I was very excited to have stumbled across what may be the only known color film footage of the late Naa Sheriga, Overlord of Mamprugu. When I saw the footage, I quickly pulled up some old photos I had of the king and confirmed that it definitely was him.
Sheriga reigned over the traditional kingdom of Mamprugu from 1947-1966. During that time he saw Ghana gain its independence from the British. He is a significant figure to us because he provided that land to the Foreign Mission Board on which they built the Baptist Medical Centre, where we live and work today.
In 1961, Queen Elizabeth II of England made a visit to several independent West African nations like Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone. She made a stop in Tamale where a durbar was held in her honor. Naa Sheriga and his court were in attendance and the British news reporters caught some brief images of him.
While the clips are very short, they contain a wealth of observations to be made about the longstanding traditions of the NaYiri’s court and entourage.
The overlord himself sits regally in the center wearing the bulimusuu (ornate, embroidered robe with hood) typically only seen at the Damba Festival. His damni (scepter) is seen held by a man just to the left – likely the Na’akyinaaba or Saamanaaba. The Maasu is seen to the far left wearing his amulet-covered gba’anu (war smock) and holding the ancient kpana (spears). In fact, each elder and sub-chief sits in his designated position exactly as they do today as the gongyi (fiddlers) play and sɔlim (praise) the paramount chief.
Media is a powerful tool for documenting and preserving traditional customs and historic events.
These two very short clips can be treasured by Mamprusi today because they preserve for them a vivid glimpse into the lives of their forefathers. They can visit the palace in Nalerigu today and see that their ancient, customary traditions are still alive and well – just as they were in this film from over 60 years ago.
For more information about the source of this film, visit the British Pathé website.