A Drummer's Testament
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Chapter II-5:  The Yaa-Naa and the Yendi Elders  <PDF file>

The paramount chief:  the Yaa-Naa of Yendi; how a Yaa-Naa dies and is buried; selection of a new Yaa-Naa; list of Yaa-Naas; types of elders; the work of elders; intermediaries for chiefs; Yendi area elders; origins of main elderships; castration of elders; ranking of elders; Kuɣa-Naa; M’ba Duɣu; the elder chieftaincies:  Gushe-Naa, Tolon-Naa, Gukpe-Naa, Kumbun-Naa; the Kambonsi; the women chiefs and the chief's wives

Supplementary material
Paragraph outline
Proverbs and sayings
Dagbani words and other search terms



Supplementary material
  <top of page>

Elders and titled persons of Yendi (list)  <PDF>


Contents outline by paragraph  <top of page>

Introduction

1.   the talk of chieftaincy is an old talk, handed down; every town has chieftaincy
2.  topics:  death of chief, funeral, how elders choose a chief, elders of Yendi

The Yaa-Naa

3.  Yendi chief is the biggest chief; the hierarchy of Dagbon
4.   names of the Yaa-Naa:  Naa Gbewaa, Saɣinlana

How a Yaa-Naa dies

5.  Yaa-Naa does not die; transforms; dies alone in the room
6.  Naa Zokuli transformed to a crocodile
7.  in olden days, tied a bell to Yaa-Naa’s leg on his deathbed; wait some time after bell stopped before entering room
8.  medicine man would enter room first; chief’s body might disappear; bury the skins
9.  don’t say Yaa-Naa has died; “the earth has shaken”
10.  dead chief is held upright to “walk” to grave; tradition spread to other chieftaincies; chief is “roaming”

Death and burial of a Yaa-Naa

11.  now when Yaa-Naa dies, Kuɣa-Naa enters room first; sends to Mionlana`
12.  Mba Duɣu gathers the chief’s elders
13.  if Yaa-Naa is very sick and dying, Mba Duɣu sends for his zuu
14.  zuu stays with Bago-Naa until becomes chief; Mba Duɣu also calls Mionlana
15.  Mionlana and Mba Duɣu inform the Yendi elders and Gundo-Naa
16.  the burial is delayed; grave is dug in Katini room
17.  branching the grave to go sideways; spreading skins in the grave
18.  bathing and dressing the dead body
19.  when bring the dead body out, Mossis and Gurumas are funeral grandchildren
20.  how the Yaa-Naa is walked to the grave; Namo-Naa’s songs
21.  how the body is placed in the grave; relatives look at and touch the dead body
22.  closing the grave; prayers from maalams; the burial is similar for other big chiefs
23.  closing the hole; seven days; all chiefs go to Yendi except Gushe-Naa, Tolon-Naa, Kumbun-Naa; shave the funeral chldren; seat the Gbɔŋlana

The funeral of a Yaa-Naa

24.  the chiefs remain in Yendi until the final funeral; stay until a new chief is sitting
25.  the chiefs have particular houses to stay in Yendi; formerly one year; now six months
26.  fewer people farming because chiefs are not in their towns; results in hunger in Dagbon
27.  the chiefs bring many cows to perform the funeral; bring food from their villagers; accompanied by many elders and housepeople
28.  new Yaa-Naa at funeral; must be a son of a Yaa-Naa; chiefs of Savelugu, Karaga, Mion and Gbɔŋlana contend; the strength of Mion and Gbɔŋlana because grandchildren can eat Karaga and Savelugu
29.  before Naa Ziblim Bandamda, chiefs from other towns who became Yaa-Naa
30.  the contention among chiefs; Gbɔŋlana less strong candidate unless as compromise

Role of Gushe-Naa and the elders in choosing the Yaa-Naa

31.  at final funeral, Gushe-Naa shows who the new Yaa-Naa is; Yaa-Naa is chosen by elders; soothsayers a formality for show
32.  soothsayers do not have responsibility or authority to choose the Yaa-Naa
33.  how soothsaying became part of process when Naa Gungobli was chosen by soothsayers
34.  modern times changes; government involvement; the custom is spoiled
35.  the custom changes; no one holds the custom; comparing the strength of Gushe-Naa and Kuɣa-Naa; Gushe-Naa has leadership; Kuɣa-Naa is also strong; the strength of Tolon-Naa, Kumbun-Naa, Gukpe-Naa, Gushe-Naa
36.  Gushe-Naa chieftaincy:  does not visit Yendi unless funeral; he and followers come as warriors
37.  Gushe-Naa waits outside Yendi; Kuɣa-Naa and other elders meet and consult soothsayers

