Monday, July 22, 2013

KABYE (KABRE) PEOPLE: THE MOUNTAINOUS WARRIOR FARMERS OF TOGO AND THEIR UNIQUE EVALA AND AKPEMA INITIATION FESTIVALS

 "A husband's blood or sperm is "cooked" inside his wife's womb." Kabye proverb

                                                     Kabye people of Kara,Togo

Kabye or Kabre are farming and warrior voltaic Gur-speaking ethnic group living in the northern plains of Togo, West Africa. The Kabye constitute about 23% of  present Togo`s population and comes second after their bitterest political opponents, the Ewe people of the south. There about 730, 000 Kabye people living in Togo. Kabye also live in northern Benin under the name of Lokpa or Lukpa as the Kabye of Binah's prefecture in Togo are known.

                                               Kabye girls at Akpema festival

According to mythology, the first Kabiye would be directly descended from heaven in the village of Lama Dessi. Indicates the exact place, called EYU nahori , which translates to "the foot of man." On the spot today there is a sacred grove, became the center of pilgrimage for Kabiye. They revere the footprints of Awu, their first ancestor, which Eso, God did come down from heaven.
The Kabye are primarily known for farming and cultivation of the stony Kara Valley area of Togo as well as well as their traditional Evala initiation rite which is a form of traditional wrestling.

                              Kabye tribe Evala initiate,Togo

The  Kabye region has experienced significant infrastructure improvements due to the country's former president, Gnassingbé Eyadema, who was of Kabye ethnicity.
As the dominant group in politics, the Kabre are unlikely to become involved in militant or non-militant protests against the government. Under Gnassingbe Eyadema’s 38-year dictatorship, the Kabre ethnic group consolidated power as an advantaged minority. Their biggest threat to power has been the predominantly Ewe-led opposition, but recent events have diminished the likelihood of Ewe rebellion.

                         The longest serving Togolese ex-president Gnassingbe Eyadema is a Kabye man

 Eyadema died in February 2005 and although Eyadema’s son won the disputed emergency elections held after his death, Faure Gnassingbe (Eyadema’s son) has demonstrated a willingness to reform the government, decreasing the threat of rebellion by the opposition. If the country successfully transitions to a power-sharing, democratic government, then most likely the Kabre’s current political, economic and social freedoms will not be affected, while the Ewe will see their political fortunes rise.

        Kabye man and president of Togo, Faure Gnassingbe, son of former president Eyadema

Kara is the heart of the North visit Togo. The city can radiate to the many natural and cultural sites in the region whose landscape Koutammakou World Heritage of UNESCO. Kara has an important hotel structure and many restaurants. Kara is a growing city. It quickly became a modern administration and production center within the objectives of the government to create infrastructure in all regions.
 
                                     Kabye men

Mythology (creation story)
Kabye profess that the first human being was an androgynous being who descended from the sky, which is said to be male, to the Earth, which is female. Kumberito landed between two small mountain ranges where the Kabre community is currently located. For some years, Kumberito roamed the caves and plains, eventually becoming frightened by what he thought were the sounds of men coming to kill him, but were only sounds of owl-like bird (mututukuγu) hooting in the night.
Newly initiated kabye girls

 He subsequently fled to the mountains of the northern massif, where he settled in (in the present day community of Farang). He built a house above ground, and ultimately produced the children who founded the area's other communities. At death, Kumberito came back to the Earth, along with his descendants for they were buried in caves in the ground.
The myth begins as Kumberito is unable to balance an opposition between sky and Earth. He decides to climb the mountain located between the two and then is able to establish the balance needed so that he lived in peace and generated the livelihood that the Kabre experience today. To honor Kumberito and their ancestors, the Kabre bury their dead in caves—hence the term for ancestor, ateto, or "underground person." More important, the Kabre continue to embrace the tradition of balance that Kumberito exhibited on the mountain by generally living in houses that are not located in the highest points near their ancestors tombs. Instead they live on the hillsides and valleys, understanding that living near the tombs might upset some wandering spirits, possi­bly causing harm to their families. The balance in living in the "low" parts of the mountains occurs because "low" is female according to Kabre, whereas "above ground" is male. This represents the balance between sky and Earth; living in the low part of a mountain, which is above ground, is essentially living between the sky and the Earth, again creating that balance, just as Kumberito had long ago.

