Mamprusi - Religion



Kingship. Mamprusi kingship is both a religious and a political institution. The king and royal ancestors are held responsible for the fertility of land and people. Respect for a village chief is a manifestation both of political allegiance and reverence for the kingship. The king embodies the royal ancestors and owns all the land and everything on it; royal chiefs replicate his powers on a more limited scale. The living king and royal chiefs delegate responsibility to members of other king groups, which have other divinities, and those, too, are regarded as having a part to play in providing for the general welfare.

Commoner Divinities. The ancestors of commoners are called upon to support the polity during certain annual ceremonies and in other circumstances that affect the polity. During natural disasters such as drought or political trauma such as the interregnum and—particularly important—at the installation of a new king, commoner-elders request support from their ancestors for the wider community. After his installation, the king should provide animals for sacrifice by commoners at earth-shrines and elsewhere. At the village level, local commoner priests ritually ratify a chief's investiture, which is performed by a royal court, and sacrifice at local shrines on his behalf.

Islam. The historical connections between the Mamprusi and Islam are unclear. In major market towns and the capital village, a few Muslim families are clearly distinguished from other Mamprusi. Muslim men marry non-Muslim women, and their wives tend to adopt Islam. They trace their origins to royals who did not achieve office or to immigrant traders. The oldest Muslim community is located in Gambaga, a major market in the precolonial period. Muslims there provided services for the caravan trade and were, until the late twentieth century, dyers. The king's liman resides in Gambaga. Liman Baba, who acted as a go-between for Na Barga, the reigning king when the British arrived, is also mentioned in reports from Kumasi. He clearly was an important and literate figure of the period. At present, Muslims participate at court and in domestic rituals performed at death and naming. It is traditionally forbidden for the king to be a Muslim, but, during the late twentieth century, kings have been converted to Islam. Since the 1960s, evangelical Muslims have been active and the number of mosques and the diversity of Muslim communities has increased in the Mamprusi area.

Christianity. The first Christian mission in the Mamprusi region was probably the Assemblies of God, established around 1925. After independence, the Baptist Mission Hospital was built in Nalerigu, the king's village, with funds from the United States; since then, both British and U.S.-based missions have established themselves. Ghanaian churches have also founded congregations.


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