The Krobo at a Glance: History; Culture and Tradition

The Krobo history was hardly written until contact was made with the Europeans, yet the fundamental facts have been kept as religious observances and the underlying truth has not changed much. The history has been kept by our traditions, and the traditions have been carefully kept in _Klama_ songs, our tribal folk song which is jealously guarded and studiously taught in the Krobo communities.

Yet still, over time, there is a pretty impressive documentation of the Krobo history, culture and traditions through scholarly works of anthropologists such Enouch Azu, Huber, Reindorf, Feild, Wilson, and Odonkor.

Our approach here is to highlight very important aspects of Krobo history, culture and tradtions. This article is expected to be a one stop shop for all people who want to know about the Krobo at a glance.

Krobo or Klo as we call the tribe in our local palace is part of the ethnic group of people known as Dangmes. The tribes Ada, Ningo, Shai, Osudoku, Gbugbla (Prampram), Kpone and Krobo belong to this group. Azu (1955) even argued that also included in this group is Labadi, Christainborg and Teshie.

At this juncture, We will now confine ourselves to the Krobo. Tradition relates and scholars argue that the Krobo originally came from North Eastern Nigeria where they lived four centuries at _Ile-Ife_. Owing to continuous hostilities with the neighboring tribes, they migrated south-west and then turned due west until they went through _Zungu_. The facts are related in our _klama_ songs. They lived at Zungu for some time and later went through _Huatsi_. After a long sojourn, they moved on west, often fighting their way until they crossed the Volta at _Azizanya_. They occupied the land on the west bank and moved still west, making their homes at _Biakpo_ and then at _Lɔlɔvɔ_where later all the Dangme tribes except Prampram lived at one time or another.

Later, the Dangme tribes scarterred at Lɔlɔvɔ due mainly to conflicts over land. The group to be later known as the Krobo moved to Lasibi island near Kpong and afterwards to the top of the Krobo Hill, a rocky fastness which rises abruptly like a caggy island out of the perfectly flat plain where they finally settled. Certain facts of our traditions pegs this to be around 1450. This became the headquarters (settlement & military) of the Krobo.

The leaders of the Krobo tribe when the mountain was occupied were _Muase_ and _Madja_. This is also reposited in our _Klama_ songs. On the mountain, they lived for more than 400 years where they received and assimilated additional dangmes and people from elsewhere (Akan and Ewe) backgrounds escaping from tribal wars. This led to the splitting of Krobo into two politically administered states (Manya & Yilo), two hundred years after the Manya Krobos have settled there.

From time immemorial, the Krobo tribe was based on family system. The clan is the extended family and the tribe making up of all clans in the territory put together. The head of families together with the traditional priests _Djemeli_ administered the Krobo society.

Religiously, each clan has its own god, the protecting deity of the clan. There are also gods for the whole tribe. This were three. First is Mawu, the Sky god, the Supreme being. Second is Klowɛki, the earth god, wife of the sky god and queen of the gods. She is the mother of the tribe and all worship of Mawu must be directed to this goddess. Third is the Nadu. “The bloody” war god invoked only in times of war. Later also came the Kotoklo, another bloody god, popular among the Yilo Krobo. One other clan god of tribal importance was Nause of the Manya Lomodje group and Nako from the Bonya group.

The priests of this gods ruled the people and the tribe obeyed the rules, laws and taboos decreed from these priests as from the gods until later when the religious functions were separated from the administrative functions due to the emergence of chieftaincy. The priests confined themselves more to the religious life of the people and the clan heads. They enshrined their emblems of authority into stools, thus making the stool sacred. Each Krobo state has six major clans. The head of the clan is wɛtso matsɛ (Divisional Chiefs) assisted by the clan priest. The divisional chief comes immediately after the paramount chief (Konɔ). The sub-clans inturn have heads called Asafoatsɛmɛ who hold a sub-clan stool. These together make up the traditional council that govern today’s Krobo with the Konɔ as its president.

The Dipo custom which is one of the major decrees of the _Klowɛki_ goddess is famous in Krobo. Though performed in one form or another in other Dangme tribes, in Krobo its performance is rather strict and has been kept uncontaminated until today. It is a custom designed to keep all Krobo girls strictly bound to the tribal conception of womanhood. It is done in the forth month (February). Young initiates are taught all that there is to learn about their bodies, housekeeping, housecraft, vocation and motherhood. The period of initiation has reduced from one year, to three months and now to one week. Major activities include Tɛgbɛtɛnɔ yami at the sacred shrine of Totroku. Young girls are not to have been pregnant before sitting on the sacred stone. This was used as a legend to put fear into young girls to remain chaste. A girl who violates this is banished. Only murder is considered a more serious crime than violation of Dipo in the Krobo society.