            Kabye tribe man, President Faure Gnassingbe,son of Former President Gnassingbe Eyadema

History
Population buildup in the mountainous area of northern Togo, where Kabre live today, occurred during the 17th and 18th centuries in response to the slave raiding practices of the northern kingdoms of Mamprussi, Dagomba, Mossi, Gonja and Bariba. In an effort to escape these militaristic states, people fled southward into the mountain region, which was more difficult to attack. According to Piot "the Kabre people probably migrated into this region during the time of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1700-1850. During that time, villages were often violently raided for slaves, so many communities retreated to the mountains where it was easier to defend."
former president Eyadema

This historical account of invasion  is in tandem with Konkomba tribe oral history showing that they and Kabye people originated from one source in Ghana. The story of the invasion is briefly stated by Konkomba and recited at length in the drum chants of Dagomba. I quote a Konkomba elder. "When we grew up and reached our fathers they told us that they (our forefathers) stayed in Yaa [Yendi]. The Kabre and the Bekwom were here. The Dagomba were in Tamale and Kumbungu. The Dagomba rose and mounted their horses.  We saw their horses, that is why we rose up and gave the land to the Dagomba.  We rose up and got here with the Bekwom.  The Bekwom rose up and went across the river. . ."
 . . .the Dagomba invasion . . . according to one account, occurred in the early sixteenth century in the reign of Na (Chief) Sitobu.(Tait, David (ed Jack Goody), The Konkombas of Northern Ghana OUP 1961 ).
Kabye Evala contest

 Despite these efforts, Kabre peoples were still caught up in regional slave trade. Located, as they are, so close to the Asante and Dahomey kingdoms, both of which sold slaves directly to European merchants, the Kabre supplied slaves to these and other powerful centralized states. Perhaps in an effort to maintain societal stability, Kabre sold their own kin into slavery, rather than suffer the consequences of slave raids.
 
                                                      Kabye people of Lama-Kara,Togo


After the slave raids ended, there was a period of peace where the Kabre people developed their excellent agricultural skills. However, when the German colonized the area, the Kabre people were forced to work on the infrastructure of the country, and they built much of Togo’s roads and railroads. When the Germans lost World War I, they ceded “Togoland” to France and Britain. The French had the portion that is now known as Togo (Piot, 35, 41).

                                                  Kabye people,Kara,Togo
Language
The Kabre language, also spelled Kabiye, Kabye, Kabure or Kabrais is a Gur (Voltaic) language pertaining to the greater Niger-Congo language family.
Kabye girl dancing at Akpema festivities

The number of native Kabre speakers is estimated at 730,000, with approximately 700,000 speakers living in Togo, 30,000 in Benin and a small number in Ghana.

                 Kabye family enjoy traditional drink at Evala festival

Economy
Essentially an agricultural people, the Kabre of Togo live in the Kabre massifs located in the northern part of the country. A small percentage of the Kabre population lives in the central and southern regions of the country where they are employed as agricultural workers. The sophisticated agricultural skills of the Kabre have allowed them to cultivate for several centuries a terrain that is relatively infertile and vulnerable to erosion due to the lack of a protective tree cover.

                                     Kabye boy farmer watering farm

The Kabre agricultural knowledge and techniques have earned them the following description by Leo Frobenius:” 'No other people in Africa work their fields as intensively as Kabre, here was a black people of Africa … who have attained the heights of science" (quoted in Piot, 1999). Kabre farmers produce millet, corn, peanuts, yams, sorghum and manioc. While Kabre farmers are essentially crop producers, they also raise some livestock, especially small animals and poultry. They are mostly used for trade, sale or sacrificial purposes and rarely for household consumption. Sheep and goats make up most of the livestock, although wealthier families sometimes own cattle.

