D-30.14.063
"The fetish Odente near Abetifi."
Ramseyer, Friedrich August Louis (Mr)
date early : 1888-01-01.0., date late : 1895-12-31.0.


D-30.14.058
"The Dwarf of Abetifi."
Ramseyer, Friedrich August Louis (Mr)
date early : 1888-01-01.0., date late : 1895-12-31.0.


D-30.14.062
"Elephants' jaws under a fetish tree in Abetifi."
Schultze, Max Otto (Mr)
date early : 1900-01-01.0., date late : 1904-12-31.0.

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Religious Interaction:
African Religions I

Religion was closely linked to political authority in pre-colonial Africa. The king or the chief drew his legitimacy from his ancestors and indigenous religion. A debate continues in the present-day, if a Christian can become a chief, since the rituals of kingship are perceived by Christians to be "heathen." For early European missionaries in Africa, conversion meant the convert abandoning her or his culture and way of life. "Salems" or Christian communities emerged to isolate - physically and socially -- new converts to Christianity from traditional society and life. Chiefs, elders, and indigenous priests rallied to the defense of the status quo, and they were often the last to convert to Christianity or to allow their wards to access the western education introduced by Christian missions. Women, slaves, former slaves and pawns - the socially marginalized or the politically peripheral - dominated the ranks of early Christian converts in Africa. In Asante, Ghana, effective missionary presence came only in the wake of the British military annexation of 1896. Conversion to Christianity was a complex process and the considerations for conversion were both spiritual and material. This followed the West African perception that a deity met both the spiritual and material needs of it's adherent. Missionaries agonized over converts whom "backslided" into their pre-convert ways. But scholars today point out that conversion is a "process" and not an "event," allowing for progress and retrogression. Religion is a crucial component in African identity; hence a new religion expressed a change in one's identity. Thus, religious identity could also be an important form of protest. D-30.14.63 shows the Odente shrine [Dente] shrine, a powerful shrine that was often consulted during war times. People relied on it for the exposure of evil, especially witchcraft, in communities. The presence of the shrine in the forest ensured the preservation of the vegetation as no farming or hunting activity was permitted in the vicinity of the shrine.
In D-30.14.058 we see a dwarf at Abetifi, described elsewhere as the "terror' of Abetifi. He was said to be wandering in the town at night seizing livestock in his way. Until Ramseyer confronted him, the townspeople believed that he was a deity, who roamed the town at night. D-30.14.062 represents a familiar site when an indigenous priest converted to Christianity. The church would invite the priest to bring out his "medicines" (objects of spiritual power), which were exposed in public and ridiculed as mere objects of superstition. Dancing was an important aspect of indigenous African religions and the training of indigenous priests.
In D-30.01.049, we see an indigenous priest or priestess in raffia skirt dancing surrounded by people in Christiansborg (Accra). A priest was trained in the dance of his deities and dancing was the medium through which the deity possessed the priest. D-30.01.050 shows an old man sitting in front of a shrine house, an indigenous hut with straw roof and a wooden fence. In Asante, powerful deities or cults were often borrowed from the north. D-30.63.119 shows a shrine in Nkoranza in the northern part of Asante (now the Brong Ahafo Region), a conduit of northern influences. In D-30.19.029 we see the "house of a fetish priest" in Kumase with ornate walls embossed with symbolic motifs such as the crocodile with a fish in the mouth and human figures. Traditionally, the king of Asante was the chief priest of Asante, and all the shrines belonged to him. The Asante state had a department of medicines (Nsumankwa) with a head chief who supervised medicine and religious life and ensured that these bolstered the status quo. When the king died, spirit possession even ceased until a new king had been installed, underscoring the fusion of religious and political power.

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