The Krobo people are an ethnic group in Ghana. They are grouped as part of Ga-Adangbe ethnolinguistic group and they are also the largest group of the seven Dangme ethnic groups of Southeastern Ghana. The Krobo are a farming people who occupy Accra Plains, Akuapem Mountains and the Afram Basin.
The Krobo people are grouped as part of Ga-Dangme ethnolinguistic group and they are also the largest group of the seven Dangbe ethnic groups of Southeastern Ghana. They are farming people who occupy Accra Plains, Akuapim Mountains and the Afram Basin.
Presently, most scholars assume that the Krobo migrated from around the regions of Nigeria, crossed the Savanah westward through hostile lands and crossed the River Volta, and settled at the Tagologo plains, within the Accra Plains, later to be called Lolovor some where around the fourteenth century. (Lolovor means brotherly love is finished in allusion to community quarrels among the immigrants for control of farming land.) After wandering between the present sites of Ada and Lɔl vɔ Hill, they established their home on the Krobo Hill, where, to this day, may be seen the ruins of their old town, built of solid rock, as well as the remains of their ancient ritual shrines. Here, tradition says the Dangme tribes split up and went their several ways.
The Krobo under the leadership of Madza and Aklo Muase settled in a newly discovered plateau with steep sides and a few entry points, (The Krobo Mountain). On this mountain they lived for more than four hundred years. Once there, additional Dangme and even alien races escaping from tribal wars like the Akan as well as some Ewe groups were ritually admitted between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries.
The exact date on which the krobos divided themselves into Yilo and Manya krobo is still uncertain. According to one account, the Krobo remained a more or less united nation until 1858. It opined that, in 1858 Ologo Patu, the Chief of South Western Krobo led a rebellion against the Government. This owed its origin partly to the strong objection the people of the eastern districts had against the paying of poll tax, and partly to a quarrel with Odonkor Azu, the Chief of Eastern Krobo, whom Patu attacked. (In earlier years the Manya Krobo were known to Government as the Eastern Krobo, whilst the Yilo were known as the Western Krobo). From that date to this day, the Krobo have been administered as two separate States, named today as Manya and Yilo Krobo. Ologo Patu, or his predecessor that is theYilo, were said to have arrived on the Krobo Hill a very long time after the main body. He and his followers were said to have come from Denkyera probably after the collapse of that ancient Kingdom in the latter part of 17th century. Whether they were then of true Denkyera blood (ie Akan)and later adopted the customs of the Krobo, notably circumcision, and became absorbed into the main Krobo ethnic group as held by the Manyas, or whether they were remnants of the original migrants who had lost their way coming from Nigeria.
The two Krobo traditional areas were originally known as 'Nɔwe' that is Mănyă meaning "ones home" and Nyέwe (Yilɔ). The name Manya came from the word, Maonya‘ that is, "keep your mouth shut‘. This goes with the saying "nɔ bi nya me tee‘- literally meaning, "one does not need to talk about everything one sees‘. Yilo on the other hand comes from the expression "wa yilɔ‘, meaning "we don‘t eat that‘. Some oral traditions have it that, when the Yilo returned from Krobo Denkyera, they lost most of the indigenous Krobo customs. As a result of that, they were taken through series of aculturalisation rites to make them accepted into the society. This process involved orientation for meals that the Krobo tabooed. The Yilo continued to verify the acceptability of various foods they learnt to eat while they were with the Akan, the resident Krobo started calling them the derogatory term, "Wa yilɔ,‘- we told you ‗we don‘t eat this‘.
Huber (1993) also cited a deep valley and other mountain top features as natural geographical division between the two, with Manya to the northeast and Yilo to the South in their former mountain home. These notwithstanding, they all used to be described as Klo-mă (Krobo town). However, oral tradition describes a kind of co-operation among them which culminated in a kind of Parliament on Totroku. Totroku is said to be a big rock on the Krobo Mountain which was fenced with Sesreku plant and served as a ground for the deliberation of the community‘s problems.
