Dancing with the Gods: essays on Ga Rituals by Marion Kilson – a book review by Gyau Kumi Adu

Book Review: Dancing with the Gods: essays on Ga Rituals by Marion Kilson (New York: University Press of America, 2013).

By Gyau Kumi Adu (joewykay55@gmail.com/ https://joewykay.wordpress.com/)

 

Analysis of Title

The book’s central theme is about important discussions on Ga rituals based on case studies she conducted on the Ga people of Ghana. The title “Dancing with the Gods” suggests two things. Firstly, that dance rituals (as dance movements) are very key in the execution of Ga rituals. In my view, this is plausible since many Ga dance rituals capture important aspects of the ritual life and process. Kilson argues that “Dance also was often an integral part of religious rituals. Dance was usually a communal rather than an individual act. The high point of most religious festivals usually involved some form of dance.”[1]

Secondly, the title suggests that Ga rituals mainly achieve union between mortal men and the gods. Kilson points out “The maintenance and restoration of order in the relations between God and man depend upon the performance of ritual by which mortal Ga attempt to establish contact with divinity and to achieve certain goals through this interconnection.”[2] Ga rituals are no exception. In fact, mediums (wͻŋtsɛmɛi) usually achieve spirit possession of the gods through dance rituals. Without this they cannot perform their most vital role of becoming communication lines by which the gods speak to the people. Ammah in the context of funeral customs reveals the way in which Ga mediums disclose the cause of death through the agency of dance rituals.[3] I have personally observed Ga rituals that emphasize on extended dancing procedures in order to let the gods descend (yishi) upon mediums. These dance rituals are a significant in maintaining unity between members of the community as well. They all sing, cheer and dance in unison.

A close look at the book reveals that Kilson’s concentration is rather on general theoretical discussions on Ga rituals than on dance rituals in praxis. Hence, the second point seems to be the more appropriate choice behind the choosing of the title. That is, dance representing the purpose of Ga rituals to achieve harmony between the spiritual and physical world, since they are not done in isolation; they are done in connection to the spirit world.

In my reflection, Kilson’s theoretical discussions on Ga rituals such as the Taxonomy and Structure of Ga rituals, puts her on par with scholars in ritual studies such as Victor Turner and Catherine Bell. Her writings have become very foundational texts, since these writings were done at a time that many people knew little about the nature of Ga rituals. What is very captivating is the comprehensive detailing of Ga ritual dates, periods, and events.

Continue reading “Dancing with the Gods: essays on Ga Rituals by Marion Kilson – a book review by Gyau Kumi Adu”

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Kings, Priests, and Kinsmen: Essays on Ga Culture and Society -Book Review: by Gyau Kumi Adu

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Book Review: Kings, Priests, and Kinsmen: Essays on Ga Culture and Society, by E. A. Ammah, edited by Marion Kilson (Accra: Sub-Saharan Publishers, 2016).

By Gyau Kumi Adu joewykay55@gmail.com

The thesis of the book is to inform readers about the Ga culture and society in general covering the time of the beginning of the Ga culture and ends at the turn of the 20th century. It uses an interdisciplinary-approach[1] of Ga philosophy, theology, politics, linguistics, religion, history and sociology. One significant theme running through all these essays is that the African culture is very rich, for that matter the Ga culture, in a wide range of subjects (as mentioned earlier).

Pertaining to how rich the Ga culture is in philosophy Ammah writes: “In the Ga Bible, wisdom is translated as nilee (knowledge of all things). But in kple, we have Oleete for wisdom. When used as Teteoleete, it means “the man who dwells in appearance and show of sense,” as Plato remarked long ago.”[2]

Concerning the depths of the Ga culture in sociology Ammah notes: ‘The sense of Ga community is built on the concrete foundation of… May our brooms be “thick,” may we obtain bestowable things to bestow on it, may it work for us that we may enjoy.…  It can be readily seen from this that the question of the group and that of the individual is not a problem in the Ga society.’[3]

In my view the book meets its main objective by covering these areas. It is a very classical book which will endure for many generations to come. It is very revealing. It covers many important subjects that the youth of Ghana are not privy to. One reason is that many Ga writings are difficult to come by. Some significant writings are also out of print.

Continue reading “Kings, Priests, and Kinsmen: Essays on Ga Culture and Society -Book Review: by Gyau Kumi Adu”

The late Nii Armar-Kojo Armar

Akli! and all those terms that easily came from your register – patent, absolutely, bottom line, those emphatic words will not resound any more.  You are truly at rest in the bosom of the Lord! Even in your last days when you were ill, very ill, you were still in your early-adopter mode: your aramis, your parker pen set, your accelerated learning programmes and yes your phone with a double or triple sim card.

for you things had to be done a particular way; a proper way, a perfect way.  your suits were immaculate and you always wanted to have that special tie pin and cuff links and yes again the gold cigarette lighter and the clutch bag.

But in your last days, the DVD set that you wanted was to enable you to watch and listen to the sermons from your church – Central – the pastor came to the home and prayed for you.

So we all wanted to remember you in a particular way even when you were fast deteriorating – so i have gone to my archives to pick this photograph of you for our memories.

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My dear wife, Ahinae did all she could to nurse you back to good health, to make sure that you were comfortable in your last days, my son Olumide ran all the errands around you, and several others participated in that effort of daily visits to the hospital and care home, and you  fought with all the life you had in you to the end till  your maker came for you, perhaps too soon, but only he knows the best time. and for us mere mortals much as we try, we will never understand the mystery of death.

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We are not Jews or descended from Jews. We are Ga!!!

We are not Jews or descended from Jews.  We are Ga!!!  by Ade Sawyerr

London January 2013

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Far too many times have I heard the myth repeated that the Ga are descended from Israel and in fact Jews.  I have always restrained myself from responding lest I trample on the sensibilities of those who want to believe in myths.

Let me state here emphatically that all the folklore of our people may have pointed to the fact that we migrated from afar but no one has been able to provide the evidence of this unfortunate myth.  I do not even know why it started, perhaps in the mind of some of our elders who felt so culturally inferior that they seek to boost their esteem by likening themselves to people who they felt were culturally successful and superior.  I sincerely think as we search for answers for our problems we need to be proud of our heritage, more importantly we need that positive make that will shake us out of our self perceived marginalisation so that we can help to build a better Ghana and Africa.

We cannot be Jews and we also cannot be descended from Israel and the earlier we wake up to that the better. Continue reading “We are not Jews or descended from Jews. We are Ga!!!”