma Kumaa’s distraught children pleaded unsuccessfully to be allowed to perform customary funeral rites, wash the body, wrap it in a cloth, and bury it in a coffin specially brought from Kumase. They were roughly treated and abused. At the ‘cemetery’ by the shrine house, Chapin exhumed the body. He also discovered that the area was full of shallow graves and the enveloping trees were hung about with bits of cloth. He was told all of these pits contained witches or wizards killed by Aberewa. Chapin arrested five Aberewa ‘priests’, and sent them to Kumase. But Yaw Atiwa disappeared, and Kofi Kese quite improbably denied knowledge of any these happenings.105

  • 106 Ibid., CCA to DC (Kumase) dd. Kumase, 3 March and 18 September 1909;and Manhyia Record Office (Kuma (...)

50Ofinsohene was warned and put on probation, but this was not the end of the matter. In August 1908, Kwame Akrodie of Ampabame, an Ofinso sub-chief, was dismissed from office by Kofi Kese. He was found guilty of using witchcraft to try to kill Ofinsohene, but Aberewa detected his evil intent. Kwame Akrodie’s property (£23 in gold dust and silver coin, gold ornaments and seventeen cloths) was seized, half going to Kofi Kese and the other half to the ‘Great Priest’ Sie Kwaku via Yaw Atiwa in Takyiman. Kwame Akrodie charged Ofinsohene with theft before a British court in Kumase and was awarded £20 in compensation. In the course of the hearing it became clear that Aberewa was established in most of the Ofinso villages. It also now became clear that Kofi Kese was deeply implicated in profiting from Aberewa accusations, but at the same time feared and deferred to Yaw Atiwa. The CCA thought about removing Kofi Kese from the Ofinso stool, but decided against it because ‘such a step will only lead to increased trouble in that rancorous town.’ In any case, by then he had long since taken decisive action against Aberewa.106

Aberewa, Asante chiefs and British officials (1908)

51With the Ofinso evidence before him, CCA Fuller told the Asante chiefs to round up Aberewa ‘priests’ and bring them into Kumase. Over one hundred were caught in this trawl. Among them was Nokwobo, a Grunshi who had once been a slave in the palace of Asantehene Agyeman Prempe, but who was now ‘Chief Emissary General of the High Priest’ of Aberewa in Atwoma. ‘Astute and intelligent’, he was candid about his work, but strenuously denied remitting monies to Sie Kwaku in Welekei. Yaw Atiwa was detained on one of his many visits to Ofinso and sent to Kumase. He was captured by a ruse on the part of Fuller’s confidant Kwasi Nuama. As the Kumase Akyeamehene (and Domakwaihene), Kwasi Nuama occupied the stool responsible for relations with Takyiman in the nineteenth century. He used this connection to send agents to Takyiman to talk with Yaw Atiwa and they spirited him away. Once in Kumase, Yaw Atiwa encountered Kwasi Nuama’s brother Kwame Tua and upbraided him publicly for ‘exposing things at Offinso.’ But he seemed unperturbed by what was happening to him, declaring that ‘white man can not do anything with regard to Abrewa Fetish.’ He was locked up in Kumase Fort. Takyimanhene realised he had been duped and asked for Yaw Atiwa’s release, but this was refused in a letter that showed how British views had hardened towards Aberewa in Asante.

  • 107 I, Fell to Takyimanhene, dd. Sunyani, 12 August 1908; see further ibid., Kwame Tua to CCA, dd. Kuma (...)

It was through the Tekiman Priests that this Fetish spread to the Kumasi country and in spite of what was ordered there has been gross brutality around Kumasi, practised on dead bodies, in connection with the Fetish. For this the Tekiman priests must to a great extent be held responsible to the Govt. and I have no doubt that Yao Atiwa has been most justly arrested.107

  • 108 III, ‘A Report on the Suppression of the Abiriwah Fetish in the Western Province’, by Capt. A.L. Co (...)

52Efforts were made to locate and arrest Sie Kwaku. They were unavailing, but he only narrowly escaped falling into British hands. He was in Menji in March 1908, from where he removed first to Takyiman and then south to Akumadan. Ironically, he was as far into central Asante as he ever ventured when he learned that the British were about to arrest him. He fled Akumadan with three followers, heading via Seikwa and Kokua for Asikassiko and the French colonial border. The party aroused suspicion when it encountered British customs officers at Beposo between Seikwa and Kokua. It was detained there, but in the night Sie Kwaku escaped and fled into Gyaman.108

  • 109 Gold Coast Statutes, Ashanti No. 2 of 1908, ‘The Ashanti Native Customs Ordinance, 1908’, dd. 3 Sep (...)