The former also holds that there are three patterns of social groupings. These are Wetso, Kăsi, and We. According to him, the Wetso has twelve divisions in all (six for Yilo and six for Manya, and constitute the largest social unit in the Krobo society. The Wetso in its broadest term as it stands today could be described as a clan made up of either the original patrilineal kinship family tree‘ that has grown so large that some cannot easily trace their direct root to the one ancestry or the cluster of different ancestral roots that has come together as a division as the case may be. Such divisions were as far back as the days on the mountain, and which have evolved into political units and now headed by divisional chiefs. These are Dzebiam, Akwenɔ, Susui, Dɔm, Mănyă, and Pieŋua for Manya-Krobo, and Bɔnyă, Ogomέ, Bunase, Nyέwe, Plau, and Okpe for Yilo-Krobo respectively
The second social group according to him is the Kăsi which could be described as people from the same patrilineal ancestry. Literally, the term Kăsi means "people belonging to or eating from the same dish‘. These may be made up of households, all of whom traced their ancestry to one person. The political head of the Kăsi is the asafoatse and functions as a chief; he has a stool and celebrates his yearly stool ritual.
'We‘ are the next social grouping among the Krobo of Ghana. Literally,'We‘ or 'Webii‘ stands for people of a house. Each Kăsi is made up of several 'Wes‘
The Dipo ceremony used to last a very long time as there was no formal education and it served as vocational training for matured girls. It could last several months and even up to a year. The girls were camped and made to go through several processes, in the form of a “curriculum” for the training. They were taught how to tend a farm, collect firewood for cooking in the home (they had to have a reserve of firewood in their homes as good women because they could have visitors at night), fetching of water, doing dishes and laundering clothes. They were sent to a riverside and taught how to wash their clothes and learnt personal hygiene in the process. The girls also took turns to do the cooking during the period of seclusion. Pounding of the traditional fufu was taught and also how to serve food to the extended members of their husband’s family when they were married.
After going through this process, the blessing of the gods were sought for the girls and the ‘old lady’ gave the consent or approval that the girls have passed the training process and were ready for marriage. Some of the girls may have been betrothed before going through the rite. Their suitors were therefore expected to contribute to the performance of the rite for the girls. They also carried the girls from the shrine after the ultimate test of sitting on the sacred stone as a means of warding off other interested men. This also signified that they would one day carry the girl to their bed. The girls had their bodies exposed during the rite as a form of marketing – to show the members (especially men) of the community that the girls were beautiful and ripe for marriage and therefore attract potential suitors. They were taken to the market place to dance also as a form of exposure to the outside world. It was common in those days, for girls to be married soon after Dipo was performed for them. As evidence of initiation, marks were made on the back of the palms and wrists.
In line with this account, Teyegaga (1985) mentions three aspects of the Dipo custom as was originally performed by Nana Klowεki – the social, religious and outdooring aspects. The social aspect involved training in home management, housecraft and child-bearing. After this training, they went through three tests. The first was a test of their ability to performed household chores after which marks were made on their wrists. The second was the observation of their naked bodies by Nana Kloweki to confirm that she was physical mature for marriage and childbirth. Marks were given on their bellies after this test. The last test was a seal which comprised of incisions on the back of the waist which signified that it was only a girl’s husband who should be allowed to hold her waist. The religious aspect involved the climbing of the sacred rock, on which the girls were expected to dance amidst drumming and singing. A girl who fell during this activity was suspected to have conceived, which if confirmed, resulted in her expulsion from the tribe. The outdooring aspect involved a great feast which served as a family reunion. The girls were dressed in expensive beads and cloths and made to perform the Klama dance.
Most girls entered into customary marriages immediately afterwards and as such, “the real aim of establishing dipo custom….. that is to train and outdoor grown up girls for marriage” was fulfilled (Ibid:30). Teyegaga (1985:30) further states that “this is the original form of dipo custom in ancient days when Nana Klowεki was living with the Krobos on the Krobo Mountain…” There is however a difference in the way it is now performed.
