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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue
Title:Remembering Okomfo Kwabena: 'motherhood', spirituality, and queer leadership in Ghana
Author:Banks, William D.
Periodical:African historical review (ISSN 1753-2531)
Geographic term:Ghana
biographies (form)
About person:Okomfo Kwabena
Abstract:This article examines how members of a community of queer men in Ghana known as Saso people remember one of their important leaders, Okomfo Kwabena. Based on ethnographic research in a town in the Central Region, the author shows how in drawing upon local Ghanaian cultural resources, including traditional leadership roles, indigenous religious practices, socially sanctioned practices of gender non-conformity, and a local practice of sexual initiation, Okomfo Kwabena sought to develop Saso people and provide spaces for the affirmation of queer sexuality as he challenged postcolonial discourses that mark queer sexuality as exogenous to and incompatible with Ghanaian and African identity and cultural traditions. Okomfo Kwabena was referred to as the Nana Hemaa (queen mother) of this community, and he is remembered as someone who provided advice, guidance, and discipline, especially to those Saso people whom he considered his 'children'. The intellectual, emotional, and financial support he provided was facilitated by his charisma and popularity. He was also remembered as someone who used his spiritual abilities as an indigenous religious priest to help Saso people, and his association with the indigenous priesthood allowed him to publicly and boldly articulate a socially acceptable feminine gender performance within the town. As the leading indigenous religious priest in the town, the respect and high status he was accorded enabled him to more effectively provide leadership to Saso people. Furthermore, through his participation in a local form of sexual initiation, he also promoted sexual diversity and challenged the hegemony of Ghanaian heteronormativity, while offering Ghanaian men membership into alternative forms of community. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]