This weekend, I had an intense personal experience with African traditional religion. Before you freak out, get some perspective.
Though I hold some views that would be considered radical in Ghana, in general, i’m a regular Ghanaian. I work. I take tro-tro. I dream of a better life. I look forward to teaching my children fante. Sometimes I go to church. But unlike many Ghanaians, when it comes to religion, I consider myself a truth seeker so I am open to learning about religions. I tend to think favourably of the Christian faith perhaps, because I was raised Christian and live in a society that largely favors that religion. But I know that I don’t know so I keep myself open to learning. What is ironic is that even though I claim to be exploring different religions, until this weekend, I wanted nothing to do with african traditional religion. Nothing to do with shrines, mmotia, abosom, and libation, and african spirits…I considered them evil.
So when a new acquaintance invited me to the meeting of traditional believers this weekend, this is what went through my mind… I cannot say for sure that African traditional religion is evil. I cannot say for sure that it is good. I know that I have been preconditioned to consider it evil. I also know that I do not know. I would like to find out, but I’m scared of the whole affair. My fear is an irrational fear. It is a fear of the unknown. I wanted to confront that fear. Because every time I confront my fears, I grow. Plus I was curious.
It was a truly interactive event. Everyone there seemed to have a role, whether it was translating the message into Ga, twi, or Ewe, drumming, clapping, or dancing. It was similar to a church service in some respects. For example there were readings from the same text which were then translated. The readings were followed by drumming and dancing. But it was also different from regular church. Many of the people took of their shoes. And when they danced, it was not free-style like we do in a church…these dances were traditional Ghanaian dances. Like adowa and agbadza. At one point, we were all encouraged to dance, and I looked so odd…I thought i’d look silly pretending to dance adowa or agbadza so I stuck to my usual church dance. I made a mental note to learn a traditional Ghanaian dance. I’d never had use for it, but now I was found wanting.
Oburumankoma ee!, Oburumankoma ee! Oburumankoma Odapagyan ee! Oburumankoma Odapagyan ee! Oson! Oson akyi nyi aboa.
Thoughts, questions, insights? If you’re reading this, I’d like to ask you, what experience, if any, do you have with African religion. Should we be exploring these questions, critically examining who we are, or is this a no-go area, better left unexplored? Should I take the next step to visit a shrine? Would you? Why or why not?