                                      Kabye people at their farm

Among the household animals there are cats and most especially dogs. Research has shown that when these mountains were entirely covered by forest, the Kabre were primarily hunters and secondarily farmers (Verdier 1975). This explains the important presence of dogs today among the domestic animals.

                                                            Kabye family
Craft: Kara region
Mountainous soils difficult to work places, enhancement of the environment depends largely on the expertise of farmers and artisans.
Iron work thus reveals a tradition that plunges its roots in the ancient times. The ruins of the blast furnaces and Nangbani Bandjéli in the prefecture of Bassar remain still alive witnesses of this ancient tradition. A Tcharé, Pya and Yadé in the prefecture of Kozah you can admire the work of traditional blacksmiths use as an anvil and hammer boulders mountain to beat the red-hot iron.
The women's crafts in the region interested in pottery, weaving, dyeing and basketry. The market Ketao, we can find all the products of local crafts, pots up for millet beer, the clay pipes and baskets.

                                          Kabye woman feeding her baby in her hut
Commercial activities: 
Traditional pottery (Pya Pittah) essentially feminine activity, traditional pottery is done with bare hands without special tools. Unique to the Kabye people is the tradition of using broken pieces of pottery as ornamentation on the floor of their courtyards. It is basically a single colour mosaic making patterns on the floor. It is very decorative, but the pictures don’t do it justice as it was such bright sunlight.
Kabye woman pottery maker

Kabye settlement
The Kabye people build their houses (desi) in a unique style called sokala. It means that each family compound has the walls attached to the next house, thus in effect creating an entire fence around the compound. One enter the compound of the settlement through a vestibule, into the main courtyard. Each compound consists of a house for the husband and one for each of his wives, various storage and granary buildings and maybe a kitchen.

                                   Kabye settlement

Division labour
In kabye society men perform all the farming activities whilst the women engage in food processing- both for domestic consumption and for sale in markets. Marketing of farm produce is largely carried out by women.

                                 Kabye women pounding grain

Also, in reproduction, it is believed that the Kabre husband’s blood or sperm is "cooked" inside the wife’s tomb and children are produced. The wife’s womb symbolizes a pot of water; if a miscarriage occurs, it is said that the woman spilled her pot of water on the way back from the spring and must refill it by becoming pregnant again.
Kabye (kabre) women grinding pepper on traditional grind-stone,Kara,Togo

 Interestingly, the consumption of sorghum beer (a female prod­uct) by the male stimulates the ability to produce children, whereas the consumption of porridge (a male product) enhances that same ability in women. Thus, the idea of balance reflected in the myth is manifest again.

                                            Kabye women

Land tenure and inheritance
Historically, Kabre land was uncentralized, and on occasion tribute was demanded by their centralized neighbors. Families do own land, but often this land is lent out to others in order to establish gift giving ties, and products which grow naturally on fallow land are not considered the property of the owner.

                                       Kabye people dancing at Evala initiation festival

Socio-political structure
Kabre society is a hierarchical and acephalous one based on a system of masculine and feminine age groups, as well as initiation rites, its educational corollary. Initiation rites are at once a process of gender
differentiation based on the Kabre metaphysics of the original androgyny of humans (Piot 1999), and a process of structuring moral awareness and religious sentiments through an internalization of three basic experiences : community life, mystical life and the evocation of the ancestors (Keyewa 1997).
Kabye (kabre) old woman clapping joyfully at Akpema initiation festival

 The brief description of some aspects of the Kabre community just presented above determines, to some extent, the symbolism inherent in the Kabre onomastic system which is the object of the following section.

