Religious Sphere

A komfo of Anomabu during a ceremony, performing in front of a crowd
Senior akomfo of Anomabu during ceremony

In reflecting about my stay in Ghana, in general, and Anomabu, in particular, the strongest impression to come to mind is how unpredictable and tough day-to-day existence is for the majority of Ghanaians I met. The price of petrol regularly increases–sometimes precipitously–and everything else follows in its wake, including staple foods, transportation, and school tuitions. Many people have no steady employment, and even those that do seldom see the degree of increase in the cost of living reflected in their salaries. In Anomabu, due to offshore international net fishing, the catch by local fishermen is not as good as in times past, and this understandably contributes to a stagnated local economy and a gradual slide closer and closer to a subsistence existence for the majority of people. Although ideas abound for enterprises and the desire to work is there, both start-up capital and consumers with disposable income are scarce.

Such adverse conditions encourage a variety of responses, not least among them being the tendency to look to the supernatural for explanations, assistance, and consolation. For many residents of Anomabu, ancestral spirits, nature deities, the supreme god Nyame, or Tigare are more likely to intercede and assist them in coping with the vicissitudes of contemporary life than is the Ghanaian government with its legal system and economic development programs. With this statement I do not intend to suggest that individuals are attracted to one religious tradition or another solely as a coping mechanism. Each religious tradition provides a dogma that helps explicate the mysteries of life, and this in itself can be compelling enough to attract adherents. At the same time, religious institutions in general almost always attempt to deal at least in part with the here-and-now by assisting its members with their problems of the moment. The nature of this assistance and to what sorts of problems it can be applied will vary, sometimes markedly, between religious institutions.

The four institutions touched upon in this section represent but a fraction of the spiritual orientations and institutions open to the residents of Anomabu. And although one might assume that any one individual orients him- or herself to one or another of these options, in reality it seems that at least some Fante subscribe to more than one of them simultaneously. Probably the least flexible social subgroup in this regard is the one comprised of highly educated Christians, who find little need to consult indigenous religious specialists. Yet even they, as far as I can tell, will, like most Fante, be compelled to maintain ritual ties with their ancestors through their abusua or matriclan. However, some Anomabu residents suggested to me that some Christians do, under certain circumstances, have recourse to seek out the aid of traditional religious specialists. I found it interesting that one of the drummers I knew in Anomabu, Reginald Mensah, who labels himself as a Methodist, was educated in church-supported schools, and wears a gold crucifix necklace, was also the lead drummer in both the akom and tigare ceremonies that are documented below. I don’t want to suggest that this is typical of Christians in Anomabu, only that it is possible for any given individual to subscribe to or participate in multiple spiritual traditions simultaneously.

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