Vanishing Voices from Ghana's 'middle belt'

Vanishing Voices from Ghana's 'middle belt'

Language: Nawuri (ISO639-3:naw)
Depositor: Mary Esther Kropp Dakubu
Location: Ghana
Deposit Id: 0325
Grant id: SG0174
Funding body:
Level: Deposit

Summary of deposit
The project documents endangered cultural and linguistic practices in two cult languages still used in the Nawuri-speaking Balai community. The Kiliji language is used almost exclusively by women, in the context of a cult know popularly as Okule and more accurately as Ojo Aliji. It is identifiable as a variety of Yoruba. The other is an archaic variety of the Nawuri language used by the indigenous founder clan of Balai, also known as Balai, exclusively in prayers. This clan is known for iron working and still practices it, using traditional methods. The Ojo Aliji cult is highly endangered in the medium run, since no new members are being recruited. The Balai clan language is a relic of the language as spoken before the arrival of incomers. Although they still practice iron working the methods are changing. Information was also collected on pottery making as it was formerly (but is no longer) practiced by Balai women.

Group represented
Nawuri, Ife (Yoruba)

Language information
Nawuri is a North Guang language, in the Guang branch of the Tano (or Akanic) group. The project was carried out in Balai in the Kpandai district at the north-western end of the Nawuri-speaking area. However, although Nawuri is the vehicle for most of the information collected, a major focus is Kiliji, a Yoruboid language used in the Ojo Aliji cult practiced by women of the village. It is apparently most similar to the Ife language of Togo and Benin. Although the cult is practiced by a number of groups of the area, neither the cult nor the cult language have been previously documented.

Special characteristics
The Ojo Aliji cult and its Kiliji language have not been previously documented or noted in any detail.

Deposit contents
The Kiliji language is documented with a short lexicon that identifies Yoruba sources, recordings, transcriptions and translations of songs and libation texts in Kiliji, and photos and videos of ritual performances. The special register of Nawuri is documented with recordings of interviews with Balai clan members, recordings and transcriptions of libations with photos and video of a performance. There are also photos, video and discussion of the traditional craft of iron working, and photos and and interview on pottery which is no longer practiced.

Other information
Short description Documentation of endangered cultural and linguistic practices in two cult languages used in the Nawuri-speaking Balai community.


Collection online
Resources online and curated


Mary Esther Kropp Dakubu
Affiliation: University of Ghana

Deposit Statistics

Data from 2020 May 29 to 2020 May 29
Deposit hits:1
Downloaded files
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Showing 1 - 10 of 18 Items

Interview with the clan head and his spokesman, receiving permission to continue the work and presenting him with a token gift.

Recorded on: 2013-08-10

Permisson for research and recording in relation to the Balai clan

Recorded on: 2013-08-10

Baliane the chief of the Balai clan section of the town of Balai discusses how his clan are the indigenous settlers, the first to perform the major crop festivals, and displays the clan regalia, a staff and a knife, while pouring libation

Recorded on: 2013-02-06

Two members of the Balai clan delegated by the clan head discussed smithing traditions including the objects made with particular attention to hunting paraphernalia and also in a second, short interview the making of shackles and chains. Photos illustrate the interview participants, a flitch cock rifle formerly made in the village, and the traditional oil burning lamp still in use in the forge, and a video shows the forge being worked.

Recorded on: 2013-08-10

Interview with the chief of Balai, giving permission to work in the town

Recorded on: 2013-02-04

Consent form completed by Nana Sey

Recorded on: 2013-02-02

Recorded on: Unspecified

A recording of a discussion and repetition of the drum and gong that accompanies Kiliji, together with the original recording made on 31 August 2012 that also contains another song, with a transcription of the latter, a photograph of the drums and gong, a photograph of the cult member playing the gong during the 2012 celebration, and a photograph of one of the consultants participating in that performance.

Recorded on: 2013-02-03

Recording and video of Kiliji songs sung during the celebration in 2012, with annotated transcription made in February 2013.

Recorded on: 2013-02-03

The central prayer of the annual Guinea Corn Festival was recorded at the Kankpe shrine and later transcribed. Preparation of the ceremonial food is illustrated in photos and videos, but no photography is allowed at the shrine.

Recorded on: 2013-02-02