                                           Kabye boy
Religious Belief
Kabye believe in supreme being called Eso. Eso is a creating God to whom the whole earth and everything that is in it belongs to, and who is the Father of mankind. He gave order to the world by his word,Esotom, the first man Esotisa, "the God`s messenger," was made the trustee of the God`s plan, Esodutu, and of all the rules meant to regulate the relationship s of individuals amongst themselves and to govern the society.
Kabye (Kabre) man slaughtering fowl to the Eso (God) for blessings during initiation

The trustees of these rules, Sonsi, is the priest Coco, who is the descendant of  the first man and representative of God on earth. The transgressions of these rules impairs social equilibrium and transmission of life (fertility-fecundity), for which he is accountable and responsible.
Kabye (Kabre) man slaughters goat as its blood pours into the bowl for sacrifice to Eso (God) to bless the initiation process

If God, owing to his immensity and infinity, is impenetrable to those who have not receive him the gift of prophesy and divination, he nevertheless does not cease to act and be present among men. Eso laki: God acts, he acts directly or indirectly. The God who assist and forgive (Eso sinam, eso kpem)is also the one who chastises (Eso nasa i) by brandishing lightening, by striking (Eso kpata i) by sending epidemic, droughts, sterility When truth is impenetrable to men, they rely on God ( Eso kana, " that God sees them) or solicit his judicial powers in trials by ordeal.
A member of the Kabre community in Northern Togo is initiated into adulthood. His outfit reflects the integration of traditional values with foreign and mundane objects, as a celebration of both worlds.  -- by Andrea
A member of the Kabre community in Northern Togo is initiated into adulthood. His outfit reflects the integration of traditional values with foreign and mundane objects, as a celebration of both worlds.

Eso we: God is; he is present in holy places, diweri ("places of  presence"), sanctuaries of great ancestors who revealed God`s might and who today are mediators between man and Creator.
These spirits, Akoloma, who bears witness to Eso`s words and sacred ordinances (Kade), are at the same time man`s mediator with God, they are at the junction of two worlds, human and divine, and they ensure communications from one to the other.

                    Kabye Akpema initiates performing candle rituals

Respect to Ancestral Customs
Atetena are the ancestors,-literally, those who are in the grave. they watch over men and they are always present among them. Death, in fact, only affects the body, the two spiritual places of Kaliza and Wayiyu that exist in person is immortal, so that death does not mean cessation of life, but passage from one mode existence to another; after the performance of funeral ritual and setting of his altar into the family home, the deceased takes his place henceforth in the lineage of his ancestors, and by perpetuating it, insures the transmission of life to the future generations. Read further here:kabre+name+for+god&source.

Kabre recognize the role the ancestors played in the formation of society. They are remembered as previous owners of the land and are thanked annually for the contribution they made to the development of agriculture in the area. Ancestors are remembered for the work they put into making the fields. A portion of each year's crops is set aside for the ancestors and offered to them as an expression of gratitude.
Kabye initiation and sacrificing of animals to the ancestors

 Kabre believe in witchcraft and further believe that a witch receives money in exchange for eating an individual. Given the relative disdain for cash exchanges outlined above, it is possible to imagine why witches, symbolically charged with representing what is unacceptable to the society, would be paid in currency.
Akpema initiate

Initiation rites
Kabre people do not believe that the child is a part of their family until they found whom of the ancestors he represents. Only after this the child is identified with one of dead ancestors he is treated like family member. The concept of gender is also different in Kabre community.

                        Kabye female initiate at Evala ceremony,kara

 They define the gender of the child only after initiation, which becomes a symbolic act which makes the child to loose his androgynous nature.
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                               Young kids performing Evala wrestling contest for their initiation

The Kabre communities are organized into two groups: male and female. Each group has a ritual­istic role in the community, and they both are responsible for ceremonies based on both age grade and calendar, which occur during their sea­son (the female season is during "wet season" and the male season is during "dry season").

                                        Kabye kids

In one particular situation, during the kojunduku (the age-grade initiation that takes place during the "wet" female season), the male group gives a per­formance of dogonto, which "dries out" the wet season temporarily.

                                Kabye kids being initiated into adulthood during Evala ceremony

 The female group also per­form a fertility ceremony that balances the male dry season. More important, both groups consist Of males and females, and males sometimes fulfill "female" roles just as females may take on "male" roles. The individual’s performance in a particular role is the determining factor as to which role that individual may play.

