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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Aesthetic Strategies: The Politics of a Royal Ritual
Author:Gilbert, Michelle V.
Periodical:Africa: Journal of the International African Institute
Geographic term:Ghana
Subjects:Akwapim polity
rites of passage
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/1161096
Abstract:In the kingdom of Akuapem in southern Ghana the royal ritual of purification ('odwira'), which affirms social values and is thought to inhibit political violence, has an established canon which in local ideology is unchanging and timeless in its performance and symbolic structure. However, examination of actual performances of the annual rite shows that each occasion uniquely reflects local, contemporary and potentially volatile political circumstances while simultaneously transcending change and conveying the neutral authority of being general and eternal. The author illustrates this by a description of the 'odwira' of 1976 and 1987. She shows how in ritual practice and visual imagery there is a conjunction of the changeless with the unique; how, by invoking timeless symbols, protagonists can manipulate the specific in the present and from this reinterpret the past. Furthermore, she suggests the reasons for its being done in this highly dramatic way. By examining the 'process' of the ritual it is possible to see how particular ritual symbols are used politically in a ritual performance. Ritual and symbolic artefacts are good for making political statements because in ritual the structure is visible for all to see, yet the built-in ambiguity of ritual symbols makes the performance a 'safe' medium for the brinkmanship of political aggression. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French.