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The case of the Krachi Dente Worship (1999)



Child, this is my story:
On the holy pilgrimage far west,
On my bare feet, crossed I the Sahara.
I was the only ship of the desert.
The frozen wind of the dreadful night
Shook my dead clenched jaw;
Glowing sand burnt my feet at noon,
When my parents relaxed at home!!...

Dale Massiasta, Somerset's Protest, Beyond God

As we have mentioned, most slaves were captured in organized raids in the interior. These were then brought to the numerous slave markets on the coast and sold to Europeans and Arabs. Some of these slaves fed the coastal markets located between Anecho in eastern Togo and Ada in the west across the Volta in Ghana. These markets include Bey Futa (Lome) and Baguida in Togo, and Adafienu, Adina, Blekusu, Vodza, Keta and Atorkor in the then Keta District of Ghana.1 The slaves brought from the interior of Salaga, Kete Krachi, Bassari, Kadjebi, Chamba and other places in the northern regions of Ghana and Togo also served Abomey (Agbome) and Glefe (Whydah) markets in Benin (Dahome). Kete Krachi and Salaga, two of the main sources for obtaining slaves from the interior, were themselves important slave markets which also served minor slave markets along the slave routes to the coast.


From Kete Krachi, a route passed through modern Akorowase, Tappa in Buem, Nkonya, Kpandu, Kpeve, Ho, Adaklu, Ziope, Dzodze, Klikor to Adina, Adafienu and Blekusu. Another route from Salaga and Kete Krachi led to Peki and crossed the Volta to the Ada market on the coast. The same route from Kete Krachi passed through Asadame across the Keta Lagoon to Atokor and Keta. Through modern Odonkorkrom, Ho, Adaklu and Agoenyive in Togo, the same Kete Krachi route was connected to the Baguida, Lome, Anecho and Agbome markets. It was through these routes that slaves from Atebubu, Salaga, Kete Krachi, Bimbila, for example, reached the coastal markets of the Volta Region. 2

Before 1792, when the Danes abolished their slave trade, they, controlling the trade between Ada and Lome, depended on the aforementioned network of slave routes for their slaves. Other Europeans like the British, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the French also depended on these routes for their supply of slaves. On the other hand, slaveholders of this part of the coastal districts of Togo and Ghana bought their stock in the intermediary slave markets that ran parallel to the salt slave markets on the coast. These intermediary markets also used by agents of Europeans, who had barracoons in these markets, were fed by slaves from the north. Some of these markets were Asranya and Agoenyive in Togo, which served Baguida, Lome and Anecho, for example. Others were Ablotsivia (in Klikor) and Asadame, which served Adafienu (Adafie), Adina, Vodza, Keta and Atokor, all in the southern districts of the Volta Region of Ghana. Evidently the price of slaves in these transitional markets was cheaper compared to the price offered by Europeans or Arabs on the coast.

Trade Barriers

But before slaves from Kete Krachi, for example, were brought to the coast, they might have passed through the hands of many slaveholders and traders. Usually there were trade barriers on the routes to the coast. Local authorities imposed special levies on slaves in transit, and even impounded them when duties were evaded. In some districts, slaves in transit could only be sold to the local slaveholders and traders. The latter would then resell them at the next market on the way or take them to the coast. The procedure was not different from what Assuman Katto reported of the regulations of the OBOSOMFO of Kete Krachi concerning Hausa traders from Salaga passing through Kete Krachi territory. Assuman Katto writes:

In the town of Clachie and its neighbourhood villages, the Head man of the place Obosufo has given a law that any trader passing through a village or town of his which is general road has to pay 6d (twenty-five strings { of cowrie shells} for a load).