Showing the riches day:  Gushe-Naa and Kumbun-Naa come to Yendi

38.  “showing the riches” day:  Kumbun-Naa enters Yendi; young men carry special quiver; accompanied by bees
39.  how Kumbun-Naa goes around Yaa-Naa’s house; drumming and singing
40.  Gushe-Naa enters Yendi on horseback; Yendi elders at Yaa-Naa’s house; mock battle; removes thatch from house
41.  drummers beat; grass given to Gushe-Naa; consults with Yendi elders
42.  showing the riches; drumming and dancing; Gbɔŋlana goes around chief’s house

Making a new Yaa-Naa

43.  finish funeral and prayers next day; in evening, Gushe-Naa sends thatch to new Yaa-Naa
44.  give grass and cola to chosen chief
45.  next day, maalams pray; in night Gukpe-Naa takes new Yaa-Naa into room of Katini, Katin’ duu
46.  in darkness the new Yaa-Naa chooses a walking stick of former Yaa-Naa; predicts his reign
47.  other elders who choose the Yaa-Naa hold things of custom
48.  Zandu-Naa has spear; Kaptii-Naa has gbolin; Tuɣrinam has dress; Gagbindana has hat; Gomli has food
49.  new Yaa-Naa does not sleep; Namo-Naa amd Akarima beat
50.  Namo-Naa beats Samban’ luŋa; chiefs gather at daybreak; Mba Buŋa leads chief on a donkey to Zɔhi; Yaa-Naa stays with Zɔhi-Naa, then with other elders, then to his house
51.  following Friday, gathering and greetings
52.  chiefs and princes greet and go home; greetings continue for some days

Understanding how the custom works in choosing a Yaa-Naa

53.  controversy about custom and the role of the elders; custom is slippery
54.  the elders do not explain their reasons; Gushe-Naa’s praise that he is blamed
55.  the rejected candidates may fight the decision
56.  the decision is described as “custom,” not as a wish or as favoritism
57.  nobody apart from the elders knows the process, not even Namo-Naa
58.  writing the custom brought confusion; the decision was no longer unquestioned
59.  too late for authoritative version; court has passed judgment, asked elders to justify
60.  the custom has to be hidden and not discussed or it is open to challenge
61.  the elders follow the custom by following their ancestors; fear to go against it
62.  they gather and compare the situation to the past; nobody outside knows their sense
63.  custom is like a zana mat between the elders and the public; maintains secrecy and confidence
64.  the custom must be hidden to be effective; cannot analyze the process; elders are the authority
65.  example:  no one can deny the existence of Bizuŋ to drummers
66.  example:  family breakers separate the family and undo the custom; now have entered chieftaincy
67.  example:  the meaning of Bizuŋ to drummers; stands for family unity and stands for the custom
68.  Gushe-Naa carries a bad name to cover the work of the elders
69.  why the elders refused to go against custom and replace Naa Mahamadu after installing him
70.  the origin of the elders’ refusal from not recognizing Mionlana Andani as Yaa-Naa
71.  the government acted without the participation of the elders of Yendi to install the chief
72.  Nkrumah had looked at the elders and not the process to understand and follow the custom

The elders of Yendi

73.  Kuɣa-Naa is senior; starting from Naa Gbewaa
74.  Kuɣa a village near Yendi; Kuɣa-Naa represents the elders to Yaa-Naa; lead elder at Damba and other events
75.  Zɔhi-Naa is second; Zɔhi an area of Yendi; represents Yaa-Naa’s children to chief
76.  Kuɣa-Naa represents chief’s wives; greeting days for Kuɣa-Naa and Zɔhi-Naa
77.  Balo-Naa is third; Balɔɣu an area of Yendi; messenger
78.  Kumlana; Kum an area of Yendi; messenger
79.  Gagbindana; heads an area of Yendi; Mba Buŋa also has an area; messengers
80.  elders have their areas of Yendi; any can take someone to greet Yaa-Naa

