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Nania: A Tale of Slavery

I don't know about you but anytime i hear 'Nania' my mind goes back to C.S Lewis classic fantasy (almost magical) book "The chronicles of Narnia" and its hero Aslan. But for the people of Nania-Pikworo which is a small community near Paga (a major town on the north-eastern border of Ghana) their "Nania" was a story of real pain.

Nania was a slave camp during the era when the slave trade and slavery was at its height in Ghana. Nania means "a place of cows or cattle" whiles Pikworo means a place surrounded by rocks. The slave camp was started in 1704 by a slave master whom the people called "Baggaw" which literally translates as "bush man" because they did not know his real name since he was not from the community. Baggaw was suspected to have dealt in slaves in his hometown but the slave business there had tanked. Hence his relocation into the community of Nania to continue his 'craft'. In Nania, Baggaw was still having problems setting up his slavery business because a lot of people in Nania suspected him to be a slave master therefore families were unwilling to let their loved ones go with him because he tried to convince the locals he was going to train the people he took to his camp . He therefore invited two of his friends Samori from Burkina Faso and Babatu from Mali. This gang of three now convinced the chiefs (with gifts in hand) of these local communities to take people especially able bodied ones to their camp where they will receive training and after that sent abroad for further studies. This is how slavery started in Nania.

The families got a little money for allowing their ward to go with Baggaw and his friends. To the three slaves masters their business was not growing to their liking which made them employ local people as slave raiders so that they could capture more people. After many years of taking the people to their camp (20 years and over), the local chiefs were alarmed none of the people taken by Baggaw and his friends under the pretense of training had returned. This is where their initial suspicion of slavery was confirmed but it was too late. Baggaw and his friends had already built a slavery empire which included majority of the locals acting as security, raiders, body guards, cooks etc, From that point no one dared go near the camp for the fear of being captured or being killed.

When the number of slaves at Nania reaches a satisfactory limit, the three slave masters take them to Salaga a major slave trading spot which is in the northern part of Ghana. At Salaga, the slave masters sold their slaves for commodities such as sugar, whiskey, bacon etc. Slave masters from neighbouring countries such as Burkina and Mali also came to Salaga to buy slaves. These slave were then moved to Cape Coast and Elmina both coastal towns in Ghana where they were then taken abroad.

Slave trade ended in 1845 and all the three slave masters were killed. Samori from Burkina Faso was killed at Yendi. Baggaw was also killed at Navrongo. Whiles Babatu was captured and killed at Sandema. Slave trade has no doubt had a dent on African history, but we can blame greediness and deceit on the part of European colonial masters. But as an African, it still beats my mind why we traded each other for sugar.


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Profile photo of Kwaku Abedi

I am a young teacher and travel blogger of Ghanaian descent who is very much committed to telling the story of Africa, i believe education goes a long way in helping people become independent thus eradicating poverty. I have a keen interest for travelling, knowledge sharing, entrepreneurship and the luxury goods market. When i'm not doing all this, you will usually find me reading a book, watching a tennis match or trying to learn a new language



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