He had lately killed one Maika, an Hausa, without cause and gave order to rob all Hausa coming down, and took the advantage of blockading the road that the traders from the interior have to sell their produce to his men at Clachie, and that the latter may bring it to the coast for their profit. 3

This explains the many monopoly zones which local authorities and other bodies of influence controlled on the slave routes. Along the route from Kete Krachi to the coast, this was the cause of rivalries and protectionism among slave-raiding groups especially. It was also the cause of atrocious actions of some communities along the routes. The slaughter of thirteen Hausa traders at Nkonya as reported by Assuman Katto could also be attributed to the rivalry to control trade routes. 4

Many a time, slave traders and gangs smuggled their slaves across established trade barriers. But in the inland districts like Kete Krachi, they were not always lucky. Traders who attempted to outwit customs officers were usually caught. Their slaves would be seized and sold at the slave market there. On other occasions boats carrying slaves across the Volta were capsized by the officers in the middle of the river. On the tortuous and dangerous routes, slaves, marched in heavy downpour, were abandoned when their owners fled from ferocious customs officers. In this case, reprisal attacks might be mounted against isolated villages or against the officers. But this usually resulted in ethnic conflicts which were again used to promote the slave trade.


At this point of our study, it would be necessary to discuss briefly the coterie of slave gangs which was largely responsible for bringing slaves from Kete Krachi and other places to the coastal markets and homes. Some of these groups did not operate beyond the districts of Ho in Ghana and Atakpame in Togo because of the aforementioned barriers. Apart from these organized groups, individual slave traders, especially the Hausa from Bimbila and Salaga, also brought slaves to the coastal districts. On the other hand, the Asante also brought their captives from Kete Krachi and other districts to the coast, especially to Atokor where they had established a permanent trade mark in the name of this slave market. On the coast itself, individual slave thieves abducted half-free slaves of slaveholders who did not want to sell their slaves to European or Arab slave traders. It should be noted that some Ewe slaveholders bought slaves out of slavery not because they needed the labour of slaves. 5

However, the coterie of slave gangs was an esoteric one. Such a group of armed slave raiders, a group of marauding warriors, was the ADZOHA, "a group of robbers." A member of the group, an ADZOTO/ADZODALA, was also a seasoned mercenary who fought in ethnic wars. The group waylaid, ambushed or stole their victims. Otherwise they captured their victims in ethnic wars or in organized raids carried out with the assistance of local agents. Every such group of raiders was laid by an ADZOFIA, "a king of the robbers."

Many hazards and dangers were, however, involved in raiding well fortified and defended settlements for slaves. Indeed the frequency of such raids in which resisting men and women were killed alerted the remotest hamlets to the enormous insecurity posed by modern slavery. Therefore, every settlement unit inland was protected and defended by volunteer defence units which could also become gangs armed to raid other settlements for slaves. At the peak of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade (1700-1850), some of these defence units collaborated with slave gangs and even sold into slavery what they had redeemed from slave traders and gangs. In their own districts, however, these defence units were looked to for protection against the frequent raids of slave gangs.

More often than not, slave gangs got embroiled in fierce fighting against defence units. It was in this confrontations that the spiritual and physical prowess of these gangs were brought into play. As I have said, the coterie of slave gangs was an esoteric one. To overcome the dangers involved in their activities, they employed all the protective spiritual instruments available. For example, to protect himself against bullets, missiles and other weapons, an ADZOTO used a spiritual armour or shield called AKPO. This could be a bangle, an amulet or an object swallowed. It could also be a spiritual medicine injected into the body. This made his body physically impregnable.

In an unfavourable engagement for slaves, an ADZOTO could run out of ammunition. To avoid being captured and ultimately killed or enslaved, he either used DZODZOKA, "the spiritual power for flying away," or ZIDUI, "a spiritual power of invisibility." He either flew away or disappeared from the scene of fighting. But to prevent a fight, he could use GOLO to hypnotise or put a whole settlement unit into sleep. With the use of GABADA or GLAKPE, a spiritual gag, he could lead away his victims in utter silence. Or with the touch of a spiritual staff, KPASAMDO ("follow me"), his victim could follow him to wherever he wanted to go with his victim.

Although defence units had their counter spiritual instruments, the special spiritual training, fighting experience and the superior weapons of slave gangs made them almost invincible forces to contain. The latter were sponsored by powerful and rich slave traders. Their mere appearance, therefore, often sent hundreds of women, children and elderly people dashing for the forest or even for the river. Why not? If slavery was a world of just suffering, the journey to this world sometimes ended half-way, in the painful death of chains and torture. Some preferred perishing in battle to being enslaved. They therefore resisted capture and were eventually killed or maimed.

