One of the goals of The Ideophone, besides functioning as a sounding board for ideas on expressivity and sound symbolism in African languages, is to make available sources on Siwu and other GTM languages which are otherwise hard to come by. This posting is the first in a series furthering that goal. Below you will find the full text (in German) of an early account by Pfisterer, the first missionary to live in Akpafu. Ignoring the colonial tone of voice and the inevitable racial prejudices, we get valuable information on sociolinguistics, oral history, housing, smithing, socio-economical conditions, polygamy, and slavery.
Before giving the floor to Pfisterer, let me provide some context to his account (if you can’t wait, you can skip right to Pfisterer’s own words — don’t forget to look at the beautiful picture below, though!). A lot of material documenting the missionary history of Akpafu can be found in the archives of the Norddeutsche Missionsgesellschaft, which have been deposited at the Staatsarchiv Bremen. More often than not, these missionary documents consist of only marginally interesting chitchat about building projects, visitations of other mission posts, and the health of the missionaries, but every once in a while we get more ethnographic detail.
One source offering such detail is a 1904 piece by Andreas Pfisterer on Kawu and the Mawu in the periodical Monatsblatt der Norddeutsche Missionsgesellschaft. Pfisterer was the man who established the first mission post at ‘Akpafu’ (today’s Akpafu-Todzi) in 1897. He was originally with the Basel Mission, but was ‘dismissed in 1899’, upon which he changed to the Bremen Mission and stayed in Ghana until 1910. According to a brief history of the station by one of the later missionaries, Hermann Schosser (Schosser 1907), Pfisterer had abandoned the Akpafu station by 1902, leaving behind an unfinished house and the indigenous catechist Mensa with his Christian family.
Pfisterer’s account was published in two parts, and in an attempt to keep the postings here within reasonably length I will keep to that division, reproducing the first half of his account below and the second half in a second posting. I have marked a few obvious errors that were present in the source; any remaining typographical errors are probably mine.
Andreas Pfisterer with his pupils before the school in 1899. Note the ‘chosen ones’, especially the smartly dressed boy (in black) to his left, who is even wearing a pocket watch. No names are given. The chalk board says ‘Schule in Akpafo, 1899’ (BMPIX D-30.52.016)