                 Kabye men marching to the field for their Evala contest

1. They are mainly famous because of their male initiation ritual called Evala which takes place every year in the area of Kara: It is a kind of traditional fight aiming at bringing the opponent down.
2. In each tournament, 5 young men from 18 to 20 fight against five others. Rules are not really clear but when time is up, each fight ends either with one competitor wining or with a draw. There is no final ranking; the only thing that remains is the brave behaviour of the wrestlers.
3. Evala is the very first initiation to manhood for a Kabye teenager. Before following these rituals, the young men are trained both psychologically and physically for a fair amount of time. In the Kabye area, a young man who shrinks from his initiation will be punished by the wise men, his parents and the entire society. In a way, such a young man would be excluded from his community.
Akpema dance

4. The main purpose of this ritual is to make the young man tough, brave and stoic. The cultural part of the event is emphasized by the many sacrifices the teenager has to agree to: fasting, sexual abstinence and scarification are the external signs of a warrior.
5. The traditional aspect of the ceremony is stressed by the presence of the community wise men. They are the ones who make sure the rules are respected by supervising and arbitrating the tournaments. The dates of the ceremonies are decided after a consultation with the oracle and the authorization given by the great fetish priest called "Tchodjo". After the fights, the traditional priests visit all the sacred places to thank the ancestors for allowing the ceremony.
Akpema initiation

6. The female imitation called Akpema glorifies the maturity of the young women’s’ bodies from then on publicly recognized as ready for motherhood and marriage.

                                 Girl initiates
7. The male initiation is completed by the Kondona rites gathering together every five years all the young men who went through the Evala.
The ceremony is characterized by two high lights:
Listening to the elders on top of the hills,
Enjoying festivities in the villages.
The young men are from then on definitely considered as members of the adult community.
Kabye people
Evala initiation
Evala (traditional wrestling ceremony) Evala is a form of traditional wrestling that the Kabye people in the community practice. Competitors meet yearly in a festival. Evala is the culmination of a week of initiation which marks the transition of young males into adulthood (Kabiye efalu , meaning "new men.") In the community, young men are allowed to begin wrestling at the age of 20.

 They learn to wrestle during a period of 3 years. Then they take a rest for a year. They resume wrestling after the period of rest and go through the Evala ceremony. The initiation lasts a week and involves isolating the young adults from their families and keeping them in special huts where they are fed and put through their mental paces. At the end of the week, the participants go on a pilgrimage which involves climbing three mountains. Anyone who does not complete this pilgrimage cannot be initiated into adulthood. The penultimate element of this initiation rite is Evala, a wresting day where wrestlers are pitched against opponents from other villages. All wrestlers will be initiated regardless of whether they win or not. However, losing is considered shameful to the family name. The final process of this initiation ceremony consists of circumcisions. During the wrestling, the women mock the wrestlers, singing 'come on, you think you are a lion? you are not a lion!' Evala normally takes place in July.
                                                      Kabye people

Habye (religious festival of the Kabyé Kozah.) This is a magical dance demonstration. it is an opportunity to demonstrate the strength occult sorcerers.
 It provides for the initiated, the opportunity to prove a mutually control the forces of nature. It is held every five years in November. It is also Triennial in some cantons Kozah.

Sinkaring
Sinkaring (Party initiation and harvesting of Kabye of Binah).  Sinkaring comes from a couple of verbs Sankuu means washing hands, purify and Karuu which means being ready to face the trials of life . Sinkaring which has its origin in Lama Tessi is a test by which the young are subjected Kabye of Binah in endurance and strength so that he can defend his community. This is a test for the young to enable their integration into the adult class. It is also a harvest festival because after the songs and dances, just tasting donuts bean and the local drink, fruit of new crops. it is rotatable one canton and is celebrated annually on the first Saturday of December


Source:http://www.njas.helsinki.fi/pdf-files/vol18num3/batoma.pdf
photo source:Edward Perry
Evala festival under Eyedema
Before the contest each competing family performs rites of ancestral worship. Spirits of the ancestors dwell in these clay loaves, each of which represents a forefather. The elder of the family talks to the clay as if he is talking to a family member.