A slave gang, an ADZOHA, was in many ways linked with the authority of the district in which it was based. The FIA or GA (King), as the secular head of the district, could also be the religious head. And if we could use the example of the Kete Krachi district, the OBOSOMFO of KRACHI DENTE was originally the legislative, administrative and judicial authority of the district. Besides his political roles, the FIA also traded in slaves through clan heads or through powerful and rich slave traders who controlled settlement units. Such a headman who controlled a slave market, for example, was the TONUGA (TONUGLA), "the authority or ruler of a settlement unit."

As a result of the TONUGA's direct involvement in the slave trade, his position came to be identified with that of a slave gang leader, an ADZOFIA. Certainly, a TONUGA, as an agent of European slave traders, owned barracoons on the coast and sold to these Europeans the slave stock of the FIA and ADZOFIA. This role of the TONUGA in particular was explained by a FIA of AGBOZUME, Togbe Adamah II, who reigned from 1917 to 1963. In an affidavit submitted to the Keta District Magistrate Court in October 1942 on a kingship dispute involving two of his subject royalties of Adafienu in the Volta Region of Ghana, Togbe Adamah II states inter alia:

That Chief Gbenyo's ancestor's office at Adina was in the same category at times past during the slavery days and acted as the TONUGA who disposed of the slaves of the house of Fiaga Adama I to the Europeans till the emancipation bill was signed...

Togbe Gbenyo I, as the TONUGA of Adina, not only controlled the slave market there. He also served as the trustee for the people of Klikor, managing their salt industry of the Keta Lagoon area on which the local slave trade largely depended. Besides other prominent TONUGA like Attiogbe (Geraldo de Lima) and Nutsudze, who among others controlled the slave trade between Anecho and Ada in 19th century, Togbe Gbenyo I also supplied arms and ammunition to the ADZOFIA and their gangs of slave raiders. He thus co-ordinated the operations of slave gangs, funded their raids, gave them quotas of European and Arab slave traders and collected tolls on arriving slaves at the coast on behalf of the FIA.

At a stage, the TONUGA played the role that the FIA would have played especially in dealing with foreigners. It was the TONUGA who deputised for the FIA in signing the many treaties of trade and subjugation with Europeans. And when the slave trade was eventually abolished on paper, it was he who stood for the FIA in signing the treaties specifying the terms of abolition. 6 In these treaties, however, he was designated as CHIEF, a title which befitted him when there was a figure head, the FIA.

Today the position of the TONUGA, as explained, finds new interpretations and roles in the traditional Ewe society. The title TONUGA as defined by Togbe Adamah II is no longer tenable in a society losing grip of its past. Togbe Gbenyo IV, for instance, the descendant and heir to TONUGA, Togbe Gbenyo I, is today the undisputed DUFIA/FIA of Adina, once an important slave market. In the same way, the position of ADZOFIA has all the leanings of leadership in the same Ewe society. In a number of instances, the title ADZOFIA is adopted as one of royalty, blurring tracks of its origins. For example, ADZOFIA AHIADZRO of Dzodze and ADZOFIA AHETO of Klikor are today designated as Togbe Adzofia (Ahiadzro) and Togbe Adzofia (Aheto) respectively. The title TOGBE is for a FIA, and FIA they are.

A century or two ago, it was through the actions and activities of the TONUGA, the ADZOFIA, the ADZOTO, the AMESITSALA (the slave trader) and many others that slaves from Kete Krachi were brought to the coastal districts of the Volta Region and Togo. Thousands were probably bought by European and Arab slave traders. Local slaveholders also bought hundreds of them for domestic use or for their farm work. In these coastal homes, these slaves lived the rest of their lives labouring, seething and adjusting to the new conditions of work, language, environment, etc. According to a ritual song of the inmates of the KRACHI DENTE cult, there is no household in Eweland without a slave from Kete Krachi. The simple song goes:

Afe ade me
Donko megbe afe ade me o
Afe ade me
Donko megbe afe ade me o...

