Franz Kröger and Robert Asekabta
A Video Film about the Sandemnaab’s Funeral
We are happy to announce that the most important events of the Sandemnaab’s funeral have been documented on three CDs. Robert Asekabta (Sandema) was kind enough to present copies to the editors of BULUK as well as provide some comments in emails. The film is not a crude and amateurish attempt of documentation but rather a well-made product with professionally-produced opening credits and a polished film making approach that takes advantage of a variety of techniques: close-ups, long shots, tracking shots and different types of editing. A special thanks to Simon Apaasuk, the producer, and to Fresh Fire Photo/Video Production in Santasi-Kumasi.
In spite of all of these excellent qualities, two suggestions can be made:
1. In order to guarantee a high circulation among all of the people who are interested in Bulsa affairs, the producers should allow the purchasers of the original CDs to make copies for their Bulsa friends and friends of the Bulsa. This, however, is not possible for people with an average knowledge of computer technology and average computer equipment. The sizes of CD 2 and CD 3 are more than 800 megabytes each. This is a problem because one can burn only 700 megabytes onto an ordinary CD (or an exceptionally large type that is 800 MB). The problem might be solved if the 3 CDs were edited as DVDs, which have a capacity of 4.7 gigabytes (4700 MB).
2. In particular viewers who did not attend the funeral and are no longer very familiar with Bulsa chieftaincy, rituals and local politics will have problems recognizing what is going on in the various scenes. These people would like to know which visitor groups are arriving, which rituals are being performed and who is holding a speech (although most viewers will recognize J.J. Rawlings and Atta Mills).
If some of our readers could write a detailed commentary with the exact time of the scenes concerned or correct and complete the commentaries below, the editors of BULUK would be willing to print at least 10 copies for distribution without charge and provide digital texts (as attachments to emails) to everybody who is interested in them.
In the meantime we can only provide rough and incomplete notes on some of the events which are depicted on the three CDs. Most of the information was provided by Robert Asekabta. Corrections and additions are welcome.
CD 1 Kalika Dai or Kuub Kpieng Dai or Tiaka y[i]erika dai
52 min., 560 Megabytes), 27th of April, 2011 (Wednesday)
The greater portion of the video is dedicated to Bulsa music and dances: slow duelingka or quick gokta dances, accompanied by several bands of musicians. In close-up photos the videos show different Bulsa musical instruments: the horn-trumpet (namuning, 15:48, Nr. 36; nr. 52), the wooden flute (yuik or wiik, Nr. 91) and different types of drums: the cylindrical drum (ginggaung, 3:15, Nr. 1-3, Nr. 55, Nr. 99f., Nr. 103), the hourglass or armpit drum (gunggong, Nr. 92) and the calabash drum (gori). Viewers might be surprised to see a modern European-style brass band with trumpets, trombones, cymbals and of course several types of drums (4:05; Nr. 64; Nr. 79-88, Nr. 96-97).
Old and traditional funeral rites are inserted only occasionally in this first CD. The grain store (bui) has been dressed with the late chief’s clothes and his red cap, a symbol of chieftaincy (7:48, Nr. 18). Other clothes and utensils, the chief’s former belongings, are stored in a pile of black suitcases (11:25; Nr. 29). The most important ritual object in this scene is, however, the death-mat (tiak) covered with white cloths (11:30; Nr. 30). Similar to the bui and the human female imitator (cf. CD 2), the mat represents the chief (or his body) in a symbolic way. A group of women with black head-scarves are singing funeral songs around the mat and are accompanied by their basketry rattles (sinsangula, 7:40, Nr. 19; 25:45, Ne. 60-63). All important groups of visitors or music bands are supposed to pay a visit to the mat and present gifts of money to the singing women (Nr. 109-119).
The kpagluk-ritual, the slaughtering of animals in honour of the deceased person, is not shown in the video, but the camera provides pictures of a large number of cows killed on this occasion.
Also the nangfoba-ritual, here the killing of a donkey at the rubbish heap in the afternoon, is not documented, but we can see the dead donkey (21:28, Nr. 46, 47,49), a dead fowl (Nr. 48) and the huge wooden hammer (guri) which was used to kill the donkey in an unbloody way.
