Chieftaincy, Spirituality and Heritage Preservation: Visual Evidence of Vodu in Photographic Archives
In collaboration with Rita Mawuena Benissan / SiHene Archive
In most indigenous societies in the southern part of Ghana, Vodu has mainly served as the political power base of jurisprudence, power succession, symbolic display of power and political authority. In this discussion, we will investigate how Chieftaincy has been photographed from 1800 to the present day using the SiHene archive (curated by Rita Mawuena Benissan). Through a careful reexamination of these photographs, we will try to identify the visual references and symbolic evidence of how Vodu is captured and manifested in traditional politics in Ghana. How is our current perception and understanding of traditional political authority shaped by spiritual beliefs (eg. ancestral veneration, mythical souls of chiefs) and what material representations of Vodu can we glean from the visual remnants of colonial-era photographic archives? How are cultural relics, symbols and performative actions of Chieftaincy linked to Vodu? Audio-visual documentation of Chieftaincy, oral history, performance, heritage preservation and symbolic display of material culture will be the focus areas. It will also examined how the Chieftaincy Council has portrayed itself over the years and therefore raise questions regarding how Ghanaian cultural bearers maintain sociocultural awareness about protecting their tradition, cultural values, ancestral ties, spiritual beliefs and political authority.