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Show Us The Tribes And People Of Africa

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Tom Kellie

~ @@Abena

 

What an outstanding series of Ghanian images!

The variety of individuals offers a glimpse into life in West Africa.

It's especially nice of you to post images of women who suffer from having been accused of witchcraft.

The suffering they bear exceeds what might be imagined.

Thank you so much for bringing new life to this topic!

Tom K.

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Abena

Here are a few more from the witch village in Northern Ghana. A bit of background - there are several "witch villages" in Northern Ghana; this is the smallest of them. The larger ones have hundreds of "residents" and this one, if I'm remembering correctly, has about 80 men and women who have been accused of witchcraft. According to the reading I've done, "witchcraft" means a variety of things but the mostly means the person is accused of having caused someone's death through spiritual means. It's mostly women who are accused, and in my opinion it's often outright jealousy on the part of neighbors or even family members that leads to these accusations. For instance if a woman is doing particularly well in business, she could be accused of obtaining her success through witchcraft. Once accused, the situation becomes quite dire for the person. There will often be a divination of some sort to ascertain if the person accused is indeed a witch, but even if the results say they are not, there is still suspicion. The accused is often beaten and maimed or even killed by neighbors or relatives. So the witch village becomes a safe haven of sorts. The accused can be sent to one of the villages or they can elect to go themselves. Once they arrive, a divination is performed by the priest of the village (the man in green, sitting by the bike, below). I haven't seen the divination performed but I've read it involves sacrificing a chicken and observing its death throes. If the person is found to be a witch, they are pretty much exiled here for the duration of their life (if they return home they will likely be killed). If they are found not to be a witch, an effort is made to return them to their home once their safety can be guaranteed. This is what I learned from talking with the priest; I don't know how true any of this is in practice. I have to say that the priest seemed like a decent sort of guy and I felt he was compassionate toward the residents of the village. He asked me very sincerely if we have witches in America. How to answer that question?? I think I said something like it's not widely believed that deaths have a spiritual cause. He replied with an example about sudden and unexplained deaths, and crib deaths, which you have to admit, can be a mystery.

 

Having now lived in Ghana close to a year, I'll say that witchcraft, or a belief in witchcraft, is no joke here. You don't make light of it and to call someone a witch (or wizard, the male counterpart) is a huge insult. People talk about others who were affected by, or even died as a result of juju (magic). It's all part of the culture and it's rather fascinating!

 

So these men in the photo were shelling corn when I arrived at the village. The first stop on the "tour" is to meet with the priest. I was told I could ask any questions I had.

 

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Abena

When someone arrives at the village, they are given a small plot of land on which to build a house and grow whatever crops they can. They have to build their house by hand, using materials they can find (mud, grass, etc). Northern Ghana is HOT - temperatures regularly over 100 degrees F. And DRY. So growing corn or other crops is a challenge. This year (2014) a Danish NGO had planted a large acreage of corn for the people in the village using modern techniques. I had a 'tour guide' of sorts to take me around to the houses. I opted not to see all 80 of them. It felt very awkward, like the plight of these people was turned into a tourist destination. All along the route I was asked to give the residents a small amount of money and I was told that this is one of the few sources of outside cash they receive.

 

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Tom Kellie

Here are a few more from the witch village in Northern Ghana. A bit of background - there are several "witch villages" in Northern Ghana; this is the smallest of them. The larger ones have hundreds of "residents" and this one, if I'm remembering correctly, has about 80 men and women who have been accused of witchcraft. According to the reading I've done, "witchcraft" means a variety of things but the mostly means the person is accused of having caused someone's death through spiritual means. It's mostly women who are accused, and in my opinion it's often outright jealousy on the part of neighbors or even family members that leads to these accusations. For instance if a woman is doing particularly well in business, she could be accused of obtaining her success through witchcraft. Once accused, the situation becomes quite dire for the person. There will often be a divination of some sort to ascertain if the person accused is indeed a witch, but even if the results say they are not, there is still suspicion. The accused is often beaten and maimed or even killed by neighbors or relatives. So the witch village becomes a safe haven of sorts. The accused can be sent to one of the villages or they can elect to go themselves. Once they arrive, a divination is performed by the priest of the village (the man in green, sitting by the bike, below). I haven't seen the divination performed but I've read it involves sacrificing a chicken and observing its death throes. If the person is found to be a witch, they are pretty much exiled here for the duration of their life (if they return home they will likely be killed). If they are found not to be a witch, an effort is made to return them to their home once their safety can be guaranteed. This is what I learned from talking with the priest; I don't know how true any of this is in practice. I have to say that the priest seemed like a decent sort of guy and I felt he was compassionate toward the residents of the village. He asked me very sincerely if we have witches in America. How to answer that question?? I think I said something like it's not widely believed that deaths have a spiritual cause. He replied with an example about sudden and unexplained deaths, and crib deaths, which you have to admit, can be a mystery.

