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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Earth Shrines and the Politics of Memory in Dagbon
Author:MacGaffey, WyattISNI
Year:2004
Periodical:Ghana Studies
Volume:7
Pages:11-24
Language:English
Geographic term:Ghana
Subjects:Dagomba polity
myths
traditional rulers
shrines
Religion and Witchcraft
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
History and Exploration
Abstract:This article questions the validity of myth in African society by re-examining the national myth of Dagbon in the Northern Region of Ghana. The author does not propose to tell the 'true' history of Dagbon and the Dagomba people, but to construct an alternative myth as a critical and heuristic device. The heart of his argument is to reintegrate politics with religion and vice versa. The accepted premise has been that at one point in time an outsider, Sitobu, established himself in the vicinity of Diare and displaced the authority of the 'tendaana' priests, the keepers of the earth shrines. The author, however, prefers to argue that instead of thinking of two kinds of people: passive, religious 'tendaanas' and their followers, and secular, political invaders, it would be more useful to consider both as necessary components of a single society. He refers to what he perceives to be the two dimensions of an agricultural society: space and time (or as Victor Turner (1975) has suggested, 'communitas' and 'societas'). Rather than seeing them as occurring in two different spheres, he prefers to think of them as complementary. They are constantly in flux in response to political and economic pressures. Rather than seeing the royal chiefs of 'alien blood', he argues that they are in fact 'nabiyonga' (vagrant princes), always endeavouring to move closer to Yendi, the site of the former capital, as opposed to the 'tenbihi' (commoners), rooted in one place. The course of time has produced various forms of accommodation and resistance, and it is always advisable to allow for other stories besides the dominant one. Bibliogr., notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]
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