53Early in the morning of 6 August 1908, CCA Fuller convened the Kumase Council of Chiefs in public session on the parade ground in front of the Kumase Fort. Other Asante chiefs were there, together with an excited crowd of some four to five thousand people. The CCA had already explained in private to the Kumase Council that he intended to ban Aberewa, and they assented by fourteen votes to two. Only Yaw Awua and Kwabena Sekyere voted against suppression. Fuller gave a speech, his core point being that he was banning Aberewa because he now had proof of its ‘barbaric’ rites. He informed the chiefs and people that British admiration for their virtues was being undermined by their tolerance for a ‘cult’ foisted upon them by their erstwhile Gyaman subjects. He exhibited Nokwobo and Yaw Atiwa to the crowd, asking rhetorically if it was right that such ‘slaves’ should become ‘big men.’ He said that he knew people were fearful of Aberewa, and so he intended to hear evidence against it in private. If what was imparted ‘satisfies me’, he announced, then prosecutions would follow. He concluded by declaring that practising Aberewa would henceforth be punished by ‘the heaviest sentences allowed by law.’ After this meeting ended, the CCA drafted and sent off letters to every chief in Asante ordering them to give up all Aberewa ‘shrines, emblems and regalia.’ He also gave Fell a letter of authority, empowering him to travel through the Western Province of Asante, ‘the heart of Abiriwa Worship’, and there to take such steps as he saw fit to ‘exterminate the movement.’ On 2 September, ‘The Ashanti Native Customs Ordinance, 1908’ was enacted by the Governor of the Gold Coast in Accra. It banned Aberewa, listed swingeing fines and prison sentences for failing to comply, and gave the CCA unprecedented powers to ‘alter or revoke’ legislation so as to suppress any ‘native custom, rite, ceremony or worship which may appear to him to involve or to tend towards the commission of crime or a breach of the peace.’109

  • 110 See II, Ag. Commissioner of the Northern Province to CCA, dd. Kintampo, 20 August 1908; ibid., Comm (...)

54The work of suppression now went ahead. In the Southern Province of Asante, Aberewa paraphernalia gathered up by police in Adanse, Kokofu and Bekwai were publicly burned at Obuase on 23 August. On the 26th, the CCA recorded that ‘all Fetish Houses’ were ‘destroyed’ in the Central Province and Kumase, and that non-Asante ‘priests’ were being ‘expelled’ from the district. In the Northern Province shrines were burned at Nkoransa and in and around Banda, but there was little to do elsewhere for ‘the cult’ never ‘reached’ Atebubu and ‘the Brong tribes on the east.’ It was only in the Western Province, where Aberewa first ‘took root’ in Asante, that the news was not quite so ‘emphatic.’ Takyiman, it was thought, might ‘give trouble.’ 110 Armed with his special powers, Fell set off from Sunyani on a tour of the Western Province. At Nkwanta and Bekyem, he presided over the destruction of seven Aberewa shrines. He then set off north for Wenchi, Nsoko and Seikwa via Nkyiraa and Nkwansa. At Nkyiraa his police escort burned the town shrine. He halted at Nkwansa and summoned Takyimanhene to meet him there. ‘I expected difficulty’, he noted, ‘Tekiman having been the leader in promulgating the Abirewa worship.’ But there was no trouble, at least publicly, and Takyimanhene agreed to comply with the ban. Fell later confirmed that the Takyiman shrines were all ‘pulled down.’ In Wenchi and Nsoko shrines were again destroyed, and Fell proceeded on through Seikwa to Menji. Here he reflected on his journey and acknowledged that ‘the astonishing’ Sie Kwaku was his ‘invisible’ adversary in every settlement both had visited. Sie Kwaku, he learned, had charged £8 for every shrine he installed, and had given ‘sacred chalk’ to the ‘priests’ he appointed as a sign of office. Fell confiscated this and, in frustration at the elusiveness of Sie Kwaku, used it to scrawl ‘Fool’ and ‘Ass’ on the bodies of Aberewa ‘priests.’ This produced nervous laughter in villagers. Fell warned them that after he left emissaries would come from Sie Kwaku in Gyaman to rebuild shrines and demand money. He knew Sie Kwaku commanded the manpower to attempt resurrection, for at Menji news reached him that all the Aberewa personnel in Odumase had taken their shrine and fled to Bonduku to escape arrest. He travelled on from Menji via Asikassiko to Bonduku. There, the French said that they could not find Sie Kwaku, but had heard he was paying out large sums of money to Gyaman chiefs to hide him. Fell turned wearily back towards Sunyani, realising that his job was impossible to complete. He observed with wise resignation that,

  • 111 I, Fell to CCA, dd. Menji, 21 August 1908, dd. Asikassiko, 25 August 1908, and dd. Sunyani, 2 and 1 (...)

I do not think, however, that these people have ever been without some Fetish witch finding medicine or other and it will of course, now the country is more opened up, be more difficult for these things to be secretly inaugurated. I have little doubt however an attempt will soon be made to introduce some substitute for Abirewa.111

After word

  • 112 II, G. Martin to DC (Kyebi), dd. Kyebi, 11 July 1912.
  • 113 Ibid., Commissioner of the Western Province of the Gold Coast to SNA (Accra), dd. Cape Coast, 19 Ju (...)
  • 114 Ibid., Commissioner of the Southern Province of Asante to J.T. Furley, dd. Obuase, 17 June 1912; an (...)
  • 115 Public Records and Archives Administration (Accra), ADM 11/1387, ‘Ati Aperede, and Fetishes in Akwa (...)
  • 116 II, Kwabena Fori to Provincial Commissioner (Obuase), dd. Obuase, 20 July 1912; ibid., Ag. CCA to P (...)