After the Tɛgbɛtɛ, the girls are dressed gorgeously and made to dance in public to Klama songs. They receive public ovation from all Krobos. The songs teach the young innitiates good morals. The grandaunts are marked on each hand and the waist. (This is not necessarily done this days).

Marriage is sacred to the Krobo. It is not only a union between two individuals but of two families. Three main stages are involved. These are the approach, the formal asking of consent and the marriage custom. The marriage ceremony normally but not always takes place in the brides fathers family home precided over by the family head. All the items are presented to the brides family after which a very important tradition is performed. This is the _Fia pemi_ (marriage blessings). We have today given her to you Fia Fia Fia (absolute blessings. She is yours forever). This is done at the entrance of the brides fathers room on the _sinyapoku_ by two wemi _Dedehi_ from both families accompanied by other family members.

The bride moves to the husband in the evening accompanied by some relatives. When the man can no longer marry the woman, he is supposed to bring her back to the father inlaw. Children belong to their fathers family also in times of divorce. A woman who bears twins is considered a warrior and held in high esteem.

In times of death, the head of family constitutes a funeral council. When someone dies, no wailing is allowed until the head of family cuts bits of hair and nails from the deceased for safe keeping. Messengers are then sent to inform relatives and friends. The funeral council agrees on the date for burial.

In the past, the corpse is accompanied for burial with almost everything that one needs for a long journey. Coins are placed in the coffin for the deceased to journey his or her way to the spirit world. The similarities to Jewish customs have accounted for some scholars of Krobo history t posit that perhaps the Krobo have migrated from around Egypt near present day Israel and that Krobos might have some connection of a sought to ancient Judah.

Agriculture is the main occupation of the Krobo. They flourished in oil palm and cocoa cultivation. The most important festivals are all in connection with Agriculture. The Ngmayem festival is the end of the year and the beginning of the new year (October) and it relates to the reaping of harvest and a thanks offering to the Supreme Being (sky god) the Earth god and to remember of fore bearers. The Kloyosikplemi festival in November remembers our forceful eviction from the Krobo mountain.

The Krobo land tenure is based on _huza_. This system is peculiar to the tribe. A tract of land is purchased by a group of people often but not necessarily kinsmen under the leadership of one who is called _Huzatsɛ_. The land is apportioned to each member of the group according to the sum of money contributed or effort put in the acquisition process. _Buna_ trees are used to mark boundaries. This tree is used because it is difficult to kill. When the owner dies, it is passed on to his family as may be administered by the head of the family according to the tribal laws of inheritance.

The Krobos using a combined strategy of peaceful negotiation and forceful acquisition expanded their territory. They took the lands of the Aperedes west of the mountain and proceeded to the interior. By 1870, the expansion continued further north and east where land was acquired from the Kotopire’s, Ajina’s, Djɛkiti’s, then south from the Apirede’s, and west from the Akims.

Several villages sprang up, and major market towns emerged apparently cementing the the Krobo agricultural prowess. Bisa, Asesewa, Sekesua, Akateng, Kpong, Akuse, Obawale, Agogo all were all built around a market. For instance, Asesewa had previously existed as a huza but not until 1937 that it was built as a major market town, the largest in the colony at the time largely to a deliberate policy of Oklemekuku Azzu Mate Kole.

Krobos love music and dance. Key among them are klama, Obonu and Nadu. It is said that Klama songs contain the history of the tribe. It is used for all circumstances. For happy circumstances, such as on the occasion of marriage, child birth etc, klama is sang. For funerals, it tells of the next world and of the ancestors. It contains the medicine of herbs, for by it diseases and their herbal cures are indelibly impressed into the minds of the public. It tells about the seasons and the stars which control them. The only instance when klama is not used is during times of war. There, Nadu and Kotoklo comes in. Klama is the Krobo language and it keeps the tribe together. It is said that one cannot be an expert of Krobo language, history, culture and traditions until he or she learns and understand klama songs. Klama is a recipotory of the Krobo past traditions, history and culture and it is the hope of its future solidarity.

Indeed, when it came to wars, the Krobos were very organized. The Krobos withstood attacks from the Akuapem in 1755 and 1758 and the Ashantis in 1771-1772, 1811 and 1816. In 1835-1836, the Krobos defeated a combined force of the Danes and Akuapems again. Only the introduction of rockets and riffle fire by the British in 1858 resulted in a military defeat of the Krobo. The Krobo, not without reason consider ourselves warriors par excellence.

We have compiled this write up to be a one stop shop for people interested at grasping Krobo history, culture and traditions at a glance and thus not to give too much details as some have already been provided elsewhere in scholarly works of Huber, Azu, Wilson et al.

May God continue to bless Kroboland and its people. Aklo bi Aklo. Klolihi ngɛ klo. Kpakpamakpa, lɔvɔ nɛ je lɔvɔ muɛtɛ. A gbaa bleku, a kama nɔ. Wohi wo fia.

©A Kloma Hengme Compilation, September 2016

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