In the 1880 two French Catholic missionaries reached Elmina, in the Gold Coast, Ghana and discovered to their great surprise that in the village there was a little shrine at which the local people venerated the remains of an old statue of St. Anthony, renamed Nana Ntona. To the local people, Nana Ntona was (and still is) the great saint and the senior deity to the seventy-six gods of Elmina. To the missionaries Nana Ntona was “le grand fétiche Antoine” (Anthony the great fetish), as they described him in one of the letters that they sent to the Society of African Missions in Lyon. By looking at the transcultural life of the statue of Saint Anthony in the Gold Coast, I will look at the clashes, continuities and ambiguities that characterize the encounter between Roman Catholicism and African traditional religions. This encounter was one between two religious aesthetics and material worlds that, despite their apparent diversity, shared and still share a profound sacramental logic and incarnational view that give birth to what I call the “fetish paradox”.
Roman Catholicism and Traditional Religions in the Gold Coast Aesthetic Clashes, Continuities and Ambiguities
Annalisa Butticci (University of Utrecht / Art Histories Fellow 2015/16)
Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin
Annalisa Butticci is Assistant Professor of Sociocultural Anthropology at the Department of Anthropology of the University of Utrecht. She was post-doctoral fellow in the department of Social and Cultural Analysis of New York University and Marie Curie fellow at Harvard Divinity School and the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Utrecht University. Her areas of research include visual and material culture of religions, religious aesthetics and politics, and religions and societies of West Africa and African diasporas (with a special focus on Ghana and Nigeria).