 

Having now lived in Ghana close to a year, I'll say that witchcraft, or a belief in witchcraft, is no joke here. You don't make light of it and to call someone a witch (or wizard, the male counterpart) is a huge insult. People talk about others who were affected by, or even died as a result of juju (magic). It's all part of the culture and it's rather fascinating!

 

So these men in the photo were shelling corn when I arrived at the village. The first stop on the "tour" is to meet with the priest. I was told I could ask any questions I had.

 

~ @@Abena

 

You're an educator! This lengthy post is such a comprehensive explanation of a culture to which I've never been exposed.

There's material here for a Ghanaian Arthur Miller.

Sacrificing a chicken for divination continues to be a diagnostic method in the 21st Century — Wow!

Your eloquent explanation serves to bridge gaps in understanding, which is a valuable service.

Thank you so much for the time. effort and preparation behind this terrific post!

Tom K.

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Abena

Some of the residents were quite elderly. One lady looked about 80 and said she had been living there at the village since she was in her 20s. I didn't ask the circumstances of why she ended up there; I guess given her longevity in the village she was deemed to be an actual witch.

 

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Abena

The residents of the village intermarry and have children and are not prevented from doing so; in fact, the witch village residents also marry people from the nearby "non-witch" village. Relations between the two villages seemed to be congenial. Who woulda thought? Another interesting thing is that when the witch village residents reach old age and can no longer do all the work required to grow food and etc., a younger relative from "the outside" will come to live with them and care for them. The older girl in the photo had come from their home village and was living there with her elderly grandmother.

 

Northern Ghana on the whole is quite impoverished; most people live in some version of the iconic African round mud hut, walk miles to get water, wash clothes in rain puddles. As previously mentioned, the witch village felt like a bit of a tourist trap, and on the last stop of the tour I was again asked for money to support the building of a school. Hopefully there actually is a school being built...

 

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Abena

Thank you @@Tom Kellie! Glad you're enjoying the posts! Now my battery is "finished" to coin a Ghanaian expression, and the power is out, so I must stop for now! Hopefully @@godfried will be along one of these days - he's the expert on the people of West Africa :D

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Tom Kellie

~ @@Abena

 

What is the material cut into chunks which is stored in the white metal basin?

Tom K.

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Abena

Hi @@Tom Kellie - the white chunks in the metal basin are most likely one of the root vegetables that are widely eaten throughout Ghana - I'm guessing it's cassava. It will be pounded into smaller pieces to be added to different types of stews or bean dishes.

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Tom Kellie

Hi @@Tom Kellie - the white chunks in the metal basin are most likely one of the root vegetables that are widely eaten throughout Ghana - I'm guessing it's cassava. It will be pounded into smaller pieces to be added to different types of stews or bean dishes.

 

~ @@Abena

 

You've thereby repaid me for ‘Zorilla’.

I've learned something.

Thank you!

Tom K.

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Caracal

@@Abena - this is great. I'm finding it totally fascinating and absorbing.

 

I've never heard of these witch villages. Are they related to a number of different tribes or are we talking about just one particular tribe?

 

Many thanks for these valuable contributions.

