Archive: West African Settlement History

The archive contains interviews on the settlement history of the Dagara, Sisala, Pwo, Birifor and Dyan people in North-western Ghana and South-western Burkina Faso; interviews in Dagara on Dagara proverbs and culture; colonial documents on South-western Burkina Faso; master theses; maps and aerial photographs.

The West African Settlement Archive is part of the archives of the Department of Anthropology and African Studies, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz. It consists of a (1) comprehensive collection of interviews on the settlement history, land rights and early political history in North-western Ghana and South-western Burkina Faso as well as interviews on Dagara proverbs and culture in this region. Furthermore, the archive contains a broad variety of documentary material, such as (2) relevant documents copied from the colonial archives in Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Aix en Provence, Ouagadougou and Léo (Burkina Faso), (3) thematically related master theses, as well as (4) maps, aerial photographs and miscellaneous materials. Comprehensive lists of the interviews and the stored documents can be consulted online (see links under “further information“) while the materials themselves are only available on paper in the departmental archives.

(1) Most of the altogether more than 700 interviews that are documented were carried out between 1997 and 2002 in the context of two research projects under the Special Research Scheme 268, “Cultural Development and Language History in the Natural Environment of the West African Savannah”, at Goethe University, Frankfurt/Main, Germany. The projects were led by Carola Lentz (since 2002 professor at the Department of Anthropology and African Studies, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz) and funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).
The project team collected settlement histories over a wide area. Altogether more than 210 settlements (more than 150 villages in Burkina Faso and almost 60 villages in Ghana), inhabited by Dagara, Pwo, Sisala, Birifor, Dyan, Lobi and Bobo, were visited, and interviews with earth priests, their representatives, and some family elders as well as chiefs carried out. In addition to this broad-scale data collection, a series of case studies were conducted, in which local settlement histories, village power structures and inter-ethnic relations, as well as conflicts over land rights, were discussed in depth (see also the master theses in the archive).

All interviews are available both as audio-cassette recordings (archived at the Frobenius Institute, Goethe University, Frankfurt/Main) and as written translations (French or English) in Word for Windows files (held by the project director and the team members). The volumes held in the departmental archive represent the hard copy of these files and are archived, in addition to Mainz, at the following institutions: Archives Nationales, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; Library of the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana; Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies at Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill. USA; Library of the Frobenius Institute at Goethe University of Frankfurt/Main, Germany.
The interviews documented in these volumes are open to consultation by other researchers and may be used solely for academic purposes. Any use of the material, whether by direct quotation or paraphrase, must be duly acknowledged, indicating the names of the interviewer, the interviewees, and the date of the interview consulted. In order to protect the interests of the interviewees, 20 years after the date of the original interview must lapse before quotations or other material from the interviews may be published.

This collection also contains interviews on Dagara proverbs and oral literature collected by Frauke von Rohden between September 1990 and January 1991. As a master student of social anthropology at the Free University of Berlin and participant in a supervised fieldwork project of the department of social anthropology, she conducted 23 interviews in Southwestern Burkina Faso (Bozo, Kolinka, Bekoteng, Simo) and Northwestern Ghana (Nandom Hamile) on Dagara proverbs and culture. The interviews were held in Dagara, and later translated into English by the local interpreters Julius Dikpiele and James Yob. The archive contains 29 audio-cassettes of the interviews and notebooks of hand-written English transcriptions and translations of the content. For further details, please consult the list in the online pdf document. Furthermore, the collection includes 46 index cards with Dagara proverbs and oral literature that have been extracted from the interviews. The selection is written out in Dagara with English translations underneath.

(2) Relevant documents on the colonial history of various districts of what is today South-western Burkina Faso (Provinces of Sissili, Ioba, and Bougouriba) have been collected from a number of archives. The documents cover the period 1897−1950, and their originals are held in the Archives d’Outre Mer in Aix-en-Provence (France), the Archives Nationales de Côte d’Ivoire in Abidjan, the Archives Nationales du Mali in Bamako, the Archives du CNRST in Ouagadougou and the archives of Léo (Sissili, Burkina Faso). The documents are organized in 12 folders (according to the original archives); detailed lists of the contents of each folder are available online.

(3) The master theses and field reports (mainly in German language) have been written up in the context of supervised field-work projects by Master students from the universities of Berlin (Free University), Frankfurt/Main and Mainz. The folders contain 18 MA (Magister) theses, and 30 field research reports (1990−2004). For further details, please consult the list in the online pdf document. Furthermore, this section of the archive contains a comprehensive bibliography compiled by Volker Linz. For further bibliographies, see Carola Lentz and Richard Kuba (2001): “The Dagara and their Neighbors (Burkina Faso and Ghana)”, Electronic Journal of Africana Bibliography 7

(4) Finally, the archive contains miscellaneous documents, among others a series of maps and aerial photographs (produced in 1997) of South-western Burkina Faso and North-western Ghana. Furthermore, there are map sketches produced by Carola Lentz jointly with informants in a number of villages (visited for the settlement-history interviews). Finally, there are video documentaries of the Kakube Festival in Nandom (Ghana) of 1991 and of the funeral of Lawyer Bawa Salifu Dy-Yakah in Lambussie (Ghana) in 1996. For further details, please consult the online pdf document.

Elders in Burutu, Upper West Region, Ghana, 1999 (Foto: Carola Lentz)