Then the headman comes forth, invokes the ancestors dwelling in the clay, and pours a libation.
Sacrifice is also performed as part of the ceremony and the feathers in the clay are the result of these repeated acts of worship. For big events such as this these clay loaves are moved carefully and respecfully out of their niches and then worshiped. The white cock flutters its wings, an occurrance which the local people believe is a sign of the ancestors welcoming their guests. They chant cheers and applaud.
The women are preparing a local food, a favorite of the indigenous people, made from boiled yam mixed with cassava. This food is to be served to the wrestlers after the contest.

When the chicken is ready, it is presented to the ancestors first, together with a bowl of corn wine.
The ancestors are supposed to eat first so they will then help and protect the family. The chicken is served together with the yam-cassava food and seasonings. Each one of the ancestors is treated with solemnity.
After the worship the clay loaves are sent back to the niches. The board fence at the entrance keeps out the cats and dogs.

Now the wrestling contest begins. The match is, in fact, between two tribes. The chief is the judge.

With their tribesmen cheering, the wrestlers pay homage to the chief.

Now they withdraw for the warm-up and the cheering becomes louder from both tribes, as they urge their men and attempt to dishearten the opponents.

The wrestlers arrive sprayed with white powder, a symbol of valour.

First three pairs of young boys do the wrestling, as is the set procedure of the event. Kabre boys learn to wrestle when they are very small so wrestling is an important discipline in their upbringing. When they reach their 18th birthday, they will finally be allowed to take part in the contest.

Now come the adult wrestlers. Every year in July Kabre young men gather in the northern city Kara to compete in a weeklong wrestle contest and a male must compete for three consecutive years from the age of 18 before he can be considered a man.

In the first year young men who have only just reached the age of 18 compete with one another. In the second and third years contests are held within villages until the overall championship is decided. This system of wrestling competitions apparently began with the practice of settling inter-tribal conflicts through wrestling rather than war.

The contest goes on through the afternoon to dusk with the competitors giving their best effort to the fights. The reason why this impromptu event has been called for doesn’t seem to matter.

A wrestler’s exertion is given appreciation, whether he wins or not and the tribe recognizes him as a man. A man who has never wrestled is not considered an adult, especially not among his peers.

Wrestlers who have successful been through the male initiation call at the chief’s home.

The winner of the contest becomes the subject of public admiration. He can compete for five or ten more years, and people will say, “Look, this is a real master wrestler!” The president of Togo, Eyadema, was just such a wrestling master 40 years ago before he enlisted as a soldier.

Sunset paints the sky golden and songs of triumph are still being heard over the Kabre village. It goes, “We are brave fighters. We always win.”

Togo’s Kabre president Gnassingbe Eyadema was born in Pya, just five kilometers from Kara. The president’s older brother died just last April. Kabre people celebrate the first anniversary of a person’s death if they were over 80 years of age when they died. This ceremony is called the ghost worship ceremony.

The ceremony can, in fact, be costly. A well to do family can afford a procession of no more than a hundred people or so and this means that families who are rather more hard up simply have to forgo it. We had the chance to witness such a ceremony. Over 160 women hold ox heads overhead, their clothes bearing portraits of the president’s brother, who died at 86 years of age. The local people sacrifice ox heads to the dead. Air-dried ox heads are kept for later use while some of the fresh ones are taken by the women as a reward.

President Eyadema attends ceremony. He’s been in power for 36 years and he is, in fact, Africa’s longest-serving head of state.

The villagers dance vigorously with reed stems, which the women will burn for cooking. The more a woman participates in ceremonial activities, the more she is venerated. The reed dancers parade around the courtyard three times in worship of the gods, beginning for rain and showing their allegiance to the president.

Now the wrestling contest begins. The match is, in fact, between two tribes. The chief is the judge.
With their tribesmen cheering, the wrestlers pay homage to the chief.

Now they withdraw for the warm-up and the cheering becomes louder from both tribes, as they urge their men and attempt to dishearten the opponents.

