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Tigari musicians playing instruments outside during a ceremony
Tigari musicians during ceremony

The religious practice known as tigare first arrived in the coastal area of Ghana around the 1920s. This West African cult is believed to have originated in the Islamized and semi-arid Sudanic region and gradually spread to the south into the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and parts of Nigeria.

The tigare cult has at the center of its ideology a single supernatural force or deity named Tigare. Tigare is perceived by its followers as being particularly effective against evil magic, called juju, which is viewed as being put upon individuals not by forces of the spirit world but by other people, usually members of a victim’s own abusua (matriclan). Tigare priests and priestesses are viewed by their followers as being clever in uncovering the source and neutralizing the adverse effects of a juju spell that has befallen an individual. Whereas the akomfo serve the community at large and anyone who comes to seek their assistance in resolving problems, one actually becomes a member of a tigare priest’s shrine by taking an oath to Tigare. Thus the tigare priest is not involved in performing ceremonies for the general well being of the community, but to serving the individual needs of his or her followers. However, there are public ceremonies enacted by tigari priests (Anomabu had three such priests in the early 1990s) and their followers at regular intervals. At these ceremonies the priests and priestesses dance to the driving rhythms of drumming and to the singing of their followers.

The music heard at these ceremonies features a mixture of Fante and Northern Ghanaian instruments, including pressure drums and rattles that are of northern origin. The music is more rhythmically intense and less episodic than the music for akom. Although the music is certainly not composed, it is a good deal less spontaneous than in akom. The dance, like for akom, is performed only by the trained priest or priestess. However, the costume worn is quite different and again, like the music, displays clear influences from the North where men wear flaring smocks.

The public tigare ceremonies are more a display of music and dance centered on the projection of cult identity and solidarity than actual communication with the supernatural. Priests do not become possessed. Most likely the singing, drumming and dancing is for the entertainment both of Tigare and of the general population. Most of the actual work of the tigare priesthood seems to go on at their shrines and out of the public’s eye.

One researcher who has studied this cult speculates that the popularity of the tigare cult has been stimulated by the increased uncertainty in the lives of many Africans. This uncertainty has been brought about by changes resulting from the process of acculturation. The foreign economic, religious, and educational systems that have been introduced to Ghana are in many ways incompatible with indigenous cultural institutions and ways. This has lead to personal and social disorganization that is often explained in terms of being the result of evil magic being cast upon individuals. Tigare constitutes a hope for many in that this force is believed to have the power to uncover the sources of an individual’s misfortune.

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