55A ‘substitute for Abirewa’ appeared, briefly and ambiguously, in 1912. It was called Anhwerebofo [‘the hunter is lost but not missed’] or Bonsamnunu [‘blame the devil’], and it originated at Sikaman near Obuase in Adanse in southern Asante. It was founded by Kwasi Badu, a native of Dwansa in Asante Akyem who worked for a time in the Obuase mines. Anhwerebofo spread south over the Pra River into Asen, and then south again to the Cape Coast and Winneba districts on the coast. It also spread east from Adanse into Akyem Abuakwa.112 Its chief business was finding and purging witches, and British officials thought it ‘the renewal of or the same as the Aberewa Fetish.’113 Initiates paid from £1 to £5 for the shrine medicine. Those afflicted with witchcraft were always sent to Sikaman to be cleansed by Kwasi Badu. He had a more or less fixed scale of charges, rising to £50 for notably recalcitrant cases. It is clear that Anhwerebofo was more routinely embedded in the advancing monetisation of the colonial economy than Aberewa had been barely five years earlier. It also addressed newly emerging, as well as older, anxieties. Thus, it claimed ‘to heal the sick, help people to borrow money, detect men injuring cocoa farms and help women to become pregnant.’ Indeed, Anhwerebofo medicine was often buried in farmland ‘to see who is bewitching cocoa’, a pressing concern for people with an increasing investment in monetary returns from that crop. 114 Anhwerebofo showed too a heightened awareness of Christianity and its doctrines, and a sophisticated understanding of how to borrow from it in order to compete with it or appeal to its adherents. The ‘rules’ of Anhwerebofo were called ‘The Ten Commandments’, and employed the language of their Christian analogue. Initiates were enjoined, for example, ‘not to covet thy neighbour’s wife’ [mpe wo yonko yere]; ‘to honour both thy father and thy mother’ [di wo agya ne wo na ni]; ‘not to bear false witness’ [nni adansekrom]; and so on.115 Anhwerebofo alarmed the CCA to the point of sending two plain-clothes detectives to Obuase to discover if Aberewa had returned. Their findings were inconclusive, but Anhwerebofo had little impact in Asante beyond Adanse and by 1913 it had faded away. 116 In passing judgement on it, the SNA in Accra echoed and amplified Fell’s comments of 1908 on Aberewa.

  • 117 Ibid, SNA Minute (Confidential), 5/1912, dd. Accra, 6 July 1912.

‘Anhwiri Bofo closely resembles Abirewa’, he wrote, but, so far as my experience goes all these extra-tribal fetishes bear a strong resemblance to one another and in our dealing with them the difficulty of suppressing a cult that makes itself manifest under different names is always present.117

  • 118 See V; in Rhodes House (Oxford), Mss. Afr. S.1051 (Cowley), ‘A Description of the Tegare Fetish, Go (...)
  • 119 See, for example, the bestselling popular books by Bannerman-Richter (1982; 1984; and 1987).
  • 120 See most recently Brandom (2002).
  • 121 Very recent ethnographic essay collections on African witchcraft include Bond and Ciekawy (2001) an (...)

56There were indeed many successors to Aberewa. By the 1940s, attempts were being made to codify the similarities between a series of differently named but clearly related witch-finding powers.118 This is still the case today, genealogically speaking, because Akan societies continue to resonate with anxieties about witchcraft.119 Successive resolutions to perceived instances of witchcraft are recursive, whatever might be added or subtracted to meet historically contingent fears, because such technologies cannot eradicate the ontological ‘thing in itself.’ Of course, this does not make the Akan unique. The inability, in Heidegger’s sense, to establish durable and transparent connections between ‘vulgar’ ontology (‘the furniture of the universe’, witchcraft practices included) and ‘fundamental’ ontology (‘the nature of the universe’, witchcraft beliefs included) pervades all of human life and history. 120 Be that as it may, this present paper has concerned itself with historical exemplification rather than ontological quiddity. That noted, I think it has something to say to a larger body of scholarship. In recent years, ethnographies that have busily rediscovered African witchcraft in its latest, present day incarnations have mushroomed. I have learned much from reading these works, but often come away from them wishing that they would account for the history of African witchcraft prior to its current efflorescence. Many of these studies are ahistorical, with the present unconnected to the past in any meaningfully documented way. In looking at the Akan experience here, at Sakrobundi and Aberewa, I have tried to impart a sense of historicity, to document a past endlessly and complexly revisited, resurrected and reconfigured. It would be pleasing as well as instructive to see more of this sort of historicising impulse at work in studies of witchcraft in other African cultures. 121

  • 122 My attempts to work in Gyaman in 2002-3 proved abortive because of current circumstances in the Côe (...)

57And what, finally, of Sie Kwaku? The short answer is, I do not know. Thanks to Terray, we know that his name lived on in Welekei into the 1970s. But what about the man himself? In 1908, he was over sixty years old. Did he die soon after the events recounted here? Certainly, he disappears at this point from the Asante colonial records. Information about him may still be recuperable in Gyaman, or from archives in the C^te d’Ivoire. For now, however, I can only express gratitude that such materials about him as I have been able to use have given me an opportunity to recover passages from his remarkable life. 122

