Gonjas

MY HISTORY, MY HERITAGE: KNOWING THE GUANS (The Gonjas Part 4)

………….. SULEMANA JAKPA (1697-1709)
When in exile, Sulemana styled himself as the King of Yagbong. His settlement in Atebubu was a province under the Chief of Mampong.

Carl Christian Reindorf, in his book The History of the Gold Coast and Ashanti (p. 83; 2d edn.) describes this small Gonja settlement and states:

As already mentioned, during the whole of his reign, Opoku Ware  was actively engaged in completing and strengthening the conquests of his predecessors in the north and north-east countries.

The Nta country, then governed by the King of Yebo (Yabong), a nominal province of Mampong, Owusu Sakyere of Mampong, who had charge of the province, sent messengers there to levy men for sacrifice to his late father, but the King of Yebo refused to permit it.

Owusu Sekyere appealed to King Opoku and war was declared against the Ntas.

Opoku, as usual, seized his opportunity, marched his army there and subdued the whole country.

Sulemana married an Ashanti woman, and some of the children he had with her were Asantewa, Kofi Gyedu and  Ko Agyapo.

This is why the Ashanti King is described in the Kuntunkure verse Bowlong quoted above, as the orphan’s (Sulemana) ‘mother-in-law’.

The name ‘Nta’ was given to the Gonjas by the Ashantis possibly because of the bow (and arrows) with which Ndewura Jakpa was associated.

The bow in Gonja is called ‘K’ta’. Another reason may be that there were twin (two) Kings of Gonja at the time, forming a condominium.

SULEMANI KPATAKPARI
Sulemani Kpatakpari is mentioned in three different songs in Gonja. During the Damba ceremony, the women singers call Sulemani Kpatakpari to come out and dance damba, at about 4 a.m.

This is the time Kpembewura is expected to come out of his compound to take part in the dancing.

The Dagomba drum beaters will give any chief whose name is Sulemana the name Sulemana ben Dawudu (Sulemana son of Dawud).

KPANA
Kpanaliumni is the Gonja hunters’ dance, which is performed when a hunter kills a big animal such as roan, hartebeeste, buffalo, lion or leopard, or when a great hunter dies. Kpana can be said to be the funeral dance of a reputed hunter. ‘Hunter is a metaphor for warrior’ in the Kuntunkure drum verses.

The Kpana dance is opened by the song, ‘Sulemani salamalaikum’meaning Sulemana Salutations. Most Gonja songs are in proverbs and so are the Kpana songs.

TULUUWEWURA ABBASS (AND THE SUPPOSED INTERREGNAL PERIOD 1697-1709)
Ndewura Jakpa’s son was dead and so his brother Limu succeeded him. Limu reigned for only two months. One Saywura (Senyonwura Lannyo) succeeded Limu and ruled for only eight months.

Because Ndewura Jakpa was buried at Gbipe, the Lata Ngbanya decided to make the town their headquarters also, and it was here that both Limu and Senyonwura Lannyo were installed, Kings.

Senyonwura Lannyo was driven out of Gbipe by the Ashantis who had installed Sulemana as their protégé.

Senyonwura Lannyo returned to western Gonja and built the town of Bur’wurpe between Senyon, Nyanga and Mankuma, where he settled.

He assumed the title of ‘Burlannyo’,”that is, “Burre Wura Lannyo,” because he was not now in active control of the Gonjas as sovereign; he was retired.

Tuluwewura Abbass, who was the son of Lanta (Lata-Dii Ngoro Jakpa) became the leader of the Lata Ngbanya (Gonja) when Lannyo was driven out of Gbipe, but he was not installed King.

When the Tuluwe chiefship was created, the Tuluwewura (Abbass was the first Tuluwewura) was stationed at Binyalipe, a place not far from Gbipe, with instructions to keep an eye on the Gbipe sovereigns.

These instructions have become the Tuluwewura’s Kuntunkure appellation and the literal translation of the verse entitled ‘Ka lii Chari’, meaning ‘Chari’s vanquisher’.

When Sulemana Jakpa died, the Gbipewura became the Wurkong (non‐ active Regent), while effective control of the state was in the hands of Tuluwewura Abbass, who was the de facto Regent until his enrollment as King in 1709.

Gbipewura was the keeper of Jakpa’s grave so he was revered by all the Gonja Chiefs. Abbass was killed by the Tonawa (Ashantis) and his funeral was performed in Gbipe where all the chiefs assembled to elect a new King.

After the funeral, Kpembewura Mahama Labayiru was elected and installed Yagbongwura.

Gbipewura found his position weak because of the numerical strength of the Lata Ngbanya, and he therefore conceded defeat.

He had to say something to the new King during his installation, but because he was angry and disappointed, he would not go personally to talk to him and therefore sent his twin brother, the Kagbapewura to go and deliver his instructions.

The Gbipewura’s appellation in the Kuntunkure drum verses is entitled ‘Dinkeri Wam‐mu’ (Dinkeri, Head of Wam’s family).

The Gbipewura was now like the King of Denkyera who was defeated by the Ashantis who were formally subjects of the Denkyeras.

Watch out for Part 5….

Sources:

https://molenationalpark.org/the-gonjas.php
http://archive.lib.msu.edu
http://www.questia.com/library/102539893/history-and-traditions-of-the-gonja
Ethnologue 2010, History and Traditions of the Gonja, by J. A. Braimah; H. H. Tomlinson et al.

Sokynewsgh.com / SOKY TV / Ghana

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