The Background to “Tales My Ghanaian Grandmother Told Me” by Dzagbe Cudjoe

As an ethnologist I have worked in museums in Germany, Ghana and Nigeria. This gave me a wonderful opportunity to learn about and appreciate the material culture of Africa.

Actually living and working in Ghana and Nigeria deepened my knowledge and appreciation of traditional life in the past. I came to deeply value the structures and moral values that these societies were attempting to maintain and uphold. These societies were not perfect, such a society never has and never will exist, and there are aspects which disturb me profoundly.

Traditionally concerns of the individual were subjugated to the well-being of the community. Unfortunately in many parts of the world the pendulum has swung totally in the opposite direction. Our emphasis and on the search for fulfillment as individuals has lead, in part at least, to an excessively materialistic and uncaring, selfish and mundane society. Science and Technology unless carefully applied can lead to impoverishment in other areas of life.

I had all these thoughts in mind when I began writing “Tales My Ghanaian Grandmother Told Me” which is a slightly misleading title. The stories are my own original creation. Anyone familiar with African traditional tales will know immediately that these stories are far from traditional. In traditional stories young people do not solve problems or direct  their Seniors in major  events.The way in which spiritual matters are expressed is mainly my own   interpretation although these truths are certainly implicit in the culture.

What is entirely accurate are the background details of village life in the past, the flora and fauna, the buildings and processes such as the making of funerary figures and iron smelting.

I have always been interested in pottery. In fact I used to make pots in Nigeria and fire them in a dustbin filled with sawdust. They emerged looking as if they had been hit by lightning. One of my proudest moments was when an artist who I greatly respect asked if I would let him have one of my pots in exchange for one of his batiks.

While working at the Ghana National Museum I took part in an expedition to Northern Ghana to try and establish whether traditional iron smelting was still taking place. There were no blacksmiths left who had actually smelted iron in this manner.There were, however, a number of very old men who remembered their male relatives doing this. It was from their recollections that furnaces were built and the processes demonstrated. “Fingers of Fire” incorporates this research.

I have always been fascinated by the brass weights which were used to weigh gold dust and gold nuggets. By the time I started collecting, the best examples were long since in the British Museum or in private collections throughout the world. The 70’s saw African Americans collecting avidly and sending prices way beyond my reach. I did collect some examples and then inherited a collection from my late father. He was a medical practitioner and acquired the collection from a patient who offered them to him in lieu of payment.The associations and proverbs linked to the gold weights in “Journey to the Chest of Gold” are genuine.

It is my hope that the details incorporated into the four stories  add to the readers interest, pleasure and understanding.  Soft Cover & E-Book also available through


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