In an interview with Hedwig Kemkes-Oechsler, Aja Addy talked about the the role of the Tigari priest in Ghana and how he became one.
Question: What is the meaning of 'Tigari' ?
Aja Addy: Tigari is the name for a benevolent spirit, which protects human beings and helps solve personal and social problems. In Ghana the Tigari-spirit can protect anyone against evil spirits, and there are many !
Q: Could you tell me a little about the history of this cult ?
A: Ceremonies for the Tigari-spirit are held in many places in Ghana today, but it originated in Ippala in the north, a long time ago. The Tigari-spirit is connected to the wind, and is the patron-spirit of growth and fertility, of long and healthy life and of social peace.
Q: How did you become a Tigari priest ?
A: One of my uncles served as a Tigari priest. When he died, every drummer in my family including myself played the ritual rhythms to call the spirit. The Tigari-spirit is a 'man' and the priest is his 'wife', so we gave him the opportunity to find a new 'bride'. Then one after the other we had to dance. When I danced, I fell into a state of consciousness where I didn't know anything of my everyday life. I didn't eat anything for seven days! But I was able to speak several languages. Since that day I'm a Tigari priest.
Q: What happens on this photo ?
A: It was taken during a ceremony. I'm wearing a black robe to fight the evil spirit. In one hand I carry a bell, the sound of which the evil spirits don't like. In the other hand I have a ritual object to finally chase the spirits away. When this has happened I put on a white robe and the ceremony becomes cheerful.
Q: Could you tell me more about the dance ?
A: When the dancer enters the 'stage' and starts his journey, he first bows in front of the elders of the family who sit on the right hand side, then he bows before the ritual objects and at last to the drummers on the left. The basic motions of the dance are five styles of turns .
Q: What are your tasks as a priest and which commandments do you have to obey ?
A: There has to be a ceremony every six weeks, where the spirit receives certain offerings and gifts. There is a special room in my home - a shrine - where all ritual objects kept, fetishs, robes and instruments, and to which the offerings are brought. There are strict regulations concerning these sacrifices, the meals, prayers, or the social behaviour. My tasks are many and diverse. A lot of people come with their problems. I am a mediator, I go into the Tigari-room with them and ask the spirit for advice. I will be called or visited when a child is born, at marriages, and in cases of disease or death.
Q: Are you a priest, when you are abroad too, for example here in germany ?
A: No, I was invited to play drums and show dances, but I wasn't invited to bring my spirit. In Europe I'm free from the duties and responsibilities I have in Ghana.
Q: That means you show the dances and rhythms without explaining the religious background ?
A: Exactly. Many have asked me to, but I have always refused it because it's not to be taken lightly. The dance I can show you, but not the spirit. I know that there were strong spirits in europe too, but I would do you no favour with our cult, you would get more problems instead of less.
I teach the different drum and dance techniques to my students, step by step. First the easy ones and later the more complex traditional and ritual styles. And everone who has really learned to play and dance will feel the spirituality of my country. If the dance is supposed more than just 'good feeling', than it has to be seen in connection with the calling of the spirit and the offerings to him.