(1) The stone and duration of Dipo
When the Krobos lived on the mountain, Dipo was performed there and when they settled on the plains, it was performed in the various communities. The sacred stone on which the girls sit at the climax of events was located on the mountain. According to Teyegaga (1985), it happened to be one of the sacred rocks which were on the mountain. The girls were expected to climb and dance on the rock.
Huber (1963) however mentions that there was only one large rock, Totroku or Tεgkpεtε on the mountain and it was this rock the girls had to climb. He further points out how the number of stones has multiplied since the settlement on the plains but his informants claimed that each stone “contains at least a particle of the original sacred rock on the mountain” (Ibid:178). Girls no longer have to climb a rock during initiation. They are rather made to sit on the sacred stone which is located within a shrine. The period in which the Dipo custom used to be held as have been drastically reduced from three years, then reduced to a year, six months, three months, three weeks, one week and finally the five days as they do now.
(2) Age of initiates
Unlike the past when Dipo was performed for matured young women who were of marriageable age, it is now performed for girls as young as two years and even infants. Huber (1963:193) mentions it, even at the time of writing, when he stated “even little infants are nowadays initiated.”
(3) Bodily exposure of initiates
Initiates are now allowed to cover their breasts with a wax-print cloth except when a ritual is being performed. This covering is allowed even in the Dipo house which was not the case in the past. Initiates had to be exposed the entire time during the initiation whether in the Dipo house or not.
A reason given for this change was the numerous criticisms against the practice. The Queen mothers explained that the bodily exposure served to attract men to the initiates and was a form of temptation for them. They therefore advocate that the girls be covered.
(4) Secret performances
Another change has to do with the performance of some rituals outside public view, the goat ritual for instance. The intestines it was claimed was still placed on the initiates but this was done secretly. The criticisms against the custom were attributed to this change. It was claimed that such practices made people regard the custom as fetish.
(5) Female carriers
Gone are the days when it was a reserve of men to carry initiates from the shrine. These days, women also engage in the carrying. It was more practical for men to do the carrying in the past as they were probably potential suitors
The girls were also a lot grown-up than they are now and with the large number of beads on their waists, they were very heavy. It was therefore easier for men to carry them. Women now engage in the carrying because the girls are now much younger. They are no longer betrothed so there is less motivation for the men to carry them as was the case in the past.
In the old days,after blessing the sacred stone of virginity: if a girl is found not to be a virgin, or, worse still, if she is discovered to be pregnant, she risks to be ostracized and will never attract a husband from their own tribe.
(6) Elimination of initiation marks and ability to avoid being shaved
The marks which initiates were given at the back of their hands, on their bellies and their waists are no longer given. It is only done symbolically. The priestesses only passed the blade on the hands without making any marks. Shaving of the hair could easily be avoided by paying money to keep it.
(7) Absence of ostracism
It is common knowledge that a girl who did not pass the litmus test of visiting the sacred stone was ostracized from the Krobo society. She was hooted at, banished and regarded as a shame to her family and the community at large, a bad example of womanhood. Such an occurrence is now virtually non-existent. It is not common to hear of a girl being ostracized. This could be attributed to paying for purification rituals so that girls who had previously conceived can be initiated.
The girls enter the ritual house where they shed all of their clothes and their ritual mother will dress them anew. The girls are given a new ritual mothers. Beckwith and Fisher (2002:16-17) make mention of these ritual mothers and state that “these women are not the actual mothers of the girls but serve as mentors to the initiates. The ritual mothers are empowered to teach the girls to become mothers in their own right.”The only thing that the girls will wear, is a single band of carnelian beads. A red piece of cloth will hang from this strand, which symbolizes the blood of menstruation. The color of the stones and fabric is believed to keep away the bad spirits to which the girls are the most vulnerable. The souls of the initiates are called prior to the performance of the rite so they could tell what exactly they wanted to be done for them during the rites. For example, if an initiate’s soul demanded she be dressed in a certain way or be given a certain dish, the organizers would grant this request. It is believed that if this is not done and anything is performed contrary to the wish of the initiate’s soul, it could have serious repercussions on her.
