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Debating Trokosi

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Julie Jenkins

on 29 April 2015

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Transcript of Debating Trokosi

Debating Female Ritual Slavery in Ghana
"Trokosi as Slaves"
--"those who have been appointed by their families to serve in the shrines as reparation for crimes committed by other members of the family"
--takes on punishment by becoming a slave
--initiated without consent
--sexually abused by priests
--physically abused by priests
--forced to work for priests
--no right to education, health care
--stigmatized by community & family
Punctured Hope
Film by Toronto Pictures
How would you approach this research? What kinds of topics do we need to explore? What kinds of research questions?
Why initiate a fiasidi?
What do Fiasidi do??
Did violations occur in other shrines? Is it slavery perhaps in the Tongu districts?
"I am a slave...servant of God, he is my master. I have to do his bidding."
Who are the "Ewe"??
--examine in relation to a mobilisation of and contestation over meanings within a number of different settings & socio-political contexts.
“Some people claim that people who are admitted into the Troxovi Institution are there to atone for the crimes of their relations. This notion is false (or at best a misconception) because admission...is a privilege extended to a family which fails to properly bring up its members to be of good behaviour....[the Fiasidi] is meant to be educated to become a role model in his/her family in particular and society in general”

"The Fiasidi, the sign-post, is not a slave nor a prisoner.”
--offense against deity's 'children'
“Some have been saying lies about us. People say we send the deity to kill or hurt people, that people ask us to do this [through petitions]. But it’s not true. The people who do wrong bring the bad things [nuvowo] onto themselves. They call the deity because of their doings. The priest doesn’t know what happens until someone comes to tell him, this is what is happening in our family... If there is no wrongdoing in the world, then the deities will stop working. Mawu put them on the ground to judge and to deal with everyone after he left...The deities see the wrongdoing. People doing bad [wo nuvo] against another, using black powder, thieving and the deities send punishment to reveal the wrongdoing. Which is better to reveal the wrongdoing or to hide, as the Christians do? The god reveals the wrongdoer to everyone so he will change his behaviour. This is why the family is affected. So they can know the crimes of their members. The priests and everyone here is on the straight path...No one can tell the god the punishment. Rather he decides what he does. No one can see it. Not even the priest...” (interview with an Adzima shrine elder).
Is she a 'sacrifice'?
• “Mama Vena - Do you have property for the girl, because she is here for your crimes [nuvɔ]? Haven’t you given her property?
• Lineage Representative - No, but we have been discussing this.
• Mama Vena - Are you going to employ her in trade? Since you have given her no property?
• Zeklor [shrine representative] - They will do this after school.
Mama Vena - I want her to go to secondary school. The reason is if they are no more, their children might be Christians and will not help. She should have property too so she will be taken care of. If you do not have family land
to give her to farm, then you need to buy some.
• Zeklor - Togbui [the priest] said this about the property. The family agreed to contribute and provide land for her.
• Mama Vena - If they have done it, the deaths in their family will stop.
Lineage Representative - Look at us. The family is reducing. Help us get the money to buy it.
Mama Vena - When they are coming, they said, look the white is following them [referring to me] and there are many, but when they go back, the prominent is only three. Only three are true. The others have faint hearts.
• Lineage Representative - These are the members that have come, so Mama Vena should help convince the others.
• Mama Vena - Are you sure what you are saying is true because there are rich people in the family. If they refuse to come and help the girl, there will be more deaths...you cannot bring a fiasidi and refuse to be with her
• Zeklor - There should be no more deaths. Those who refuse, Mama Vena should come [convince them].
• Mama Vena - Those that say they are Christians and will not come, when they go to church and open the bible to teach them, they will be shown the truth [I questioned, interpreted to mean they will be shown their evil deeds]...Make sure to help the fiasidi go to secondary school. They brought her to be a fiasidi...
“Fiasidi [to Togbui Adzima] - They [the lineage] brought me to the
shrine, and since then I was here [in Klikor] and the family has been serving me. Then one day they called me to say they had visited an Afa diviner that day. The diviner told them what type of fiasidi I am. So [they said] they are not going to take care of me anymore. That day, I was sad and started crying. I stopped going to the family for about 7 years. One of the family members came to me and told me that I must forgive and forget so that I will come to the family. To come and ask for anything I need. So then I went a couple of days. About three days ago, they came to me to say what has happened.
• Togbui Adzima - [asking the fiasidi] Is the diviner who talked that day still alive?
• Fiasidi - No, he died.
• Togbui Adzima - How many years has it been since you have taken my
ritual water or performed a rite in the festival?
• Fiasidi - 16 years.
• Togbui Adzima [to the family] - Do you know you have a fiasidi?
• Family member - Yes.
• Togbui Adzima - [to the fiasidi] Are you the one calling me?
• Fiasidi - Yes. So far as the family says I am not a fiasidi to them,
everything is by you. You must find out what has brought me to Klikor
as a fiasidi.

“If you do not understand then your house will be ruined. (Understand what?) If you do not understand Togbui [the deity], and you leave your fiasidi, your house will break. If you take care of the fiasidi, your house will be fine... Some people they do not understand and their house is broken. Their work is not successful...”
"It prevails among the Ewe and Adangbe peoples of the South Eastern coast of Ghana...The practice is however common to the Ewe/Fon speaking people along the West Coast of Africa, i.e. in Togo & Benin...It is inextricably linked with the religious beliefs of the people..." (Dovlo & Adzoyi 1995).

--Fiasidi & Woworkwe as "variants" of Trokosi.
"Fiasidi as Queens"
"those who have risen to the defence of Fiasidi in Anlo are powerful chiefs, indigenous priests, and educated traditionalists pledged to uphold African culture in the face of Western/Christian encroachment. Their definition of Fiasidi appears to be at variance with popular perception, but again the influential position of these power brokers seems to have eliminated or weakened any internal movement for the abolition of Fiasidi. The defence of Fiasidi is history according the powerful, and we are yet to hear the version of the disempowered Fiasidi" (Akyeampong 2001, p. 20)
"A 'culture' need not be homogeneous or even particularly coherent. Instead of assuming far-reaching cultural sharing, a 'replication of uniformity,' we should take a distributive view of cultures as systems of meaning.. [look at culture] in more processual terms. There is a 'management' of meaning' by which culture is generated and maintained, transmitted and received, applied, exhibited remembered, scrutinized, and experimented with" (Hannerz 1999).

"The partiality of everyone's view is assured both by the divergent individual access to communities of interpretation and by the fact that these institutional matrices of knowledge are themselves not defined uniformly in different Chamba places" (Fardon 1990).
What does slavery mean? What is a slave?
--physical & sexual abuse, labor with compensation
--state of poverty
Full transcript