Elders in the chief’s house

81.  Naazoonima:  chief’s friends; sit with chief; Mba Malle, Zalankolana, Mba Kpihigu; Sakpilisi-Naa; represent different groups to chief
82.  Mba Duɣu:  Wulana of the Yaa-Naa; can stand for the chief; does many things for chief
83.  Mba Duɣu:  closest to chief; becomes Gukpe-Naa; Gukpe-Naa Gbɔŋlana becomes Mba Duɣu
84.  Mba Duɣu and Gukpe-Naa mixed ancestry from slaves; the meaning of Gurunsi
85.  other elders also from slaves; formerly the elders were eunuchs; watches over chief’s wives
86.  if Yaa-Naa wants, can give Gukpeogu to a different elder like Malle, Zalankolana, Kpahigu
87.  removing of testicles no longer done; which elders were eunuchs
88.  Warichin-Naa, Shirikari-Naa, Binzaha-Naa, Mancheri-Naa:  elders for chief’s horses
89.  others:  Monkaha-Naa, Malizheri-Naa, Galigulana, Kushegu-Naa
90.  an elder is called Yidana; Dakpɛma, Kamo-Naa, Limam; Yendi elders and Gushe-Naa make new Yaa-Naa

Other titled elders in Yendi

91.  Namo-Naa, Sampahi-Naa for Yaa-Naa; Yendi elders have chief drummers
92.  butchers:  chieftaincy started from Naa Zɔlgu’s son, Yankana
93.  no Nakɔhi-Naa in Yendi; Yidan’ Baba, Taribabu, Daambolo, Diri-Naa
94.  barbers:  Yidan’ Gunu
95.  blacksmith chieftaincy is So-Naa:  started from Naa Luro:  Yidan’ Borgu, Faamoro, Kotɔchi
96.  how Naa Luro called So-Naa Faamoro to build a bridge and make weapons during Gonja war
97.  names of blacksmith chieftaincy; also Zana-Naa
98.  Gundo-Naa:  a female chief; senior daughter of a Yaa-Naa; Mba Naa her elder; their work in funerals

Chiefs who are women

99.  Gundo-Naa, Kpatu-Naa, Kuɣalɔɣulana, Saasiɣli-Naa; Yimahi-Naa and Nakpanzoolana alternate man and woman
100.  woman chieftaincies are only for daughters of Yaa-Naa; how granddaughters can eat
101.  have their drummers and elders
102.  when they eat chieftaincy, don’t have husbands; how Yaa-Naa’s daughter show themselves
103.  men don’t want to marry them; fearful
104.  Gundo-Naa from Naa Gbewaa; their praise; Gundɔɣulana Kachaɣu
105.  the starting of Gundo-Naa; “under-the-kapok-tree”
106.  uses of the kapok tree; Gundogu near Yendi

Titles of the Yaa-Naa’s wives

107.  Gbanzaliŋ is the Paani, first wife; has her own house
108.  Katini, Kaʒee, Galban, and so on; they have their towns; each has relationship with an elder as intermediary



Proverbs and Sayings  <top of page>

I am going to talk to you what I have heard.

As for an old talk, no one has ever seen it:  it is our forefathers who spoke and put it down for us.

And our fathers talked and put it down for us, and so all of it is like property that we have inherited.

Every town has got a chief.

Dagbamba say, “‘I will eat and finish’ is in eating.”

In Dagbon here, we Dagbamba say that a chief does not die.

“Naa Zokuli went to buy gold, and he bought the gold and came and remained in the river.”

When a Yaa-Naa dies, Dagbamba say, “The earth has shaken.”

Long ago, when our forefathers were children, when they walked on the ground, they stepped lightly.

They say he is traveling, and as he is traveling, he will come back.

He will say, “War has beaten us,” and everyone will know that the Yaa-Naa is dead.

“Your father did not sleep last night.”

And Namo-Naa will say that the road he is walking, too, it is the road of everybody.

And Namo-Naa will say that this road will reach everybody, and he will say, “As for this road you are walking, it is just ahead, and everybody is going to reach it.”

And Namo-Naa will say, “This road is a stake in the middle of a family, and everybody has to hold it.  You are not the only one who is going to hold it.  Your grandfather did this and left it for you.”

And the Dagbamba say, “Yes, it is true.  He has washed his hands and put them on his father.”

In Dagbon here, and how it was in the olden days, if the Yaa-Naa dies, everything in Dagbon dies.

When a Yaa-Naa dies in a certain year, hunger falls.

Every town has got the way of its customs.

“Whom have you got to be locking the door of the hall?”

