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Opinions of Friday, 30 April 2021

Columnist: Tetteh Akunnor

Dipo and the Church

This practice is an initiation of girls into womanhood This practice is an initiation of girls into womanhood

Every day, the Krobo tribe, like a lamb, is sent to the slaughter house for its cultural practices. This is intensified every April, as April ushers in the annual Dipo festival. This practice is an initiation of girls into womanhood.

Kroboland was one of the communities that had a missionary station in the mid 1800. After the missions left Osu to Abokobi, they then expanded their evangelism to the forest areas of the then Gold Coast. They first moved to Akropong-Akuapem and then to Kroboland.

Krobo was chosen for various reasons. One of such been that the people were heathen and needed to be “rescued from the shackles of the devil” who had enslaved their forefathers for centuries.

The leading cause of this bondage by the devil, according to the missionaries, is the Dipo custom that is performed for Virgins. Intriguing, isn’t it???

To the understanding of the Missionaries, this custom dedicates girls to a deity who has sexual intercourse with the virgins before they are married to Mortal men. Funny, isn’t it???

This of course, they found out much later to be a complete and blatant lie – the white priests could not believe and understand that strong abled men could withstand semi-naked girls without their sexual fantasies being aroused.

Hundred years down the line, this same argument is being made by non-natives and therefore, they question why the girls are not covered. Even though initiates are covered in recent times, same questions continue to linger and echo each time.

The white priests were using their corrupted minds to judge the men of the Krobo Society – Men, who hardly live on the mountain settlement because they were on their ‘valley’ palm plantations and beyond the Akuapem-Togo ridge tendering to the plantations. The White priests were using their ‘Similar to Me Perception’ to prejudice the whole ‘Nation’ – Kroboland.

Because the Basel mission wanted to ‘save’ lost souls of the Krobo, they garnered all their strengths and ammunitions and vehemently fought the Krobo. In implementing their plan of action, they moved to establish their mission station at Odumase-Krobo, the capital of Manya Krobo.

They then established a girls’ school that offers home science and vocational training – yes, the current Krobo Girls was interestingly established to kill off the Traditional Home Science and Vocational training institute of the Krobo.

The mission also acquired lands and offered them to anyone who would not let their daughters undergo the Dipo custom. These communities are Salem in Odumase and Manya-Kpongonor and, Labour in Somanya – capital of Yilo Krobo.

The last nail to the coffin was when the mission made the colonial government pass an Ordinance to outlaw all Krobo customs and traditions. Yes, all Krobo customs were outlawed in 1892. Even dressing like a dipoyo was against the laws and attracted punishment.

But in all these, the custom thrived under the cover of darkness. The Krobo people as well as their neighbours – the Shai and Osudoku, have carried the torch of their Traditions high and kept it burning with lots of palm oil to this day.

At the end, the Basel mission found wisdom and embraced the Dipo custom. They found out that, Dipo do not only make the girls keep their virginity, but also gives them the necessary training to be very useful to the society.

Today, the Presbyterian Church is not against the Performance and observation of Dipo.

Are the latter day Charismatic Churches and the new born again Christians oblivious of this history? Do they just want to sing the same chorus of lost souls and burning in hell? The church had fought Dipo and lost, still losing and will lose till Kroboland is no more.

Even the influential Missionaries with the aid of the all powerful Colonial government could not stop the People of Krobo from practicing their custom. Will the ‘New Church succeed where the old failed? One thing is very clear, it only takes a people to stop their tradition.

And as far as I know, there is a recent resurgence of the practice even among young ones who vowed never to observe the Dipo practice of their ancestors.

A society without a tradition is a lost one.

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