In contrast to the funerals of other old people, the videos (also CD 2 and 3) put great stress on the representation of Chief Azantilow’s monumental memorial in front of the chief’s compound (17:20, Nr. 38 and 39). In the beginning it is still covered with a large white cloth (15:48; Nr. 37). After a short speech, Mr Clement Azagsuk (15:48, Nr. 35), the chief’s son and spokesman of the Regent (Nansiung Naab Alexis), uncovers it under the applause and wuliing (ululation) of the crowd. A close-up photo shows the inscription (23:24; Nr. 34 and 58) in front of the memorial:
IN MEMORIAM DR. NAB AYIETA AZANTILOW (OMC, AM, CAV), 1900-2006; SANDEM-NAB AND PARAMOUNT CHIEF OF BUILSA TRADITIONAL AREA (DEC. 1931-NOV. 2006). NAAWON TE FU DUEKA DYIGI. ALIGFUUBI BULUK AN BANG FI WARI YA.
Translation of the last two sentences: God give you peace (lit. a place to lie down). Aligfuubi (Azantilow’s name before he became chief), Bulsaland will never forget your deeds.
CD 2 Tika Dai or Kumu Guka Dai
1 hour, 19 minutes, 830 Megabytes), 28th of April, 2011 (Thursday)
On the second day of Azantilow’s funeral, some traditional rites of the first day are continued. The sinsangula-women again sing and rattle for the whole day (1:10:35). Tika dai is also the day for war-dances as well as for the imitators (che-lieba) of the late chief and singing elders (4:47) who leave their kusung to greet the death mat three or four times.
All clan sections of Sandema are invited to send dancing groups. The Bulsa war dancers, with their horned helmets and brown smocks studded with amulets (saba) and their battle-axe handles and quivers filled with arrows, form long lines and imitate the movements of a buffalo. One or two women fan fresh air to refresh the sweating men. A man in a war dance group from Balansa carries a stick with animal skins (22.45). These are not only trophies of successful hunts but also charms (Jujus) to protect the warriors in battle (Inf. Robert Asekabta). While the war-dances on the morning of the funeral were an important part of the funeral rites, in the afternoon they were danced mainly to entertain prominent visitors.
As mentioned before, the late chief is imitated (cheri) by one of his daughters-in-law, "who has lived with the man and knows him very well" (Robert Asekabta). In this case it was Ayabalie, the wife of the chief’s late son, John. She wears the deceased’s red gown, his straw hat and footwear. These are all pieces of clothing that no other person is allowed to wear. Like the late chief, she walks very slowly at a majestic pace and gropes her way with a stick as the blind chief used to do. She is accompanied by an "elder", the wife of Azantilow’s son, Sylvester, also dressed in a man’s garments, a blue and white smock (45:25). In the video we see Ayabalie sitting in the chief’s armchair (7:50) in the first-floor room of the royal palace, the biggest house of the compound. She leaves that building and steps down the stairs with her entourage (16:47). For a few moments, her image is blended in with several other scenes from the CD by the producer (18:00; 20:35; 32:43; 48:25). Perhaps he wants to indicate that the late chief is present in all of the rituals and secular actions of the funeral.
The rituals of the death-mat (tiak) are concluded in the late afternoon (i.e. after 5 p.m.) of the second day. Two grave-diggers take the mat, still wrapped in a white cloth, from its former position near the grain store (bui) and run with it to a free place outside the compound (14:54ff). Excited, the crowd of people follows them and watches the mat being burnt (though the actual burning is not in the film!).
At a funeral of a famous chief, many important visitors are expected to come. On the second day, the most outstanding visitor is J.J. Rawlings, former President of the Republic of Ghana.
After greeting and shaking hands with people of the crowd (23:40), he sits down in the straw-covered kusung, an open-sided shelter outside the compound, to talk with Azagsuk (27:42), the spokesman of the Regent, and other elders. Afterwards he puts on a brown Bulsa saba-smock and visits Azantilow’s memorial (39:47). At the death-mat he hands a bundle of red banknotes to the sinsangula-women (39:40).
Then the speeches by important people follow:
• In a many-coloured smock: Kofi Adams, the spokesman of Ex-President Rawlings.
