Lobi-Dagarti Peoples - History and Cultural Relations

The Lobi-Dagarti peoples are without any overarching tribal organization or, strictly speaking, any territory. They move not as large units, but as family groups, sometimes into other ethnic areas, where they may be absorbed into the local population. Most of the groups to the west of the Black Volta claim to have been formerly settled to the east of the river, in what is now Ghana. From the eighteenth century on, they have moved across the river. There appear to have been Lobi as well as Dagaba in the Wa area when the ruling dynasty arrived; the Jãa were certainly settled in the Lawra area until, attracted by a sparsely populated region with plenty of farmland and forest produce and under pressure from other LoDagaa, mainly from the south and southwest (but even from west of the river), they crossed the Black Volta. A minority of clans trace their origins from other regions.

One of the factors leading to the movement has been the search for more and better land, following earlier hunting expeditions. Another factor has been the raids mounted by the states of the region (as well as by the occasional freebooters and adventurers) in their search for slaves, partly for their own use but mainly to supply the Asante and, through them, the Europeans in the south. The invaders on horseback terrified the inhabitants, who sometimes retaliated with poisoned arrows. Mainly, however, they fled, using the larger rivers. A number of characteristics—their dispersed settlements of fortress-type houses, the women's lip plugs, their rejection of cloth, and their general aggressiveness—have been attributed to the effects of such raids. In the late twentieth century houses are smaller, the manner of dress is more "European," and less hostility is displayed.

The establishment of the international boundary has brought about a decline in east-west migration. The main movement of the Lobi in the late twentieth century has been of two kinds. The first has been from the Lawra District to the vacant lands southward on the road to Kumasi, which many men have traveled in the dry season as migrant laborers. Settlements that produce food for sale in the markets have grown up from Wa south to the northwest of Asante. The second movement, beginning in 1917, has been eastward across the Black Volta from the francophone territories to Ghana, where there were fewer calls by the government on labor services. Many Birifor moved into the sparsely populated lands of western Gonja, which had been decimated as a result of Samori's wars at the end of the nineteenth century. These migrants have proved to be much more aggressive, market-oriented farmers than their hosts, with whom there has been some conflict over taxes and representation.

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