ChX: Religion on the road

Short and powerful: bus preachers

Reaching out for souls, oh, and for the 'lorry fare'

... will Pastor Ofosu auftreten, wenn er in vollen Bussen predigt. Er fährt regelmäßig von Suhum nach Accra, um in den Überlandbussen und trotros zu evangelisieren. Ich traf ihn schon zuletzt auf der Fahrt nach Accra. Später interviewte ich ihn zu Hause. Heute war ich mit ihm auf Tour. Er freut sich riesig, dass ich mich so für ihn interessiere. Für mich ist er ein wahrer Glücksgriff: ich kann filmen, fotografieren, nachfragen. Noch ist mir unklar, ob er verstanden hat, dass mich seine Botschaft weniger interessiert als der automobile Rahmen seiner Mission.

Olila and the road ritual (Old road II)

The blood of a sacrificed sheep is poured into a bucket. Behind the crowd is the police checkpoint and the beginning of the Accra-Kumasi road.

What a coincidence: I was travelling from Accra to Kyebi when our trotro minibus got into a traffic jam just before crossing the city limits. This was annoying at first but then turned out to be quite captivating: the traffic jam was caused by a crowd which was attending a large-scale road ritual. In the middle of one of Accra’s most important arterial roads some chiefs, priests and other traditionalists had gathered and created a traffic chaos. Very obviously they were celebrating a cleansing ritual in the course of which the blood of a fowl, a sheep and, finally, a full calf was sacrificed. I quickly got down, took a few pictures and got my share of the blood splashes which were distributed among the spectators, too, during the spiritual road cleansing.

Priests pour schnapps on a basket of palm tree branches. Under the umbrellas, some chiefs from the Ga Traditional Area (Accra) and their drummers.

The following day I visited the chief who had been the one in charge of the ritual. He appeared to be very friendly, helpful and also spoke fluent German (he once studied cinematography in Berlin). He explained to me in details how the Highways Authorities had missed to consult the traditional land owner, i.e. the Accra chiefs, before undertaking extension works on the Ofankor-Nsawam road section. Soon after the inauguration of the two-lane motorway quite a number of fatal motor accident occurred on that road. Allegedly a deity called Olila was responsible for these incidents. Olila now demanded that a ritual be carried out in order to exorcise the spirits or souls. And to cleanse the road to protect it from new accidents. Interestingly, too, the ritual experts had inquired from the police about the names of the deceased and then placed them symbolically into a basket made of palm tree branches. The latter was dragged to a nearby cemetery. No spirit is supposed to demand even for more blood.

Roads & Religion

Ghanaweb (21.08.06):
"Rampant road accidents attributed to spiritual forces"

Public Agenda (25.08.06):
"Religion and spirituality: Our nemesis?"

Public Agenda: 'Dossier: Rodas - Death Traps'

NEWS: Roads and the Easter experience

"Yet another Easter season ... . Every year around this time, red flags are raised, reminding motorists to be careful in their driving to lower the rate of weeping and gnashing of teeth that has become an annual ritual through road accidents. ...
From the numerous accidents that we have seen and heard of over the last couple of months claiming lots of important lives, we would want every Ghanaian, especially drivers who control our lives by their steering wheels, to desist from drunk-driving for just this short period of remembering the death and resurrection of our Lord to pass without casualties."
The Ghanaian Chronicle (13.04.06) wises "wishes all Ghanaians a happy Easter and long life".

Chilson on Soyinka's spiritual roads

Essay by Peter Chilson (author of 'Riding the demon'):
'Following Wole Soyinka: A Modern Road Tale'

"anyone who spends real time in Africa experiences the road in a way that touches the gut. That’s what road travel does to you there, and that’s why Soyinka is important: He connects us to an Africa little noticed. Soyinka, in essays, poems, novels, three memoirs, and many plays, explores a spiritual side to road travel in Africa, arguing that surviving the road requires spiritual respect."

NEWS: Worship driving

SC-034-0116-20copyThe Accra Mail (05-10-26) reports:

The Commanding Officer of the Motor Traffic and Transport Unit (MTTU*) of the Ghana Police Service* cautioned drivers "to be mindful of road safety when behind the steering wheel" and to "worship the driving profession as they worship their God."
K: religion, safety, MTTU

Pic: A Ghana Police officer calming the traffic; behind him a typical yellow-flanked Opel Astra taxi (© Ghana Police Service)

NEWS: Christmas deities on the road?

Ghanaweb (05-12-16) reports that a Secretary of the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU)
"dispelled the perception that road accidents particularly during Christmas festivities were linked to spiritual deity and emphasized the need for drivers to study and observe road signs, desist from excessive over speeding as well as over-loading."
K: religion, safety, GPRTU

NEWS: Christmas Message to careless drivers

The Ghanaian Chronicle (05-12-22) on 'Christmas Message And Road Accidents':

"Christmas ... As we prepare ourselves feverishly to receive Jesus into our lives and into our various homes, we must be mindful of the fact that this is the time that accidents are rampant on our roads. In this regard, I want to advise all drivers who ply on our roads to be mindful of the fact that human lives are very precious and need not be toyed with, just because they want to maximize profits. This has been the practice over the years, whereby due to the large numbers of travellers, greedy, careless and reckless drivers decide to cash in on the situation and end up causing needless accidents on our roads.

To those drivers, I want to send a word of caution that all those through whose wilful carelessness human lives are lost or blood is spilled, shall never be forgiven. Some may argue that certain accidents are indeed accidents over which no one has control, and that is correct. But if we should exercise the maximum restraint in this yuletide, we could minimize the effects and impact of these accidents.
K: religion, safety

Experiencing the Accra-Kumasi Road (AKR):

An ethnographic project on roads, commercial driving and everyday travel in Ghana [more]

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Ch2: Inhabiting the roadside
Ch3: Road travelling
Ch4: Passenger's body
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Ch6: Roadfaring skills
ChX: Religion on the road
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