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Notes

1 McCaskie (1981).

2 Public Records and Archives Administration Department (Kumase), ARG 1/30/1/6, ‘Chief Fetish Priest Abirewa 1907-1908’ [henceforth I]; ibid., 1/30/1/7, ‘Abiriwa Fetish 1907-1912’ [henceforth II]; Manhyia Palace (Kumase), OMP 81, ‘Abiriwah Fetish’ [henceforth III]; ibid., OMP 77, ‘Belief in the Great Fetish Abiriwa [compiled] by Govt. Interpreter 1st Class A.A. Baidoo by order of Hon. T.E. Fell’, dd. Sunyani, 1908 [henceforth IV]; ibid., ‘Witchfinding and Witches in Ashanti (Evidence submitted to the ACC by Nana Nsumankwahene and others concerning Daagye, Nbanyi, Abiriwah, Katawere, Kuni, Hwimso, Munukumu, Boapanyin etc.)’, n.d. (but 1905-37) [henceforth V]; ibid., ‘Asem no mu da ho – “It Is Plain To See”’, n.d. (but 1920s); and ibid., Asantehene’s Archive, ‘Records of Fetishes, its [sic] Worship and Occurrences in Ashanti’, 2 vols. [henceforth VI/1 and VI/2]. I thank the late Asantehene Opoku Ware II for permission to consult materials in the Old Manhyia Palace (since 1995 the Manhyia Palace Museum), now transferred to the (new) Manhyia Palace pending their cataloguing and transfer to the Manhyia Record Office. I thank the present Asantehene Osei Tutu II for his cooperative interest in the maintenance of historical records presently in the keeping of the Golden Stool, and for his words of support when he graciously honoured me in Kumase in 2003 for my work on Asante. I and II above were misplaced in the 1970s and only relocated in the 1990s. Neither appears to have been used in the most recent work on witchcraft in colonial Asante by Olsen (1998; 2002). I thank Thomas Aning (now Chief Archivist Manhyia Record Office, Kumase) for all his efforts in locating materials for me. I also thank Ernest Sarhene (Head of Protocol, Manhyia Palace) for much appreciated practical help.

3 Terray (1979), 166 mentions Sie Kwaku in the only published reference to him known to me.

4 See, most helpfully, IV, ‘The Life of Sei Kweku taken down from his own Words’, recorded by A.A. Baidoo and T.E. Fell, pp. 63 (in Twi and English), dd. Sunyani, May 1907; ibid., ‘Aberewa komfo SK na esren no’, recorded by A. Afari-Mensah, pp. 27, dd. Duadaso, June 1907; ibid., ‘Sakrobudi ne Abiriwa’, recorded by Chas. Boafo, pp. 33, dd. Asikassiko, June-July 1907; V, ‘The Pontifex Maximus (High Priest) of Abiriwa Fitish’, recorded by Aug. Aning, pp. 41, dd. Menji, March 1908; and VI/1, ‘A New Witchfinder (French Territory) declares Himself’, anon., pp. 12, 1908 (?). Baidoo, Afari-Mensah and Aning were all government employees; Boafo was a Basel Mission agent who went to Takyiman in 1907. All gathered information on the orders of T.E. Fell, Commissioner of the Western Province of Asante (for context consult I, T.E. Fell to CCA, dd. Sunyani, 26 May 1907). It is to be presumed that VI/1 anon. was also a member of this group. Fell was not the only British official with a strong interest in Aberewa; see II, C.N. Curling (Commissioner of the Eastern Province of the Gold Coast) to SNA (Accra), dd. Kyebi, 1 July 1908; ibid., N.W. Thomas to Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, dd. Buntingford, 13 November 1908; and ffoulkes (1909).

5 See McCaskie (1998; 1999; 2000; 2000a; 2000b).

6 See especially Terray (1979; 1995). I have also benefited from reading Viti (1998); Valsecchi (2002); and Viti and Valsecchi (1999).

7 Terray (1995), 509, 841-2 and 848.

8 In addition to biographical materials already cited see IV, Lt.-Gouverneur to CCA, dd. Bingerville, 11 August 1908 (secret), ‘La coutume fJtichiste “Aberewa” B Bondoukou, C^te d’Ivoire.’

9 On Begho see Posnansky (1987); on Bonduku see Terray (1995); on Buna see Boutillier (1993); on Wa see Wilks (1989); and on Banda – the easternmost Nafana outpost – see Stahl (2001).

10 Tauxier (1921) translates danifo] as loups-garous [werewolves].

11 See VI/2, ‘How Essimassi came to destroy Witches and Wizards’, n.d. (but recorded in Takyiman, ca, 1930); and see McCaskie (1992) for the Bongo antelope.

12 In V, ‘The Pontifex Maximus (High Priest) of Abiriwa Fitish’, recorded by Aug. Aning, dd. Menji, March 1908, Sie Kwaku said malefactors were streaked with red clay and whipped bloody with thorn branches.

13 IV, ‘The Life of Sei Kweku taken down from his own Words’, recorded by A.A. Baidoo and T.E. Fell, dd. Sunyani, May 1907; compare Terray (1979), especially 155-8.

14 See Bravmann (1974; 1979), and Arnaut and Dell (1996).

15 IV, ‘The Life of Sei Kweku taken down from his own Words’, recorded by A.A. Baidoo and T.E. Fell, dd. Sunyani, May 1907.

16 This is documented in British (Cardinall, Fortes, Rattray) and French (Clozel, Delafosse, Tauxier) colonial ethnography; Kramer (1994) is a suggestive overview. A fuller picture will emerge with Jean Allman and John Parker’s forthcoming history of the northern savanna Nana Tongo shrine.

17 Terray (1979), 157-8.

18 The best narrative accounts are ibid. (1995), 601-76 and 890-921, and Wilks (1975), 271-3, 292-4, 402, 484-6 and 523-4.

19 IV, ‘Aberewa komfo SK na esren no’, recorded by A. Afari-Mensah, dd. Duadaso, June 1907.

20 Christian Twi speakers glossed Sakrobundi as ‘the rejection of sin’; see I, Benjamin Ampofo to DC (Kumase), ‘Some Details about Fitich Aberewa (from native informants)’, dd. Edweso, 1907.

21 Ibid., ‘The Life of Sei Kweku taken down from his own Words’, recorded by A.A. Baidoo and T.E. Fell, dd. Sinyani, May 1907.