The wrestlers arrive sprayed with white powder, a symbol of valour.

First three pairs of young boys do the wrestling, as is the set procedure of the event. Kabre boys learn to wrestle when they are very small so wrestling is an important discipline in their upbringing. When they reach their 18th birthday, they will finally be allowed to take part in the contest.

Now come the adult wrestlers. Every year in July Kabre young men gather in the northern city Kara to compete in a weeklong wrestle contest and a male must compete for three consecutive years from the age of 18 before he can be considered a man.

In the first year young men who have only just reached the age of 18 compete with one another. In the second and third years contests are held within villages until the overall championship is decided. This system of wrestling competitions apparently began with the practice of settling inter-tribal conflicts through wrestling rather than war.

The contest goes on through the afternoon to dusk with the competitors giving their best effort to the fights. The reason why this impromptu event has been called for doesn’t seem to matter.

A wrestler’s exertion is given appreciation, whether he wins or not and the tribe recognizes him as a man. A man who has never wrestled is not considered an adult, especially not among his peers.

Wrestlers who have successful been through the male initiation call at the chief’s home.

The winner of the contest becomes the subject of public admiration. He can compete for five or ten more years, and people will say, “Look, this is a real master wrestler!” The president of Togo, Eyadema, was just such a wrestling master 40 years ago before he enlisted as a soldier.

Sunset paints the sky golden and songs of triumph are still being heard over the Kabre village. It goes, “We are brave fighters. We always win.”

Togo’s Kabre president Gnassingbe Eyadema was born in Pya, just five kilometers from Kara. The president’s older brother died just last April. Kabre people celebrate the first anniversary of a person’s death if they were over 80 years of age when they died. This ceremony is called the ghost worship ceremony.

The ceremony can, in fact, be costly. A well to do family can afford a procession of no more than a hundred people or so and this means that families who are rather more hard up simply have to forgo it. We had the chance to witness such a ceremony. Over 160 women hold ox heads overhead, their clothes bearing portraits of the president’s brother, who died at 86 years of age. The local people sacrifice ox heads to the dead. Air-dried ox heads are kept for later use while some of the fresh ones are taken by the women as a reward.

President Eyadema attends ceremony. He’s been in power for 36 years and he is, in fact, Africa’s longest-serving head of state.

The villagers dance vigorously with reed stems, which the women will burn for cooking. The more a woman participates in ceremonial activities, the more she is venerated. The reed dancers parade around the courtyard three times in worship of the gods, beginning for rain and showing their allegiance to the president.
The hunter’s dance is to demonstrate the valour of the people.
Men are sprayed with white powder, as are the wrestlers in the initiation.

The men in red caps are called warrior, the best of all fighters. The Red Cap Dance is regarded as a symbol of adulthood and courage in the male initiation ceremony.

A mourning ceremony always ends up as a carnival for the children. After the ceremony those still alive can forget the dead and get on with the business of living their lives. This has been a farewell to the dead.

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                                             Kabye initiate dring traditional beer

KABYE AND DOGS
Dogs have a special status in relation to the other animals. They are close enough to man to deserve to be named (in fact they are the only animals to be so singled out) and they are close enough to other animals to never reach the status of pets.
Kabye man holding a dog

 For mythological reasons they are maintained in a state of half wildness as it were, which confers on them an unavoidable character of taboo (Verdier 1975, 1982). Through their function/role as hunters and guardians, dogs turn out to be their masters’ indispensible companions. But at the same time they are their worst enemies and traitors because they are believed to be at the root cause of man’s death (Verdier, op.cit.). At once man’s companion and traitor, the dog takes the place of man in certain sacrificial rites; it is as if he shows his present fidelity by paying for his original treason with his life.
Kabye man holding a dog


Some photos of Evala and Akpema festivals 






































1 comment:

  1. thanks for your blog -- found it for a research paper for a middle school kid. Pictures are stunning. Cant even fathom the cultural differences between their country and ours (midwest USA) , but these pix and descriptions help. thanks

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