Film Premiere 15 Feb: Witches of Gambaga

Tomorrow the 15th of February at 10 am Yaba Badoe‘s documentary film premiers at the British Council in downtown Accra. The film, the Witches of Gambaga, shows us the destiny of women arriving at the notorious camp for witches that has been established in the north of Ghana, sent by relatives who believe they are witches. The film sheds light on an important human rights issue that I discussed earlier on my blog – Do you believe in witchcraft? You can also see the trailer for the film in this post.

If you cannot make the Tuesday morning, Yaba is also taking her film to Ashesi university college on Thursday the 17th in the afternoon (and to University of Ghana on the 18th, University of Cape Coast on the 22nd and FESPACO towards the end of the month!). Email me at khadu at ashesi.edu.gh for more info.

Today is 14th February, Valentine’s day. However, other news that makes my valentine’s spirit sink is the man who butchered his wife in broad daylight and the pastor who decided to fondle a woman who came to him for “prayers and deliverance”. It seems that hidden underneath messages about eternal love, sent with fluffy bears, heart-shaped cards and red roses lies a reality that many times is violent against women.

I long for the time when Valentine’s Day comes and goes without women being abused and hurt by those near them. Until then, join me in learning more about the situation for the thousands of women declared witches by their communities right here in Ghana.

The Witches of Gambaga – Trailer

Recently, I wrote a post called Do you believe in witchcraft? The feedback was many comments,maybe more than on any other post I’ve written, and one of the people who commented was writer and filmmaker Yaba Badoe. I am now passing on this beautiful and sad clip from her, see below a trailer for the film ‘The Witches of Gambaga’.

The section where she tells us about Salamatu being ” a confirmed witch” because of how a chicken dies made me think about the lose-lose method that was used to confirm witches in Sweden back in the days when we hunted women witches: you throw the suspect in a lake, if she floats she is a witch…


I will inform you when the film comes to Ghana.

Do You Believe in Witchcraft?

If you do and you live in Ghana, you are not alone.

According to a recent survey carried out by Gallup, three out of four (or 77%) of Ghanaians believe in Witchcraft.

Only Ivory Coast (with a staggering 95% ) and Senegal (with four out of five) have larger shares of the population suggested to be witchcraft believers. Mali, Cameroon and the DR Congo has around the same levels as Ghana. The average for Sub-Saharan Africa is around 55%. Surprisingly, to me at least, Nigeria came out under average with less than half a population believing in witches. Rwanda and Uganda being the only countries in the sample in which less than 20% answered yes to the question: Do you personally believe in witchcraft?

I just threw myself over this survey. The aspect of witchcraft is a very intriguing one for a westerner moving to Sub-Saharan Africa.

Intrestingly, the Ghanaian witch does not have a pointed black hat and a cat that talks, nor does she need a broom to fly and need not wait until Halloween before she comes out. No, the Ghanaian witch lives close to you and me and can cause harm to anyone she – or he – wants to hurt. Diseases, deaths and ill fates are often blamed on a malicious witch.

In Ghana, the absolutely worst thing you can call anyone is “a witch” (well, apart from stupid, but that is a different blog post). Read this post by Nana Kofi Acquah on a street quarrel. I have also heard people talk about meeting witches, witches casting curses and occasionally lifting them, see for instance this recent account by fellow blogger AntiRhythm on a curse over a lost mobile phone.

Also, the newspapers report regularly about witches flying here and there. Last time I remember reading about witches in the news it was a witch from the Volta region who had mysteriously found himself landing on a house roof in Ashaiman, close to Tema where I live. A few years ago, reports on a witch conference taking place in Kumasi, Ghana spurred on newspaper Daily Guide to suggest the following:

The numerous road accidents, boat disasters, floods in the north, gas explosions in Kumasi and collapse of buildings that the country has witnessed in recent months may not be for nothing.

A global meeting of witches, currently underway in Ghana, is targeting thousands of lives through fatal road and other accidents.

So the accidents on our roads and floods in the north are due do a 2007 conference of witches? Let me tell you that these have not really subsided after the conference was over and done with…

On a more serious note, in Ghana there are sadly a need (?) for enclosed areas for witches or “witch camps”, predominately for women who have been named witches by their community. For more info on this, read this account about life in Gambaga Witch Camp or this insightful and frightening article about What Makes a Woman a Witch? by writer Yaba Badoe.  Recently the plight of those women have been recognized, for instance by SOSYWEN and Stop Witch Trials.

The GALLUP survey also suggest that witchcraft believers live worse lives than those who do not believe. Of course, that seems plausible but possibly with a spurious or false relationship, with education for instance being the real explanatory factor. But when I look at the presented numbers, I wouldn’t say that there is really much of a difference in percieved living standards between witchcraft believers and non-believers.

Those who believe in witchcraft rate their lives at a 4.3 on average, while those who do not believe or don’t have an opinion rate their lives higher on the scale, at 4.8 on average.

Is it very marginal, or am I not getting it right?

Anyway, this survey gives me scientific proof of something I already knew: that  most people in Ghana do believe in witches.

So, do you? And why?