All of the girls will also have their heads shaved except for a little patch on the back of their head (This is called the Yisi-pomi), marking a new stage in their life. The little patch left on their head, will be shaved off when they are done with the whole initiation process. This is the first stage for the girls. To mark this stage, The girls are stripped naked and a string, bead in front with a blade. A string of palm fibre called soni was then tied around their necks. The tying of the string (soni) is performed by either the old lady of the house called yomoyo,the ritual mothers or the priestesses The girls were thus identified as Dipo-yo (which means Dipo girl. The plural of this is Dipo-yi).
The girls took turns to grind millet on a grinding stone. Two priestesses are in charge of this. One of them placed the girls’ hands on the stone three times after which the girls grind a bit of the millet. The younger girls are guided to this. Huber (1963:170) also describes this process and states that, "the old lady in charge holds the hands of each candidate. Three times they perform together the action of grinding, according to the old traditional way, i.e. by means of a smaller cylindrical stone they mash the millet grains upon a larger hollowed stone or a clay base to flour, which another initiate collects into a calabash.”
In the first three weeks the girls are secluded from the rest of the community. The morning following the day which their heads were shaved, they follow their ritual mothers to the river to bathe. The girls lined up with big calabashes in which they had a strip of red loin cloth, raffia sponge, soap, waist beads, wax print cloth and towel which were needed for the bath. The girls joined the queue as soon as they were called. They had their breasts exposed but wore the wax print cloth on their waists. The priestesses led the way to the well or a okwe stream followed by the girls with the younger ones in front, amidst singing by women. The very young girls were carried by their mothers. The girls stands on plantain branches to bathe and first had to wash the red cloth they had been wearing. The very young initiates were bathed by their mothers. After bathing, they had their necks, chest and shoulders smeared with a brownish substance which served as powder.
The initiates wore new red cloths and covered themselves with a wrapper from their waist downwards. They then walked back to the Dipo house with their calabashes containing the bathing sponge, soap, towel and the washed red cloths. This isn’t just a purification ritual, it also teaches the girls the correct way to cleanse themselves. After they are done with the bathing, they receive a special meal of water-yam, porridge, and palm oil which their ritual mothers prepared for them.The women also prepare the traditional meal, ho-fufui (Saturday’s fufu made from plantain) and palm nut soup with traditional cooking utensils. This meal is distributed to the girls to eat. According to Huber (1963), if a girl was betrothed, her groom had to contribute to this meal by providing foodstuffs from his farm and some of the food was served to maternal relatives of the girls. Some grooms even had to help in the pounding of the fufu.
When the food was ready, it was served in traditional bowls and once again, placed on the ground for initiates to eat in groups. A custom is performed before the initiates eat their fufu. The names of the initiates were called by the priest from a register. Upon hearing their names, the girls went to the priestess who first put pieces of the food in their mouth three times and they swallowed the third time. The initiates are allowed to eat the ho-fufui in groups after this. Later, the girls had their bodies marked by the priestesses with charcoal on the sides of their faces, chests and stomachs. The triple libation is performed by the priest and his assistant after which, water from a well is placed in a big calabash with some leaves in it. The assistant priest then pour this water over the priest’s head and also on his feet. The girls are then made to line up and take turns to wash with this water. They had to scoop the water with their palms and pour it over their heads so that it flows down their bodies. This is done three times.
The climax of the Dipo ritual is when the girls are brought to the scared rock to test their virginity. During this ritual they replace the red cloth with a pure white one. They also have a piece of calico around their head and across their chest. During this whole ritual the girls must remain silent. They have a leaf in their mouth which is supposed to help them remain silent and bring their thoughts inward. Their ritual mothers follow the girls to the sacred rock, all of them are carrying a special stick called dimanchu. Dimanchu means “to make you a woman.” Before they start their way to the stone, the girls are splashed with chalky water to ward off the evil spirits that they could encounter on their way to the rock.