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Abena

@@Caracal - I believe there are now four witch villages in Northern Ghana. I'm not sure of the total population of accused witches living in these camps but I'm guessing well into the hundreds. They come from all over Ghana, from many different tribes. The belief in witchcraft is very common here. To even jokingly refer to witches or wizards is not taken too well. There is quite a fear of someone causing spiritual harm. I've had numerous instances while I've been here where someone very seriously told me that some person was killed or harmed through witchcraft. There's this old man who lives here in Aburi who was dressed in a long robe type garment and a pointy black hat with some sort of symbols on it (and of course I wasn't able to photograph him!). I said to the taxi driver as we passed him "that guy looks like a wizard!" and the driver about had a heart attack. But as it turns out, the old man is one of the local herbalists (which involves healing mind, body and spirit using herbs - and even removing the spell of a witch or appeasing the anger of the gods which has caused an illness...). Rather fascinating stuff.

 

Thank you for your comments - Ghana is an absorbing place!

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wilddog

@@Abena What a a fascinating insight into the tribal customs and the witch villages.

 

I can understand your discomfort to some degree; seeing others poverty can be illuminating and a jolt to our complacency, but when does it become voyeuristic and exploitative? I assume you had to pay your guide? and then make contributions to some of the others? I think you made the right decision not to visit all 80 huts. :)

 

Really very interesting. Thanks so much taking the time to share your experiences with us.

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Abena

Thank you @@wilddog! It really did feel voyeuristic to me. I didn't mind paying the small fee to the guide, but all along he kept urging me to ask the women ("witches") questions and every question I could think to ask felt totally intrustive and inappropriate. Thanks for your interest :rolleyes:

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gatoratlarge

I'm late to the game but happy to share some of the indigenous people I've come across in my travels of Africa:  

 

The first batch are some from the Ba'aka forest people in CAR:

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gatoratlarge

The second batch from Malawi---roadside snacks---kids showing me their best Bruce Lee poses---children with after church cookies on Likoma Island in Lake Malawi; playing soccer on the beach and homemade toys---and a pet bird:

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gatoratlarge

This group were a fisherman's children were splashing and playing in the Sangha River while we were trying to catch a tiger fish (no luck):

 

 

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gatoratlarge

These were taken along the Nile in Egypt:

 

 

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gatoratlarge

Some from the Zulu tribe in KwaZulu Natal near Phinda GR; a Himba woman and native women we gave a lift across the Kunene River in Namibia to the Angolan side...at Serra Cafema...I used a funky filter on the last one :D

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LizW

Maasi warrior, central Serengeti, August 2017

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serendipityntravel

"The children are the bright moon" - Masai Proverb.
While visiting a Masai Village after our game drive in Kenya a couple of weeks ago, I found this little guy fetching water for his family in a plastic barrel. He was walking back and forth unaware of my presence far away. And just like all other small children, his curiosity caught something on the ground...something that needed to be poked with a stick. His turning around and smiling and my camera click were simultaneous. It only took a fraction of a second...

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optig

@gatoratlarge As you know we'll both be having what's supposedly the finest and least spoiled cultural experience in Ethiopia shortly.

I couldn't be more excited about it. I just love your photos from the CAR; I find it awesome even to contemplate that I'm planning to visit 

in 2019 unless there;s a terrible event like in 2013.

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Botswanadreams

Time to bring this a bit alive.

 

"They do not grow food, they don't keep cattle, they do not need laws and calendar. They live a hunter-gatherer live that has not changed for 10,000 years. What they know, we have long forgotten." Michael Finkel

 

The Hadza Bushmen at Lake Eyasi, Tanzania in 2015

 

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Ready to go on a hunt

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Preparing to collect honey

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Sweet and delicious 

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The first successful hunt

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The second successful hunt

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Back in the village

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The Women

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The Children

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Say good bay

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Caracal

 

Fascinating @Botswanadreams - thanks for reviving this thread with this great addition.

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Botswanadreams

The Datoga at Lake Eyasi, Tanzania 2015

 

The Datoga are an ethnic group in Tanzania, which is very little known. There life will be marked of cattle holding, similar to the Massai. Donkeys, goats, sheep and a little agriculture contribute to livelihood. 

 

Visit to a family home. 

 

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Decorative tattoo around the eyes of women as a symbol of beauty

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Edited by Botswanadreams

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