On Labadi, Lakpa and Babylon

August, 2011

In my experience, it is often by conversing with artisans and "lay people" that I learn much about African culture. This has happened to me in a number of African countries. Today an old plumber came over to fix a pressure pump. We started talking and not long afterward he started telling me his problems. In Africa, many people do not have access to a psychologist so it is by conversing with eachother that such problems are addressed.

But rather than dwell on his challenges (relating to working with difficult employees) what I found more interesting was his love and pride for his ethnic group (the Ga people) who are different from the Akan in name, language and certain aspects of their culture. The conversation was about Labadi, an area in Accra by the coast. Synchronicity has it that I've visited this place already two times during my present holiday in Ghana. On the second occasion, I went into La proper. For me, being in such areas is always a joy.

According to his story, the people of La migrated to present day Ghana from the middle Eastern region. After the fall of Babylon, they travelled to Israel (or the region around that area) then (presumably via Chad) to Nigeria (Lagos area) and then to a place called Aneho in Togo. Here they left some of their kinsmen while the rest travelled to their various locations along the coast of Ghana. Each year, during the festival season, the kinsmen in Togo come over to partake of the celebrations.

He went on to say that the people of La have a deity (nature spirit) called 'Lakpa'. This entity has helped the people a lot in the past. On one occasion, the British colonialists wanted to remove or relocate the people of La but these people refused to go. So the Brits decided to bomb the settlement. When the first bomb was launched, just as it was about to land on the settlement, it was stopped in midair, diffused and brought down safely (presumably by the nature spirit entity). The same occurred for a second bomb that was sent. Upon sending the third bomb, this time the deity stopped it in midair, turned the bomb around and sent it back to the camp of the Brits! It seems the Brits did not get it that it was a nature spirit that was doing this, they probably thought their bombs had malfunctioned, regardless of the statistically small chance of having two bombs malfunction. In any case the Brits, probably shocked by this occurrence, labelled the place "La...bad!" That is how the name became Labadi, although the actual name is just "La".

In the past, the people of La at one point wanted to get rid of the shrine of the deity. They took the shrine and dumped it into the ocean (the deity is a water spirit entity). When they got back to town, the shrine had magically left the water and reappeared in its former location. They then took the shrine and dumped it again, with the same result. So they gave up, the nature sprit entity had decided the action.

This entity is 'fed' with animal ritual sacrifice, as are many such entities in West Africa at least.