Once the girls arrive at the rock the priestesses will inspect them to see if they are pregnant. The priestesses splash the girls with a blessed chalky water; if the young girl is pregnant the unborn child would tremble within which the priestesses would see and therefore be able to tell that the young girl is pregnant.. If a young girl would start to menstruate right there when she is splashed with this holy water, the rock will get even more power. The girls are test in the rock one by one. When a initiate passes the test she is run out by her guardian mother. This represents the chaos that used to exist. In the past there would be men from other tribes waiting to kidnap a newly initiated young girl. Preventing this, the guardian mother had to run the girl home has fast as she could so that she could be protected by their families.
Girls arrive home excited; they have completed their initiation process. Now they will be able to demonstrate to their family, friends, and future husbands what they have all learned in the three weeks that they were gone. For the celebration the girls dress up; they were many different color beads, a headdress called cheia, and beautiful cloths. Mothers beam with pride that their daughters passed the initiation. The girls are now accepted into the Krobo society as women.
A woman’s actions during pregnancy will determine many characteristics of the unborn child. There are many different practices to protect and help the unborn child. The most important thing is to protect an unborn child from the evil spirits. A future mother will make sure to avoid any place with these types of spirits.
Evil spirits have many different places and times where they are the most active. The times during the day such as late at night, when the sun is the hottest, or while the sun is setting are when the spirits are the most active. Being near the cemetery is another typical place where one could encounter many evil spirits.
While the mother is sleeping at night she will make sure to lay with her stomach facing away from the moon , the light of the moon gives off too many nyama (bad energy). Additionally, she will not allow anyone to touch her stomach so that no bad energy is transferred to the baby. Another way to try and keep the bad nyamas and spirits away v.was by wearing amulets and talismans.
There is a typical drink a pregnant mothers will drink to help insure a healthy and peaceful pregnancy. This drink consists of different herbs; roots of ntoro and other plants. Drinking kolobé with out sugar will help reduce the risk of diabetes during pregnancy. The mother of the unborn child isn’t the only one that needs to make sure to protect the unborn baby, the father does as well.
Just as the mother isn't allowed to observe any violence or blood, the father isn’t allowed to kill or partake in the killing of an animal. He must also stay away from the cemetery and cemetery path because of the high levels of nyama. Neither the mother nor the vi. father is allowed to eat the meat of an animal that might have been pregnant. The parents are also not allowed to pre-name their child or even think of names for the child, it would display a lack of respect to the spirit world. If a baby stays in its mother’s womb for more then nine months would be considered an extraordinary being. This child would be considered to have great potential in its life.
Reproduction is one of the most important jobs for women. Women who are fertile are celebrated whereas women who are infertile are looked upon badly suffer from the burdens which their community put upon them. There are different rituals though which women can do to help them conceive. Different animals represent feminine power, so women might use these in their rituals to increase their chances of conceiving.
The animals that they might use in their rituals are fish, tortoises, snakes, panthers, and leopards. There also is a ritual involving the tree of fertility which is called baobab.
Many times a couple will also visit a diviner to seek help. It could be that either the man or the woman is possessed by a spirit causing the infertility. There are people who would be capable of putting spells on women to lesson their chances of having a child. A diviner would be able to remove these spells as well. Some women though aren’t fertile because they have other callings. They are considered special women because they help the rest of the community through the mystical gifts and insights which they provide.
The birth of a child is a very special moment for African communities. They believe that it is a reintroduction of an honored spirit who has re-entered the world. During the first few years the child will wear a talismans to help protect it in its fragile time. Many times the babies will not be named until later when the parents know that it will survive. They believe that if parents call the child by name, the spirit of death will have an easier time taking it back. The Krobos will name their children depending on their sex and when they were born. For example Afi Dede means "Friday Firstborn Girl"; the baby will receive her first beads at her naming ceremony. After the first week of having worn these wrist beads, she will receive new beads which she will wear around her waist. As she grows it will be extended or replaced. Men will call it “a man’s rosary.
During the actual process of giving birth no man is allowed to enter the birthing room. The process of bringing another life into the world is a special act reserved for women. The to-be mother who is in labor will be surrounded by her female relatives. They will try and make the laboring process easier for her. Bringing the laboring female to the balanza tree is an option so that they can make offerings and ask for assistance in the labor.
