DIPO PUBERTY CEREMONY: Krobo teenagers from Somanya in the Eastern Region of Ghana undergoing their Dipo puberty (passage of rite). The Krobo people are grouped as part of Ga-Dangme ethnolinguistic group and they are also the largest group of the seven Dangbe ethnic groups of Southeastern Ghana. They are farming people who occupy Accra Plains, Akuapim Mountains and the Afram Basin.
The historical origins of Krobo people to their present habitation is a subject of great academic and oral debate in Ghana. While Jackson, backed by oral tradition, state that the Krobo migrated from somewhere in Eastern Nigeria, the other documented sources (notably Enock Azu, Reindorf, Huber, Field, Kropp Dakubu, Wilson and S. S. Odonkor) point mainly to Sameh in Dahomey (Benin) as the probable source of origin of the Krobo together with other proto-Dangmes. Others point out the origin of the Krobo as Sameh in Western Nigeria, southwest of the River Ogun.
Presently, most scholars assume that the Krobo migrated from around the regions of Nigeria, crossed the Savanah westward through hostile lands and crossed the River Volta, and settled at the Tagologo plains, within the Accra Plains, later to be called Lolovor some where around the fourteenth century. (Lolovor means brotherly love is finished in allusion to community quarrels among the immigrants for control of farming land.) After wandering between the present sites of Ada and Lɔl vɔ Hill, they established their home on the Krobo Hill, where, to this day, may be seen the ruins of their old town, built of solid rock, as well as the remains of their ancient ritual shrines. Here, tradition says the Dangme tribes split up and went their several ways.
DIPO; KROBO`S RITE OF PASSAGE.
The ‘ancient’ form of Dipo
The Dipo ceremony used to last a very long time as there was no formal education and it served as vocational training for matured girls. It could last several months and even up to a year. The girls were camped and made to go through several processes, in the form of a “curriculum” for the training. They were taught how to tend a farm, collect firewood for cooking in the home (they had to have a reserve of firewood in their homes as good women because they could have visitors at night), fetching of water, doing dishes and laundering clothes. They were sent to a riverside and taught how to wash their clothes and learnt personal hygiene in the process. The girls also took turns to do the cooking during the period of seclusion. Pounding of the traditional fufu was taught and also how to serve food to the extended members of their husband’s family when they were married.
After going through this process, the blessing of the gods were sought for the girls and the ‘old lady’ gave the consent or approval that the girls have passed the training process and were ready for marriage. Some of the girls may have been betrothed before going through the rite. Their suitors were therefore expected to contribute to the performance of the rite for the girls. They also carried the girls from the shrine after the ultimate test of sitting on the sacred stone as a means of warding off other interested men. This also signified that they would one day carry the girl to their bed. The girls had their bodies exposed during the rite as a form of marketing – to show the members (especially men) of the community that the girls were beautiful and ripe for marriage and therefore attract potential suitors. They were taken to the market place to dance also as a form of exposure to the outside world. It was common in those days, for girls to be married soon after Dipo was performed for them. As evidence of initiation, marks were made on the back of the palms and wrists.
In line with this account, Teyegaga (1985) mentions three aspects of the Dipo custom as was originally performed by Nana Klowεki – the social, religious and outdooring aspects. The social aspect involved training in home management, housecraft and child-bearing. After this training, they went through three tests. The first was a test of their ability to performed household chores after which marks were made on their wrists. The second was the observation of their naked bodies by Nana Kloweki to confirm that she was physical mature for marriage and childbirth. Marks were given on their bellies after this test. The last test was a seal which comprised of incisions on the back of the waist which signified that it was only a girl’s husband who should be allowed to hold her waist. The religious aspect involved the climbing of the sacred rock, on which the girls were expected to dance amidst drumming and singing. A girl who fell during this activity was suspected to have conceived, which if confirmed, resulted in her expulsion from the tribe. The outdooring aspect involved a great feast which served as a family reunion. The girls were dressed in expensive beads and cloths and made to perform the Klama dance.