• In a green smock: Rawlings’ secretary
• The former President, J.J. Rawlings, speaks in honour of the deceased Paramount Chief Azantilow, who "always respected human values". But Rawlings also utters some grievances concerning the present political situation in Ghana.
• A man announces that the donations made by Rawlings and others are contributions towards the funeral as well as to the late chief’s family.
As mentioned in his speech, Rawlings poses for photos among Bulsa warriors (1:02:04) and even takes part in a war-dance. Until his departure he and other visitors are entertained with traditional Bulsa music and dances.
1 hour, 20 min., 809 Megabytes
For Kpaata Dai day (29th of April, 2011, Friday), on which women prepare shea butter and beans for consumption and sacrifices to the wall of the compound (on Gbanta Dai), no video footage was recorded.
30th April, 2011 (Saturday):
The video shots from this day concentrate again on the visitors and leave out traditional rites of Gbanta Dai. Although the ritual killing of a sheep by the sinsangula-women is not shown, we can see a man carrying a (dead?) sheep on his shoulders in the recordings from the second day (16:52).
Only some of the speeches in honour of the deceased held on this day will be mentioned here:
• In a white alb: Fr. Alfred Agyenta from Wiaga-Yisobsa (now bishop of the Navrongo-Bolgatanga diocese) leads a prayer (15:04).
• A man from the Information Service Department. He acts as the MC (master of ceremonies) for the occasion.
• Alexis Azantilow, the Regent (Nansiung Naab), holds his speech in English and then in Buli
• Robert Asekabta (a member of the Chief’s family) reads the late chief’s biography (in English) as printed in the brochure of the programme (25:25; cf. also BULUK 6)
• Aliu Mahama, the former Vice-President, also speaks in the name of Kufuor, Ex-President of Ghana
• Atta Mills, officiating President of Ghana, speaks about the personal relationship he had with the late chief. Afterwards he and a delegation of the NDC party sit down under a canopy (55:08). They leave the festival in a parade of cars in the late afternoon (56:41).
• After the President’s speech, a man in a blue and white smock announces the donations made by the speakers and the other people (52:00). [This is reminiscent of the traditional siinika-ritual, where the gifts made by donators are announced in a loud voice from the flat roof of a local round house].
The President, Atta Mills: GHC 5,000 cash and GHC 100 for assorted drinks
J.J. Rawlings: GHC 1,000 and assorted drinks and tobacco
Aliu Mahama, also on behalf of the former NPP government under President Kufuor: GHC 2,000, a bull and assorted drinks
The Bulsa District Assembly gave the funeral planning committee, of which Robert Asekabta was the chairman, GHC 1,000 to operate with. The committee collected over GHC 20,000 from other people.
Mr Clement Akapami, a businessman from Gbedema living in Accra, donated GHC 20,000 (for a separate account).
Many groups, chiefs with their entourages, musical bands and mourners join the funeral:
• The chief of Kukobila (near Walewale), as the representative of the Dagomba Ya-Na (Yendi), with a group of armed young men. In the morning (before the speeches), they post themselves around the rubbish-heap (tampoi), where the two royal talking-drums are positioned, and - one after the other - fire their guns in honour of Azantilow (7:30; 8:06).
• A group of Ashanti, in black, Toga-like gowns that leave the right shoulders bare, are representatives of the Ashantehene Otumfour Osei Tutu II (Kumasi). The Ashantehene apologizes for not responding to the invitation himself because he is abroad on the days of the funeral. The leader of the Ashanti delegation is wearing a black headband (11:00; 14:22 and 15:03: greeting; 1:9:46: under their umbrella; 1:12:00: the leader dancing).
• The war-dancers of a Konkomba group of visitors are wearing helmets with long black-and-white antelope horns, cowrie-strings on their bodies, a horsetail on their backsides and rings of jingles around their ankles (9:35; 42:15; 1:19:37).
• A Kusasi dancing-group from Bawku, which accompanies the Bawku chief Naaba Aburago Azoka, a good friend of the Sandemnaab. The dancers wear brown clothes and jingles on their feet (13:05). After the departure of the President and other politicians, this group presents a dance with the acrobatic numbers of single dancers (1:5:21 - 9:45).
• A dancing group which accompanies the Jirapa Na. This group differs from other musical groups in so far as the male and female dancers are accompanied by two big xylophones.