Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Nana Oparebea and the Akonnedi Shrine: Cultural, religious and global agents
by Boakyewa, Okomfo Ama, Ph.D., Indiana University, 2014, 168; 3621736
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation investigates religious and ethnic pluralism enacted through the heterogeneous synthesis of Guan-Akan ritual practice exemplified in the town of Larteh, Ghana, the Akonnedi Shrine pantheon and its priest fellowship headed by high priestess Nana Akua Oparebea (b.1900-d.1995). These interrelated plural iterations present indigenous Guan historical and socio-linguistic survivals, while simultaneously indicating assimilated Akan layers of politics and performance; priesthood connects these levels of pluralism.

Members of the priesthood are not only central to enactments of pluralism, but are active conduits of fresh epistemologies in rural and urban settings. Focusing on Nana Akua Oparebea and her work at the Akonnedi Shrine as primary trainer for hundreds of priests and priestesses from 1957-1995, my research emphasizes the full life-cycle of required rites to become a devotee within this tradition. After three years of austere instruction, an elaborate graduation marks the transition into working priesthood and its on-going daily operations manifested in spiritual possession, divination, and ritual processes. Priests and priestesses spend their lifetime in service to the state, community and family, while the final death and funeral rites of priesthood crown their achievements and sever ties with the shrine's deity and the surviving priest-associates.

I argue that the cultural institution of Akom (indigenous spiritual practice) is an all-encompassing prophetic, ceremonial lifestyle actualized by priests and priestesses who use it to rectify matters of life and death as experienced through physical health challenges, spiritual attack and the more mundane matters of employment, success in business and protection from harm. Akom and its representative akomfo (priests and priestesses) respectively act as the operating principle and agents of healing and mediation for the existential needs of adherents.

I posit that pluralist lines of belief and practice are blurred as people shift between Christian religious membership and indigenous praxis as social actors meeting their immediate and future necessities and desires. Nevertheless, there is a prioritization of Christianity in the public/visible sphere of global capitalism and politics, while indigenous praxis has been shifted to the private/less visible sphere of local communalism and spiritual problem-solving.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Clark, Gracia, Girshick, Paula
Commitee: Obeng, Samuel G., Stoeltje, Beverly J.
School: Indiana University
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 75/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: African Studies, Religion, Cultural anthropology, Spirituality
Keywords: Africa, African diaspora spiritual practice, Akan culture, Ethnic pluralism, Guan culture, Priesthood life-cyles, Religious pluralism
Publication Number: 3621736
ISBN: 978-1-303-93023-2
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