THE OLD LADIES OF GAMBAGA
A woman from the camp recounts: “My brother-in-law’s son got very ill and I was accused. According to the little boy, he saw me giving him “koose”(a popular beans cake usually taken with porridge) in his dream. I was given a week ultimatum to heal the boy or face the consequences. I tried to convince them of my innocence. One midnight after the week had passed; I was dragged into a nearby bush by my brother in law, my husband, and a host of other men from our house and asked to show them herbs that could break my spell on the little boy. According to them, a local fetish had told them I could show them particular herbs to break the spell. In my confusion I begged, pleaded but they wouldn’t listen. Suddenly they produced canes from nowhere and started beating me, my husband inclusive. I passed out and woke up the following day naked in the middle of the bush covered in leaves and “pito”. I had to run away”
This is one of the terrible stories you hear from the inhabitants of this camp.
Gambaga, previous capital of the northern region is one of the towns in the East Mamprusi district in the northern region of Ghana. It is this camp that hosts the infamous witches’ camp which is monitored by the chief, Yahaya Wuni. It was established about 200 years ago. Currently has a population of 130 women “(witches)”.
The youngest woman is 17 and the eldest woman has more than 90 years old.
When one woman is accused of witchcraft wherever they find themselves (particularly in the northern part of Ghana), they go and get her to take her to the chief in charge of the camp, who then proceeds to perform a ritual to ascertain as to whether the accused is guilty or innocent of the charges being brought against her. It is quite interesting to note that there are no male witches/wizards at the camp. Popular explanations ranging from “men use witchcraft for good”, “male wizards do not eat babies”, “men use witchcraft for the art of war/fight”, etc.
Eric Gyamfi was born in Ghana, West Africa. Currently living and working in Ghana, his work consists predominantly in self-portraits, usually shot in monochrome. His series of portraits reflect on his country’s constant transition to modernity in the light of its traditions and customs, and the people caught in there, with a focus on minorities (women and children) and sexual identity.