Ethnicity and the Making of History in Northern Ghana

By Carola Lentz | Go to book overview

PREFACE

Tuonianuo, ‘Bitterness is sweetness’: this name, given to me by Anselmy Bemile, my Dagara father, was intended to encourage me to be patient and persevere. Like all Dagara personal names it expressed the name-giver’s life experience and was to guide its recipient through life. As one of the first Catholic converts in his family and in his village in North-Western Ghana, Anselmy had courageously worked for many years as a catechist and farmer, and sent all seven sons and one daughter to school. Conflicts with chiefs, imprisonment, the malicious gossip of his enemies – this was the bitterness, the hardship, as Anselmy would often tell me. And the joy? Well, now in his old age, he had little cause for complaint. One of his sons worked his fields, and all children visited home regularly – never with empty hands. Thus, his own name had proven true: Bemile, let them talk, never mind what others may think. Tuonianuo: Were not all his efforts rewarded in that his eldest son Paul became Bishop of the Wa Diocese and that Sebastian, after many years of study in Germany, had finally come home, together with me and so many other students, to study the Dagara culture? That I was now a part of the family was no coincidence, Anselmy continued, his father Yob was not baptised with the name Carolus for nothing. And Yob, actually

, means: the rewards of travel.

It was on my very first trip to Ghana in 1987, that I got to know Anselmy and his wife Catherina, his brothers Jonas Nifaasie and Gervase Waka with their families, his son Barth and his wife Cordelia and the extended family of the house of Yob in Hamile. To make Ghana the place where I would do my future research was in effect an armchair decision, when the Department of Social Anthropology of the Free University of Berlin asked me to organise student fieldwork in a West African country. Back then I had no idea that I would become so attached to Northern Ghana so as today to consider it to be a second home. But after having spent a week of my first trip at Anselmy and Catherina’s compound in Hamile I knew this was where I wanted to conduct my research. It was particularly the long conversations with Anselmy that impressed me: he, who had never been to school, spoke with great authority about the Dagara way of life and about their neighbours, about the history of his family and the Kpiele clan, about his earlier role in local politics and his estimation of the current government. And when he asked

-vii-

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Ethnicity and the Making of History in Northern Ghana
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Maps and Plates vi
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The North-West in the Nineteenth Century 14
  • 2 - The Introduction of Chieftaincy 33
  • 3 - The Discursive Creation of Ethnicity 72
  • 4 - The Lawra Confederacy Native Authority 104
  • 5 - Labour Migration, Home-Ties and Ethnicity 138
  • 6 - ‘Light over the Volta’- The Mission of the White Fathers 153
  • 7 - Decolonisation and Local Government Reform 175
  • 8 - ‘The Time When Politics Came’- Party Politics and Local Conflict 199
  • 9 - Ethnic Movements and Special-Interest Politics 228
  • 10 - The Cultural Work of Ethnicity 252
  • Epilogue 275
  • Notes 280
  • Abbreviations 322
  • Glossary 323
  • Divisional (Paramount) Chiefs of Lawra District 324
  • References 325
  • Index 337
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