“Dasambila has drank and become drunk; if you shoot and miss him, throw a club at him.”

“Go and give this to so-and-so, that he should get it and burn firewood for dead people.”

“Your grandfather Gushe-Naa says I should bring this grass and give to you, and you should take it and be burning it and be preparing dead people’s fire.”

“I cannot leave you and throw you away, and so I am going to follow you and sacrificing to the gods and be repairing the shrines for you.”

As for our Dagbamba custom, if you look at it, you will see that it doesn’t stand at one place.

One bad yam can spoil fufu.

It is the custom that catches.

A child’s mouth is more than the hard sorghum.



Key words for ASCII searches  <top of page>

Names and persons
Bizun  (Bizuŋ)
Dasambila
Fatyagu  (Fatyaɣu)
Fogu  (Fɔɣu)
Gukpe-Naa Alaasani
Gundo-Naa (Gundogulana) Kachagu  (Gundo-Naa  [Gundoɣulana]  Kachaɣu)
Karaga-Naa Beemoni
Katini
Kuga-Naa Subee Kpema  (Kuɣa-Naa Subee Kpɛma)
Kugalogu-Naa Samaata  (Kuɣalɔɣu-Naa Samaata)
Mionlana Andani
Monachem
Moro
Naa Abilaai Nagbiegu  (Naa Abilaai Naɣbiɛɣu)
Naa Abilabila  [Abudu Bila]
Naa Dimani
Naa Garba
Naa Gbewaa
Naa Gungobli
Naa Luro
Naa Mahamadu
Naa Ninmitooni  (Naa Niŋmitooni)
Naa Nyagsi  (Naa Nyaɣsi)
Naa Saalana Ziblim
Naa Shitobu  (Naa Shitɔbu)
Naa Sigli  (Naa Siɣli)
Naa Zanjina
Naa Ziblim
Naa Ziblim Bandamda
Naa Zolgu  (Naa Zɔlgu)
Naa Zokuli
Nakpanzoo-Naa Fagimah (also Yimahi-Naa)
Nakpanzoo-Naa Zara
Nkrumah  (Kwame)
Pakpon Kachagu  (Pakpɔŋ Kachaɣu)
So-Naa Faamoro
Savelugu-Naa Kantampara Bukari
Savelugu-Naa Mahami
Sunson-Naa Bugyilgu  (Sunson-Naa Buɣyilgu)
Wolimbanilana Azima
Yaantuuri
Yakubu  (Andani)
Yankana
Yimahi-Naa Fajimah (also Nakpanzo-Naa)
Zhirli  (Ʒirli)

Elderships and titled persons
Akarima
Balo-Naa
Binzaha-Naa
Bugalana  (Buɣalana)
Dakpema  (Dakpɛma)
Diri-Naa
Doolana
Duhili
Faamoro
Gaanaa
Gagbindana
Galban  (Galbaŋ)
Galigulana
Galinyoo
Gasinaba
Gbanzalin  (Gbanzaliŋ)
Gbonlana  (Gbɔŋlana)
Gbungbandi
Gomli
Gulana
Gurgulana
Kazhee  (Kaʒee)
Kamo-Naa
Katini
Kayimewu  (Kayimɛwu)
Kotochi  (Kotɔchi)
Kpihigu-Naa
Kuɣa-Naa
Kumlana
Kushegu-Naa
Koyibga  (Kɔyibga)
Liitogu  (Liitɔɣu)
Limam
Lun-Naa
Mancheri-Naa
Mba Bunga  (Mba Buŋa)
Mba Dugu  (Mba Duɣu)
Mba Kpahigu
Mba Malle
Monkaha-Naa
Naayimi
Nakohi-Naa  (Nakɔhi-Naa)
Namo-Naa
Nyab’ Namogu  (Nyab’ Namɔɣu)
Nyukuzheei  (Nyukuʒeei)
Paani
Pakpong  (Pakpɔŋ)
Sampahi-Naa
Sayilogu  (Sayilɔɣu)
Shirikari-Naa
Sologu  (Solɔɣu)
Sogpilsi-Naa  (Sɔɣpilsi-Naa)
Taayili
Taha-Naa
Taribabu
Toondon  (Tooŋdon)
Tugrinam  (Tuɣrinam)
Warichin-Naa
Wulana
Yidan’ Baba
Yidan’ Borgu
Yidan’ Daambala
Yidan’ Gunu
Yiwogu  (Yiwɔɣu)
Yiwogu-Naa  (Yiwɔɣu-Naa)
Zalankolana
Zana-Naa
Zandu-Naa
Zohi-Naa  (Zɔhi-Naa)