Since there are many nyamas during labor the midwife will have many herbs, amulets, and talismans on her, while incantations are recited. Once the child is born, the midwife will cleanse it and then proceed to unite it with its mother.
A special bath is used to cleanse the newborn. A unique water, called calabash water, is used to remove the large amounts of energy that the baby carries. For the next month a women in the family is responsible for bathing the child. This includes blowing into its ear, quickly sucking either the nose or mouth and navel and spitting the bad nyama out onto the floor. The mother, like the baby, receives a special bath after the birth. Her sisters, along withother women elders, will bathe her with warm water, containing balanza bark, in an effort to help the healing process.
A child dying at a young age is a powerful message from the spirit world. One must observe the people and their actions around them, to see who has harmful attitudes or behaviors that could have caused the death. Observing ones relationship with nature to see if one had offended the spirits is also important to observe. If a spirit gets the impression that the family is too connected to the child, it would be reason enough to take the child back to the spirit world.
Spirits are supposed to teach gratitude, humility, and detachment. To demonstrate that they aren't attached to their future newly born children, a family will give them these names; “ragged clothes” or “garbage” . Families will also look at the new born for a familiar marking that they made on their previous child. If their new child has this mark its means that this child has the spirit of their dead child. The markings would have been made before the burial. There would have been special arrangements made to bury the child with potent charms, to try and increase the chance of the mother having more children and for the chance to have the spirit return.
After the baby’s first bath, mother and daughter are united. The first week is a critical week for mother and child. It is the most important bonding time for the two; the mother must also protect the baby from the evil spirit world. To help strengthen and protect her child the mother will give it herbs and medicines. She herself will also drink special herbs to recover from labor more quickly. Tying a piece of twig around the wrist of the child will also help protect it from harmful spirits and forces. The umbilical cord at this point isn’t completely off yet. Mixing shea butter and clay and placing it on the childs stomach, will help the umbilical cord fall off. Once it falls off, the family keeps it for medicine. For example, if a child would have a stomachache the umbilical cord will be dipped (three times for boys and four times for girls) into water which the child will then drink, to ix. make it feel better.
The Krobo bead makers are best known for their wonderfully colorful powdered glass beads. Made from recycled glass, the beads are still produced in open-sided, thatch-roofed huts, using traditional, labor-intensive methods.
Using a large mortar and pestle, the bead maker first pounds the sheets and shards of glass into a fine powder. After sifting the powder to remove any chunks, he (or, less often, she) adds small amounts of ceramic powder or "mason stain" to intensify the base color of the beads. The powder is then carefully poured into (usually) cylinder-shaped holes that have been carved into homemade clay molds. A stick from the casava plant is inserted into the center to form a bead hole.
Meanwhile, the bead maker has been firing up the clay oven, also homemade. He feeds it using brush and small logs which, if he lives in a town, must be obtained at great expense from outlying areas and hauled home in a rented truck. Now, using a long-handled spatula-like tool, he inserts the molds into the fiery oven.
As the beads fire, the casava sticks burn out, leaving holes in the centers of the beads. Once the beads have reached a putty consistency, the bead maker removes them from the oven and uses a tool much like an ice pick to loosen them in their molds. If they are done, he takes them out one at a time and presses down on one side to give the bead the slight curve that allows it to nestle comfortably up against its counterparts when strung into a circlet for market.
After the beads have been cooled and washed, the bead maker begins the painstaking process of painting his highly individualized designs on the beads. After each color is applied, the bead must be re-fired. The beads often have as many as five or six different colors on them.
The beads are then strung on cotton string into double circlets a little bit larger than an average-sized bracelet. They are tied off with triple knots and sent to market to find their way into the world.
Soul of Somanya buys its Krobo beads at market prices to offer for resale in the global marketplace. In addition to boosting local bead sales, this helps us to pay our jewelry artisans a consistent living wage while simultaneously increasing the visibility of, and demand for, these beautiful little works of art throughout the world. To date, we have shipped Krobo beads to well over two dozen countries worldwide.