Curtis Andrews

Healing, Song, and Community Development at the Shrine of Torgbui Apetorku


In a remote corner of southeastern Ghana one encounters the shrine of Torgbui Apetorku, a relatively unknown yet significant vodu/spirit found among Ewe-speaking people. Like many who follow indigenous spiritual practices/dekornusubor, adherents appeal to Apetorku for spiritual protection, increased prosperity, success in endeavours, removal of obstacles and healing. From its initial entry into the Ghanaian “vodusphere” till present, Apetorku’s identity has been primarily associated with healing and protection both of which are themselves intertwined and operate within the psycho-somatic-metaphysical reality that dekornusubor engenders. As such, the notion of healing of the sick is approached from a holistic position that includes divination (to determine a cause), initiation (to enjoin the patient spiritually with the deity), and treatment (which encompasses medicinal, artistic, and psychological processes). The aim of this presentation is two-fold: 1) to highlight the role that music (and especially song text) plays in the healing processes in this shrine and 2) to situate the shrine’s effects and impact on the larger social development of the community and its active engagement in combining indigenous healing modalities with Western-derived scientific approaches. In doing so, one can see conscious efforts by the leaders of this shrine that successfully prove that indigenous beliefs and practices have a practical, efficacious, and relevant place in modern Ghana, despite postcolonial attitudes that espouse otherwise.


Curtis Andrews is postdoctoral researcher at the University of Alberta. He has spent the last 20+ years engaging with Ewe communities in southeastern Ghana, exploring the nexus between drum, dance, song, and spirituality. His activities are collaborative in nature and he as worked with community leaders to implement development projects that focus upon education, health, and cultural transmission. In addition to academic pursuits, Andrews is an award-winning composer/performer/percussionist and leads his own “world jazz” ensemble and regularly collaborates with musicians from varied musical cultures for recordings, performances, and tours across Canada. He recently released his second critically-acclaimed album of original music.

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