Chieftaincies
Asantehene
Baggo-Naa
Banvimlana
Diarilana
Dodogulana  (Dodɔɣulana)
Fuyaa-Naa
Gukpe-Naa
Gundo-Naa
Gundogulana  (Gundoɣulana)
Gushe-Naa
Kari-Naa
Kori-Naa
Kpatii-Naa
Kpatu-Naa
Kugalogulana  (Kuɣalɔɣulana)
Kumbun-Naa
Mamprugulana
Mionlana
Nakpanzoolana
Sagnerigulana
Saginlana  (Saɣinlana)
Sanglana
Shilin-Naa
Tampionlana
Tibunlana
Tugulana
Vo-Naa
Vo-Naa
Yaa-Naa, Yaa-Naas
Yamolkaragalana
Yelizolilana
Yimahi-Naa
Yogtolana  (Yɔɣtolana)
Zangbalinlana
Zugulana
Zulogulana

Miscellaneous terms
Abudu  (family)
alichebba
Andani  (family)
anzinfa
Be Kpagi la be lana  (Bɛ kpaɣi la bɛ lana)
baalim
bantabga
bia
bogli logbu  (bɔɣli lɔɣbu)
bulimbuglinga  (bulimbuɣliŋga)
bungalung  [sound of bell]
buni wuhibu
buuli
Chimsi
daba ata
Dagbani
Damba
dawadawa
Dimbu
Duniya Yu’ Biegulana  (Duniya Yu’ Biɛɣulana)
duu
Zhee  (Ʒee)
fon  (fɔŋ)
firla
fufu
gbon  (gbɔŋ)
gbini
gbolin
gunga  (guŋa)
gungon  (guŋgɔŋ)
guinea corn
Gurunga  (Guruŋa)
horseriders
housechild
housepeople
kahinga  (kahiŋŋa)
Kambonsi
kanton
kapok
kasigirba  (kasiɣirba_
Katin’ duu
kpalanga  (kpalaŋa)
kunkuna
agfu  (laɣfu)
lanjina  (laŋjina)
lana
maalams
Mba
Naa, Naas  [pl.  nanima]
naazoo, naazoonima
Na-bi yong  (Na-bi yɔŋ)
Nagkura  (Naɣkura)
naglima  (naɣlima)
nakohinima  (nakɔhinima)
namoglinga, namoglinsi  (namɔɣliŋŋa, namɔɣlinsi)
pakpon  (pakpɔŋ)
Pakpon Kachagu, Gundogulana, o nyeri Naa Gbewaa bia  (Pakpɔŋ Kachaɣu, Gundoɣulana, o nyɛri Naa Gbewaa bia)
Ramadan
sagim  (saɣim)
salimata
Samban’ lunga  (Samban’ luŋa)
siŋkaafa ni waache
timpana
tindana, tindanas
Yidana  (Yidan’)
Yilibila
youngmen
yera  (yɛra)
zana
zuu

Towns and places
Baggo
Balogu  (Balɔɣu)
Bimbila
Bolgatanga
Dagbon
Diari
Dodogu  (Dodɔɣu)
Fuyaa
Gaa
Gagbini
Galiwe
Gbano
Gukpeogu
Gundogu
Gushie
Gushegu
Karaga
Kolin  (Koliŋ)
Korli
Kpatia
Kpatinga
Kpatuya
Kuga  (Kuɣa)
Kugalogu  (Kuɣalɔɣu)
Kum
Kumbungu
Malizheri
Mba Bung fon  (Mba Buŋ fɔŋ)
Mba Zohi fon  (Mba Zɔhi fɔŋ)
Mion
Nakpali
Nakpanzoo
Nanton
Pisigu
Saasigli  (Saasiɣli)
Savelugu
Shilin
Singa
Sunson
Tampion
Tijo
Tolon
Tugu
Voggo
Yamolkaraga
Yendi
Yimahigu
Yogu  (Yɔɣu)
Zohi  (Zɔhi)

Cultural groups
Ashantis
Dagbamba
Dagbana
Gonja, Gonjas
Gurunga  (Guruŋa)
Gurunsi, Gurunsis
Gurumas
Konkomba
Mamprusi, Mamprusis
Mossi, Mossis
Nanumba