22 For Kandia see Wilks (1989), 50 and 55; for Welekei traditions about Dangabo of Kandia see Terray (1979), especially 159 and 163.

23 IV, ‘Sakrobudi ne Abiriwa’, recorded by Chas. Boafo, dd. Asikassiko, June-July 1907.

24 These names are recounted from Welekei tradition in Terray (1979), 166.

25 See IV, ‘Aberewa komfo SK na esren no’, recorded by A. Afari-Mensah, dd. Duadaso, June 1907; and V, ‘The Pontifex Maximus (High Priest) of Abiriwa Fitish’, recorded by Aug. Aning, dd. Menji, March 1908. The last quotation is translated from barely legible Twi that I have read as ko wanim te kwan da ho.

26 Cardinall (1927), 205-13 has a discussion of the ubiquity of ‘wer-hyenas’ (sic) in northern savanna belief.

27 Delafosse (1908), 122-34 visited and described the Welekei shrine complex in June 1902. He was admitted to only two of the buildings, the third being barred to him because it housed the Sakrobundi masks and medicine.

28 IV, ‘The Life of Sei Kweku taken down from his own Words’, recorded by A.A. Baidoo and T.E. Fell, dd. Sunyani, May 1907; and see Terray (1979), 160-4.

29 See Bravmann (1974), 102-3 and (1979), 46.

30 See for example Delafosse (1908), 120.

31 V, ‘The Pontifex Maximus (High Priest) of Abiriwa Fitish’, recorded by Aug. Aning, dd. Menji, March 1908.

32 See Bravmann (1979), 47 for oral testimony about the ‘high priest’ of ‘the parent cult’ of Sakrobundi at Welekei.

33 Public Records and Archives Administration Department (Cape Coast), ADM 47/1/08, ‘Fetishes: A Report on Sakri Bundi in the Eastern District’, dd. Cape Coast, 11 March 1890.

34 VI/1, ‘A New Witchfinder (French Territory) declares Himself’, anon., 1908 (?).

35 IV, ‘The Life of Sei Kweku taken down from his own Words’ recorded by A.A. Baidoo and T.E. Fell, dd. Sunyani, May 1907; and see Terray (1995), 904-8 for Gyaman-Takyiman relations.

36 See IV, ‘Sakrobudi ne Abiriwa’, recorded by Chas. Boafo, dd. Asikassiko, June-July 1907; and II, ‘Statements taken at Tekiman from the two Chief Priests Yao Atiwa and Amangena’, recorded by T.E. Fell, dd. Takyiman, 18 August 1907.

37 See Person (1975), 1579-93.

38 Ibid., 1694-9; see also Terray (1995), 971-82.

39 For Banda see Stahl (2001), 193-4; for the Dagara country, already under attack from the Wala and Zabarima, see Wilks (1989), 106-8, 126-8 and 132-3, and Lentz (1998), 91-109.

40 Boutillier (1993), 120-46.

41 Terray (1995), 933-41 and 982-9.

42 Delafosse (1908), 122-34.

43 See Public Records and Archives Administration Department (Accra), ADM 11/1137, ‘North West District of Ashanti: Inspection Tours 1901-1902’, especially T.E. Fell to Resident (Kumase), dd. Pamu, 9 July 1901 (encl. Testimonies of Kwadwo Nikwabo and Kwasi Ata); ibid., Travelling Commissioner Armitage, 'Report of a Tour to the North West’, dd. Kumase, 2 August 1901; and ibid., Travelling Commissioner Soden to Colonial Secretary (Accra), dd. Asikassiko, 12 June 1902.

44 Ibid., Soden to Resident (Kumase), dd. Seikwa, 3 June 1902.

45 See IV, ‘Sakrobudi ne Abiriwa’, recorded by Chas. Boafo, dd. Asikassiko, June-July 1907; V, ‘The Pontifex Maximus (High Priest) of Abiriwa Fetish’, recorded by Aug. Aning, dd. Menji, March 1908; and VI/2, ‘A New Witchfinder (French Territory) declares Himself’, anon., 1908. See Person (1975), 1696-8 for Samorian interactions with local Gyaman Muslims.

46 McCaskie (2000), 240.

47 See ibid., 180.

48 This narrative is a minimally agreed account constructed from all of the testimonies already cited. I have excluded from it all singular details or circumstantial elaborations. Thus, in IV, ‘The Life of Sei Kweku taken down from his own Words’, recorded by A.A. Baidoo and T.E. Fell, dd. Sunyani, May 1907, it is reported that Welekei Muslims accompanied Sie Kwaku and found the Lawra man who told the party to travel east, but this appears in no other testimony. I have also paid no attention here to the many later recastings of this story that appeared in local communities throughout the Akan world and beyond.

49 I, Benjamin Ampofo to DC (Kumase), ‘Some Details about Fitich Aberewa (from native informants) ’, dd. Edweso, 1907.

50 V, ‘The Pontifex Maximus (High Priest) of Abiriwa Fetish’, recorded by Aug. Aning, dd. Menji, March 1908.

51 Understandably, this list of names confused the British. See ffoulkes (1909); and on ffoulkes see II, Commissioner Western Province to CCA, dd. Sekondi, 26 September 1908; and ibid., Northcote Thomas to Colonial Office, dd. Buntingford, 13 November 1908.

