Krobo People Of Ghana: Beads And Initiation Rites

Krobo people are known for the bead-making artistry

Krobo people are known for their bead-making artistry

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. The historical origins of Krobo people to their present habitation is a subject of great academic and oral debate in Ghana. While Jackson, backed by oral tradition, state that the Krobo migrated from somewhere in Eastern Nigeria, the other documented sources (notably Enock Azu, Reindorf, Huber, Field, Kropp Dakubu, Wilson and S. S. Odonkor) point mainly to Sameh in Dahomey (Benin) as the probable source of origin of the Krobo together with other proto-Dangmes. Others point out the origin of the Krobo as Sameh in Western Nigeria, southwest of the River Ogun.

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).

A young Krobo girl adorned in traditional beads

A young Krobo girl adorned in traditional beads

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 Piŋua 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 ‘ancient’ form of Dipo 
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

Krobo girls undergo an initiation to symbolize their entrance into adulthood

Krobo girls undergo an initiation to symbolize their entrance into adulthood

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.

Read more here.

3 responses to “Krobo People Of Ghana: Beads And Initiation Rites


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s