A BIOGRAPHY OF
OKOMFOHEMMAA AKUA OPAREBEA
THE HIGH PRIESTESS OF THE AKONEDI SHRINE
LARTEH KUBEASE, GHANA
By tradition, Africans have firm belief in the Supreme and Almighty God, the only true One. Despit this firm conviction, the traditional African does not worship God directly. God is too unique, so they serve their ancestors and the lesser gods, fetish.
In Ghana, there are a multiplicity of fetishes, some rated very high, well known, well organised, very popular, effective and flourishing; others are mere imitations of the cult.
Among the great ones is the fetish Akonedi, Nana Akonedi, Akonedi Abena. Her shrine is at Larteh Kubease, in a sacred house, sacred groves and sacred streams. Her cult is a well organised and controlled system of worship, directed by the fetish through divination and oracles.
The power, authority and worshipping of Akonedi is vested in the High Priestess. She is the Chief fetish dancer. She receives seeing, healing, interpretation and discerning and soothsaying powers from the fetish when possessed. The power fame and prestige of Akonedi rests squarely on the Highly Priestess, the Chief fetish dancer of Akonedi shrine.
OKOMFOHEMMA AKUA OPAREBEA
Okomfohemmaa Akua Oparebea was born in 1900. Both her father and mother were from distinquished royal families.
While she was yet a suckling, her aunt professed under fetish influence that she would be a fetish priestess who would one day be a High Priestess of Akonedi shrine.
When she was seven yeras old, she was baptised at Adawso Presbyterian Church and attended Adawso Presbyterian Primary School after baptism.
It would seem the prophesy of her aunt was materialising. For Oparebea would be missing. Then she would suddenly appear without being able to say where she had been and why. The time came when she vanished all together. When all attempts to trace her had been futile, some non-Christian members of the family consulted the shrine of a fetish priest. After there had been fetish drumming and dancing continuously for seven days, she reappeared. This time she spoke and said she had been possessed and led away by the fetish Akonedi.
By and by, Oparebea grew into a very beautiful woman and got married. But strange happenings, which still proved to be fetish, caused the marriage to break and Oparebea went to live with her mother. There too, she used to fall into comas intermittently, causing her to sleep for long periods, sometimes days. Again, fetish consultations revealed that her behaviour was due to the influence of Akonedi. It became obvious, that the only solution to the problem was to send her to Akonedi shrine and she became at long last a priestess in training at the shrine.
THE SHRINE AT NKUMKROM
After her qualification she started to practise at Dobro. Three years later she moved and settled at Nkumkrom. It was there she came to the limelight. She built a shrine for Akonedi and soon she rose to fame in leaps and bounds. People came from far and near and from all walks of life to her shrine for oracular consultations and for healing.
Oparebea was a capable and effective trainer of newly possessed fetish priests and priestesses. At Nkumkrom shrine she trained hundreds of them methodically and thoroughly. When they passed out, she posted them to places and they worked under her and in association with her shrine.
Okomfohemmaa Akua Oparebea was meek and humble and observed the cultural practices and fetish systems of the Akondi shrine. While she was definitely on her own and well established at the Nkumkrom shrine, she did not regard herself as self-sufficient. During the annual yam festival of Akonedi, she came home with a large retinue to join Okomfo Amma Ansaa, the High Priestess, for the celibration.
Indeed it is true, whatever a person sows, he would reap. By her patronage of the Akonedi shrine at home, Oparebea was popular, highly respected, conservant and up-to-date with what went on at the shrine. It was no surprise therefore that the High Priestess, when on her death bed, sent for her and said her final words.
HIGH PRIESTESS AT AKONEDI SHRINE
On the passing away of Okomfo Amma Ansaa in 1957, Okomfohemmaa Akua Oparebea was proclaimed the new High Priestess the same year. By this, ultimate spiritual and physical authority and healing power of the Akonedi shrine was conferred on her.
About 1960, a high ranking academican of repute suffered from some strange headache. As a highly placed person, he had the means of receiving treatment from very able local medical practitioners at very good hospitals. But he was not cured, so he went overseas for medical treatment. He returned home uncured and worried.
Upon a suggestion by a friend he came to Akonedi shrine to seek herbal treatment. Oparebea diagnosed the disease and cured him. The learned scholar was so impressed that he initiated research into herbal medicine at once. The president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, got to know of it. Immediately he gave his blessing and requested the formation of a national body for official recognition.
Consequently, all the known and progressive fetish priests, priestesses and herbalists converged to Larteh and at a great dubar the Ghana Phsychic and Traditional Healing Association was formed with regional branches throughout the country. Okomfohemmaa Akua Oparebea was elected as the first president of the association. This was in 1962.
Wonders do not end. One of the traditional beliefs is that when a fetish or juju crosses on the high seas to the other side, it is rendered powerless and ineffective. For the gods of the seas would block her way and take away its power. Oparebea gave the lie to this.
In 1971, an African-American, Dinizulu, whose researches had revealed to him that his ancestors came from Ghana, came all the way to the Akonedi shrine for an oracular consultation. The consultation was a success. He was completely overwhelmed. Before he left, he requested permission to establish an Akonedi shrine in the U.S.A. He invited Oparebea to visit the U.S.A.
Okomfohemmaa Akua Oparebea courageously accepted Dinizulu´s invitation to visit America. She left the shores of Africa and flew to the States and performed. There she has established shrines in New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., California and in Toronto, Canada.
When returning, she brought young males and females to train at Akonedi shrine. Some have passed out and been posted back to their shrines. Others continue to come over. Oparebea made several yearly trips to America to sustain the shrines.
Okomfohemmaa Akua Oparebea received a baton, a baton of honour and responsibility from her predecessor, to pass on to posterity. She has carried it well.
She has been one of the most well known, well heard of High Priestesses of her time. She had carried the name of Akonedi high and far and wide. She emerged victorious after very trying moments of childhood and early days. One would say she was indeed destined to be what she has been. She achived her goal because of qualities possessed and well utilised.
Oparebea was a beautiful woman, brave and strong, yet flexible, meek and kind. She was intelligent and of a strong character and willpower. She would not tolerate halfmeasures; things done must be done and done well. She had love which drew people to her. She loved children and showed concern.
Okomfohemmaa Akua Oparebea received the baton of honour and responsibility of Akonedi shrine. She has carried it well and the shrine has had impact more than before. Its influence has transcended local boundaries.
Excerpts from the programme published for the funeral in January, 1996. Compiled by the family.