No household
No household without a Donkor
No household
No household without a Donkor 7

The slave brought from Kete Krachi to the coast was a displaced person, grabbed from one clan or community to another. He or she has lost his or her physical roots as a result. But in this new home, the slave was still regarded as a human being who had not lost his or her spiritual origins. How these origins came to be re-established in this new home is the subject of our present study.



1. Most of these slave markets derived their place names from the slave trade. Adina, for instance, corrupted into Edina (Elmina) by the Portuguese slave traders, was called El Mina Chica (Little Elmina) by them. This corruption, Elmina Chica, gained currency when Adina became one of the main supply markets for slaves to Cape Coast and Elmina. The etymology of Adina is dealt with in Slavery in Klikor (pp. 2-3), and The Origins of Adina (a historical review) by the same author.
Another example, Blekusu, is actually Blekutsu, also corrupted by the Danes into Bructu Kusu or Slave Coast, Blekusu being a slave market. Blekusu actually derived from the slave trade in which many were abducted into slavery through deception or hypnotism. Ble means "deceive," and kutsu means "become mad or deranged." Those deceived into slavery were usually out of their senses and lured to the coast, where they were seized and sold into slavery. The point is that slave traders of those days possessed special powers which could stupefy the most intelligent. Refer to this chapter.
Atokor, another slave market, reminds us of the opportunities of the trade opened to the Asante on the coast as a result of the good historical relations between them and the Ewe of the coast. In the days of the slave trade, Atokor became an important slave market, where the Asante brought their human wares. Their frequent remark, meto meko (I sold I left), to inquiring slave traders was to give this slave market its name. This was corrupted by the Ewe into Atoko (Atokor).

2. The names of slaves of one slaveholder, Akabutu, of Klikor indicate the various ethnic origins of these slaves. They are listed as follows:

1. Avango (Ewe)
2. Gudugruma (Northerner)
3. Afideglidzi (Ewe)
4. Mahama (Northerner)
5. Ali (Northerner)
6. Abu Kiena (Northerner)
7. Gabudeshi (Northerner)
8. Anyievowo (Ewe)
9. Abuyaa (Akan)

3. Assuman Katto, op. cit. This seems to be an established practice throughout the continent. Earlier traders who bought salt, diamonds, gold and copper in West African empires like Ghana, Mali, Songhai and Bornu-Kanem, paid tolls along the main trade routes of these empires. These trade routes leading to North Africa - Morocco, Tunisia and Libya - were later used by Arab slave traders to the Mediterranean region, where they were exchanged for European goods.

4. Ibidem. The Asante for example, who acquired most of their slaves through wars, sold them to the Europeans through the Fante, who controlled the trade on the western coast of Ghana. This monopoly of the Fante probably made them richer in slaves than the Asante. At a stage, the Asante looked for an opening to have direct trade links with the Europeans. Many wars were fomented and fought, culminating in the Asante taking over the trade on the coast.

5. Here we are reminded of Socrates, who, out of sympathy, caused Kriton to buy out of slavery a prisoner named Phaidon (A.R. Burn, op. cit. p. 309).

6. One of the earliest attempts by Europeans to stop the slave trade here, after the Danes had failed to do so after 1850, was the signing of the Treaty of Adafie (Adafienu) in 1852 between the British and the people of Adafienu. The full text of the treaty is reproduced in Appendix 1. No doubt that the Chiefs mentioned as signatories were previously the TONUGA of the various coastal settlement units.

7. DONKOR or ODORKOR, an Akan name, is synonymous with slaves brought to the coast from Kete Krachi or Akan-speaking areas. Therefore, Ewe families along the coast especially bearing this name (ADORKOR) could trace their origins in a slave from Kete Krachi or Akan-speaking areas. On the other hand, this name was adopted for children in families suffering from infant mortality (DZIKUI), a way of making a new-born baby unimportant in the eyes of Death. A child so given this name was virtually Death's slave.


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