52 I, ‘A Sworn Statement by the Linguist of Sunyani before His Honour T.E. Fell’, dd. Sunyani, 1908.

53 I, Benjamin Ampofo to DC (Kumase), ‘Some Details about Fitich Aberewa (from native informants) ’, dd. Edweso, 1907; and II, ‘Statements taken at Tekiman from the two Chief Priests Yao Atiwa and Amangena’, recorded by T.E. Fell, dd. Takyiman, 18 August 1907.

54 See I, T.E. Fell to CCA, dd. Sunyani, 1 June 1907; and II, ‘Notes of a Meeting held on the 6th August 1908 outside the Fort at Coomassie.’

55 For the market model see McCaskie (1981).

56 On Asante security posts in the northwest see Arhin (1979); on Odumase see Wilks (1993), 262 and McCaskie (2000), 73.

57 The account that follows is based on Freeman (1898), 146-54; see too ibid., (1892).

58 Ibid. (1898), 155 has two drawings of this figure.

59 For pertinent comment see McLeod (1981), 67-8; and compare Bravmann (1979), 45-6.

60 McCaskie (1981), 129-33 and ibid. (1995), 133-5.

61 See I, Kofi Nsenkyire to CCA, dd. Kumase, 4 August 1908; II, Kwabena Safo to CCA, dd. Kumase, 3 August 1907; and V, ‘Statement by Nana Ashantihene concerning the Recent Prevalence of Witches and Witchcatching in Ashanti’, dd. July 1937.

62 IV, ‘The Life of Sei Kweku taken down from his own Words’, recorded by A.A. Baidoo and T.E. Fell, dd. Sunyani, May 1907; and see McCaskie (2000), 262-3 for Asante views of Gyaman.

63 I, Akua Afriyie to CCA, dd. Kumase, 31 July 1908.

64 II, Osei Mampon to DC (Kumase), dd. Kumase, 12 February 1908.

65 I, Kwaku Dua to CCA, dd. Kumase, 17 November 1907.

66 Ibid., Rev. F.A. Ramseyer to CCA, dd. Kumase, 22 July 1908.

67 II, ‘Notes of a Meeting held on the 6th August 1908 outside the Fort at Coomassie.’

68 In IV, ‘Sakrobudi ne Abiriwa’, recorded by Chas. Boafo, dd. Asikassiko, June-July 1907, Sie Kwaku is described as travelling always with a boy who carried his box full of money [adaka sika ahon].

69 II, ‘Statements taken at Tekiman from the Two Chief Priests Yao Atiwa and Amangena’, recorded by T.E. Fell, dd. Takyiman, 18 August 1907’ and Manhyia Palace (Kumase), ‘Asem no mu da ho – “It Is Plain To See”’, n.d. (but 1920s).

70 Apeatu (1908).

71 Consult I, T.E. Fell to CCA, dd. Sunyani, 1 June 1907 and 3 September 1908; and IV, ‘Sakrobudi ne Abiriwa’, recorded by Chas. Boafo, dd. Asikassiko, June-July 1907.

72 IV, ‘Aberewa komfo SK na esren no’, recorded by A. Afari-Mensah, dd. Duadaso, June 1907.

73 Idem.

74 IV, ‘The Life of Sei Kweku taken down from his own Words’, recorded by A.A. Baidoo and T.E. Fell, dd. Sunyani, May 1907.

75 See II, ‘A Report on Abiriwa at Sabronum’, recorded by Capt. S.H. Chapin, March 1908, encl. in CCA to Ag. Colonial Secretary (Accra), dd. Kumase, 4 June 1908.

76 Ibid., ‘A Palaver held on the 3rd August 1907 in Connection with Certain Allegations brought against the “Abirewa Fetish” Worship’, dd. Kumase, ‘Statement by Kwesi Beche of Ejisu’; and IV, ‘The Life of Sei Kweku taken down from his own Words, recorded by A.A. Baidoo and T.E. Fell, dd. Sunyani, May 1907.

77 Public Records and Archives Administration Department (Kumase), ARG 1/2/13/2, ‘Disturbances at Ejisu’, Yaw Awua to CCA, dd. Kumase, 6 May 1907 and 14 and 29 March 1908; ibid., Kwasi Nimo to CCA, dd. Kumase, 6 May 1907; ibid., Kwadwo Tawia to CCA, dd. Kumase, 19 March 1908; II, ‘A Palaver held on the 3rd August 1907 in Connection with Certain Allegations brought against the “Abirewa Fetish” Worship’, dd. Kumase, ‘Statement by Kwame Dente of Nsoko’; and V, ‘The Pontifex Maximus (High Priest) of Abiriwa Fetish’, recorded by Aug. Aning, dd. Menji, March 1908.

78 I, Nicholas Osei to F.A. Ramseyer, dd. Boankra, 17 July 1907; see too ibid., Benjamin Ampofo to DC (Kumase), ‘Some Details about Fitich Aberewa (from native informants)’, dd. Edweso, 1907.

79 Afari-Antoa (1907).

80 See II, C.N. Curling (Commissioner of the Eastern Province of the Gold Coast) to SNA (Accra), dd. Kyebi, 1 July 1908.

81 Colonial Reports (Annual): No. 564, Ashanti (1907), 10; and I, CCA to Colonial Secretary (Accra), dd. Kumase, 8 August 1907.

