Chapter

Deadland

in Remains of Ritual

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780226265049
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226265063 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226265063.003.0007
Deadland

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In Ghana, ancestral souls may return to be reborn in succeeding generations, but this is not equivalent to the return of the unique human being that was and is now no more. That person, as the agbadza drums say, is dead forever. And since no one has returned to report on the matter, no one is quite sure what Tsiefe is like. Some Ewe people say it is a dark, mirrored image of existence on earth, a village where life carries on in a shadowed form devoid of material substance. Typical of Ewes and frustrating to ethnographers, there is little consensus about traditional notions of death. Everybody, however, seems to agree on the direction—Tsiefe is down there somewhere. That is why you pour libations on the ground, and no one doubts its importance to the world up here. Ancestors become more powerful in their deadness, in their ability to protect and punish.

Keywords: Ghana; ancestors; death; drums; agbadza; Tsiefe; Ewe people; libations

Chapter.  11468 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ethnomusicology

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