12 Witches in Gambaga Camp
The Old Ladies of Gambaga (Gambaga Witches Camp, Ghana)
Gambaga, previous capital of the northern region is one of the towns in the East Mamprusi district in the northern region of Ghana. It is this camp that hosts the infamous witches camp which is monitored by the chief, Yahaya Wuni.
This camp was established about 200 years ago. Currently has a population of 130 women “(witches)”.
The youngest woman is 17 and the eldest is a 90 plus year old woman.
When one is accused of witchcraft wherever they find themselves (particularly in the northern part of Ghana), they seek to come to the chief in charge of the camp, who then proceeds to perform a ritual to ascertain as to whether the accused is guilty of innocent of the charges been brought against her.
For the ritual, the accused buys or brings along a hen. This hen is then slaughtered. But it is the position of the hen at the time of its death that determines the guilt or the innocence of the accused in addition to other incantations.
If the hen lies on its back at the time of its death, breasts facing the sky, the accused is innocent.
However if the opposite occurs and the hen lies face down, the accused is guilty. If they are innocent, they are sent back home and friends and family have no choice than to accept them (which is usually not the case).
An important point made was that, after the performance to ascertain innocence or guilt, the witchcraft spirit leaves or becomes powerless in the accused that has been found guilty. A contradictory point to this was the fact that, if the guilty stays in the camp for a while, and a family member, say a grown up child of the guilty wants their mother back home, a ransom payment in the form of at least one sheep plus three hens has to be paid to the chief to perform a ritual to cleanse her (the guilty) before she can be taken back home.
It was found out that there are still innocent women who still prefer to stay at the camp because they are scared to go home due to threats by family or community or even the stigmatization. The leader or captain of the witches, Mma Asana Mahama (magarzia), is one of such people. She has two children and comes from Dabare, a smaller village under Sakogu, Nalerigu which is also a neighboring town to Gambaga in the east maprusi district. Her children are separated.
Text and Photographs by Eric Gyamfi
Eric is a young photographer from Ghana, who is now teaching English in the north of the country as part of Community National Service, using his spare time to document in photography the diversity and cultural issues that still exist within the country. Rituals, events, markets, generations, religion, etc The Gambaga Witches Camp is one of his latest series. I’ve been following his evolution as photographer and he is doing a surprising work.
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