82 Ibid., CCA to Fell, dd. Kumase, 2 February 1907.

83 Ibid., Fell to CCA, dd. Sunyani, 26 May 1907.

84 Idem.

85 Ibid., Fell to CCA, dd. Sunyani, 1 June 1907.

86 Ibid., ‘A Memorandum by CCA Fuller on the Fetish Abiriwa’, dd. Kumase, 14 January 1907.

87 Ibid., ‘Story about Aberewa’, by N.V. Asare, dd. Kumase, 6 March 1907. An almost verbatim copy of this is included in Basel Mission Archives (Basel), D.1,86, ‘Annual Report of the Basel Mission in Kumasi (1906)’, by N.V. Asare, dd. Kumase, 20 March 1907.

88 I, Ramseyer to CCA, dd. Kumase, 22 July 1907; see too ibid., Ramseyer to CCA, dd. Kumase, 22 July and 3 and 7 August 1908; and CCA to Ag. Colonial Secretary (Accra), dd. Kumase, 8 August 1908.

89 See ibid., Colonial Secretary (Accra) to CCA (by Telegraph), dd. Accra, 17 and 18 July 1907; ibid., CCA to Colonial Secretary (Accra) (by Telegraph), dd. Kumase, 18 July 1907; and Public Records and Archives Administration (Accra), ADM 51/2/19, ‘Register of In and Out Letters, Kumasi (Secret and Confidential)’, File I, 1901-12, SNA Minutes, ‘Notes of a Meeting Called by Govnr. Rodger’, n.d. (but Accra, 1907). For Fuller’s relations with Accra consult Wilks (2000), 71-8.

90 II, ‘A Palaver held on the 3rd August 1907 in Connection with Certain Allegations brought against the “Abirewa Fetish” Worship’, dd. Kumase, Testimonies of Osei Mampon, Kwame Frimpon, Kwasi Adabo, Kwabena Kokofu, Kwame Dapaa, Kwaakye Kofi, Kwaku Ware, Kwabena Asubonten, Kwasi Nuama, Kwabena Sekyere, Kwabena Safo, Kwasi Bosompra, Asamoa Toto, Kwaku Dua Atipin, and Yaw Awua. See further ibid., Osei Mampon to CCA, dd. Bantama, 22 July 1907, and Kwame Dapaa to CCA, dd. Kumase, 27 July 1907.

91 I, Colonial Secretary (Accra) to CCA (by Telegraph), dd. Accra, 4 September 1907.

92 See Fuller’s complacent remarks about his measures in Colonial Reports (Annual): No. 564, Ashanti (1907), 10.

93 II, ‘An Account of the “Abirewa” Fetish’, prepared for the Governor by the Ag. Colonial Secretary (Accra), dd. Accra, 29 June 1908.

94 See V, ‘The Pontifex Maximus (High Priest) of Abiriwa Fetish’, recorded by Aug. Aning, dd. Menji, March 1908; and VI/1, ‘A New Witchfinder (French Territory) declares Himself’, anon., 1908 (?).

95 Basel Mission Archives (Basel), D.1,86, ‘Annual Report of the Basel Mission in Kumasi (1906)’, by N.V. Asare, dd. Kumase, 20 March 1907; and Manhyia Record Office (Kumase), ‘Letter Book 1905-1919: Juaben Affairs’, Dwabenhene to DC (Kumase), dd. Kumase, 3 June 1908.

96 Basel Mission Archives (Basel), D.1,86, ‘Annual Report of the Basel Mission in Kumasi (1906)’, by N.V. Asare, dd. Kumase, 20 March 1907.

97 II, Fell to CCA, dd. Sunyani, 5 July 1908.

98 Ibid., CCA to Ashanti Chiefs (Circular), dd. Kumase, 14 July 1908.

99 Ibid., Yaw Boakye to Commissioner of the Southern Province, dd. Bekwai, 5 and 29 June and 27 July 1908; ibid., Kyidomhene to CCA, dd. Kumase, 4 August 1908; and ibid., Kwame Tua to CCA, dd. Kumase, 9 August 1908.

100 I, Kwame Boakye to CCA, dd. Wiamoase, 13 February 1907; II, Kwame Boakye to DC (Kumase), dd. Agona, 11 and 30 May 1908; and for context see McCaskie (2000a).

101 II, CCA to Ag. Colonial Secretary (Accra), dd. Kumase, 22 July 1908.

102 See for example, I, Kwabena Kufuor to CCA, dd. Kumase, 27 July and 6 August 1908; ibid., D.J. Williams to CCA, dd. Kumase, 28 July 1908; ibid., Kwaku Dua and Kwame Asamoa to CCA, dd. Kumase, 3 August 1908; and II, CCA to Ag. Colonial Secretary (Accra), dd. Kumase, 15 August 1908.

103 Ibid., C.N. Curling to Secretary for Native Affairs (Accra), dd. Abetifi, 11 July 1908, encl. ‘Rex vs. Kofi Mensa (Assistant Aberewah Priest) and Amma Ata.’ Both were charged with causing ‘harm and terror’ under Gold Coast Statutes, Cap. 136.12. 92. Kofi Mensa was sentenced to a £25 fine or three months hard labour. Amma Ata, admonished from the bench for ‘taking pride in cruelty’, was given a £10 fine or two months hard labour.

104 Key sources include Manhyia Record Office (Kumase), ‘The History of Ashanti’, ms (with letters and notes) prepared by a Committee of Traditional Authorities under the Chairmanship of Asantehene Osei Agyeman Prempe II, n.d. (but 1940s), Cap. 4.36; and ibid., 1031/A and 1031/B, ‘Offinso Division 1905-13’ and ‘A History of the Offinsu Stool by Nana Kwabina Wiafe, Nana Ya Kyia and Stool Elders’, dd. April 1938. See McCaskie (1984), 181-5 for Ofinso and the civil war; and Armitage and Montanaro (1901), 181-7 and Willcocks (1904), 394 for the destruction of Ofinso in 1900.

