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Ghana: Information on fetish called Akwasi-Akwasi in the Akan tribe, including whether the position of the fetish priest is hereditary by eldest nephew upon the priest's death, and the consequences of refusing the position

Publisher Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 3 May 2004
Citation / Document Symbol GHA42626.E
Reference 2
Cite as Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ghana: Information on fetish called Akwasi-Akwasi in the Akan tribe, including whether the position of the fetish priest is hereditary by eldest nephew upon the priest's death, and the consequences of refusing the position, 3 May 2004, GHA42626.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/41501c0a0.html [accessed 25 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

In a 29 April 2004 correspondence to the Research Directorate, an Associate Professor of Anthropology who has done extensive fieldwork on fetishes in Ghana provided the following information: The Akan people of Ghana actively worship a large number of major and minor gods, who are often addressed through a priest or priestess.

Such gods are referred to as "fetishes" in English using what was originally a derogatory Portuguese term. According to the professor, "[O]nce a god has been 'established' in a community or area ... the tendency and social expectation/practice is that a particular 'family line' acts as 'owners' of the shrine. ... [P]riestship commonly [is] hereditary." Regarding who inherits the position of fetish priest, the professor reported that the Akan people inherit through matrilineal descent. He explained that a man who is a priest would be succeeded in the role by his sister's son - his nephew. Other sources confirmed that the Akan people are known as a matrilineal society where nephews rather than sons inherit positions of power (Ghana Home Page 2004; U.S. Library of Congress n.d.).

Regarding the consequences of refusing the inherited position of priest, the professor explained that since the existence of such a god (or fetish) in the community is often critical to the well-being (including financial success) of the community, "the 'priest-designate' would be subject to considerable social, moral and psychological pressure (if not solid threats) to take the position."

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Reference

Associate Professor of Anthropology, York University, Toronto, Ontario. 29 April 2004. Correspondence.

Ghana Home Page. 2004. "The Ashantis." [Accessed 3 May 2004]

Country Studies. Ivory Coast: East Atlantic Cultures. n.d. United States Library of Congress. [Accessed 3 May 2004]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Africa Guide, Africa on line, Afrol, Akan Cultural Symbols Project online, AllAfrica, University of Manitoba anthropology department, British Council in Ghana.

Oral sources: Akan Cultural Symbols Project, CUSO, Global Volunteers, World Inter-action Mondiale, departments of anthropology at the University of Toronto, Trent University and McMaster University.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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