Ashanti adae ceremony and mpadua rafts on Lake Bosumtwi, footage (1921) – R.S. Rattray *

9 mins, b&w, silent.

Source : Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, viewable here

Probably shot in 1921, in Ghana (then the Gold Coast), by R.S. Rattray, a British colonial civil servant who wrote a number of important early ethnographic works on the Ashanti. The first part of this footage shows certain scenes from one or possibly more than one Ashanti adae ceremony, in which the spirits of deceased rulers are propitiated with animal sacrifices and asked for favours. In   the latter part of the ceremony, the current ruler parades in public, accompanied by his officials, and protected from the sun by large velvet and silk umbrellas.

The remainder of the footage shows mpadua rafts being used on Lake Bosumtwi. These rafts consist of logs made of a very light wood: these logs cannot be hollowed out, and must be propelled by arms rather than with a paddle, since it is considered that this would be offensive to Twe, the  spirit guardian of the lake.

The ceremonial footage is of historical significance because it is relatively early and there are interesting comparisons to be made with similar ceremonies involving traditional local rulers shot a decade later by Melville Herskovits among the Ashanti and by Frédéric Gadmer in Dahomey (now Bénin). But the technical quality of the material is uneven, and the coverage of the ceremony is patchy.

© 2018 Paul Henley