105 See I, ‘Papers Relating to Offinso, 1908’, Testimonies by Kwadwo Baane, William Aye, Kofi Kese, Adwowaa Gyifiwaa, Kwame Tua and Capt. S.H. Chapin, dd. Ofinso and Kumase, 25-8 July 1908; and Manhyia Record Office (Kumase), 1031/A, ‘Offinso Division 1905-13’, ‘Inquiry held at Kumasi into the Deaths at Offinso by Order of the Chief Commissioner, Ashanti’, dd. Kumase, 29 August 1908.

106 Ibid., CCA to DC (Kumase) dd. Kumase, 3 March and 18 September 1909;and Manhyia Record Office (Kumase), ‘Palaver Book 1907-1909’, in re Complaint about Theft of Property by Kwame Akrodie, heard before DC P. Arlott, Cantonment Magistrate, dd. Kumase, 24 February and 30 July 1909, Testimonies by Kwame Akrodie, Kofi Ntim, Adwowaa Akwa and Kofi Kese.

107 I, Fell to Takyimanhene, dd. Sunyani, 12 August 1908; see further ibid., Kwame Tua to CCA, dd. Kumase, 1 August 1908; ibid., Kwasi Nuama to CCA, dd. Kumase, 4 August 1908; and ibid., Takyimanhene to DC (Sunyani), dd. Takyiman, 11 August 1908.

108 III, ‘A Report on the Suppression of the Abiriwah Fetish in the Western Province’, by Capt. A.L. Cochrane (Special Commissioner), dd. Sunyani, 2 October 1908, enclosing Testimonies of ‘Abiriwah Priests’ Osei Kwei and Asumagyima, dd. Seikwa, 30 August and 1 September 1908. Osei Kwei was one of those with Sie Kwaku, and he was brought to Sunyani and imprisoned.

109 Gold Coast Statutes, Ashanti No. 2 of 1908, ‘The Ashanti Native Customs Ordinance, 1908’, dd. 3 September 1908 (given under the hand of Sir John Pickersgill Rodger, Governor). See also II, ‘Account of a Meeting Held on the 6th August 1908 Outside the Fort at Coomassie’, encl. CCA Minutes of 6-10 August 1908; Fuller (1921), 221-2; and Colonial Reports (Annual): No. 603 (1908), 11 and 19-20.

110 See II, Ag. Commissioner of the Northern Province to CCA, dd. Kintampo, 20 August 1908; ibid., Commissioner of the Southern Province to CCA, dd. Obuase, 23 August 1908; and ibid., CCA to Ag. Colonial Secretary (Accra), dd. Kumase, 26 August 1908.

111 I, Fell to CCA, dd. Menji, 21 August 1908, dd. Asikassiko, 25 August 1908, and dd. Sunyani, 2 and 17 October 1908; and ibid., Kwabena Kufuor to CCA, dd. Kumase, 6 August 1908.

112 II, G. Martin to DC (Kyebi), dd. Kyebi, 11 July 1912.

113 Ibid., Commissioner of the Western Province of the Gold Coast to SNA (Accra), dd. Cape Coast, 19 June 1912.

114 Ibid., Commissioner of the Southern Province of Asante to J.T. Furley, dd. Obuase, 17 June 1912; and ibid., DC (Birrim on Pra) to Ag. CCA, dd. Birrim on Pra, 20 July 1912.

115 Public Records and Archives Administration (Accra), ADM 11/1387, ‘Ati Aperede, and Fetishes in Akwapim, 1908-1915’, ‘The Laws of Anfwiri Bofo’, by Henry Owusu Ansa, Omanhene of Akuapem, dd. Akropong, 2 February 1913.

116 II, Kwabena Fori to Provincial Commissioner (Obuase), dd. Obuase, 20 July 1912; ibid., Ag. CCA to Provincial Commissioner (Obuase), dd. Kumase, 25 July and 12 August 1912; and ibid., Ag. CCA to Ag. Colonial Secretary (Accra), dd. Kumase, 15 August 1912.

117 Ibid, SNA Minute (Confidential), 5/1912, dd. Accra, 6 July 1912.

118 See V; in Rhodes House (Oxford), Mss. Afr. S.1051 (Cowley), ‘A Description of the Tegare Fetish, Gold Coast’, dd. Kyebi, March 1949, there is a detailed comparison between the Hwe me so, Kundi and Tigare movements.

119 See, for example, the bestselling popular books by Bannerman-Richter (1982; 1984; and 1987).

120 See most recently Brandom (2002).

121 Very recent ethnographic essay collections on African witchcraft include Bond and Ciekawy (2001) and Moore and Sanders (2002).

122 My attempts to work in Gyaman in 2002-3 proved abortive because of current circumstances in the Côe d’Ivoire.

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Titre Sakrobundi ne Aberewa: The World of Sie Kwaku
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Référence papier

T.C. McCaskie, « Sakrobundi Ne Aberewa », Journal des africanistes, 75-1 | 2005, 101-113.

Référence électronique

T.C. McCaskie, « Sakrobundi Ne Aberewa », Journal des africanistes [En ligne], 75-1 | 2005, mis en ligne le 06 avril 2007, consulté le 21 août 2017. URL : http://africanistes.revues.org/548

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Auteur

T.C. McCaskie

Centre of West African Studies
University of Birmingham, U.K.

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