“Like Kean Gibson, Asantewa observes that Komfa in Guyana recognizes an ethnic hierarchy or order of status. An ancestral Path or Way, not an organised religion had issued a formal finding in the discipline of Sociology or Political Science by observing life in its universe and reaching a consensus. My understanding of this structure is that it is a rendering or graphic of the reality of perceived status of race groups according to social power. Some will disagree with it; the Komfa people will not be offended, it is how they see life.”
Eusi Kwayana, Guyanese cultural activist
Guyanese Komfa: The Ritual Art of Trance engages the Komfa perspective with the aim of locating strategies of cultural liberation. Formerly associated with the mammy water spirits from its ancestral roots in West Africa, Komfa was forced underground by British colonials who had likewise outlawed and discredited practices connected with Obeah. Practitioners absorbed some Christian aspects and identified a pantheon of spirits associated with Guyana’s historical formation, ensuring that Komfa is not forgotten despite ongoing cultural ambivalence towards the practice.
By re-crediting and re-inscribing Guyanese Komfa as a cultural resource, this work envisions modalities for nation building whilst challenging competing forces of cultural and national decline. Michelle Asantewa uses a multidisciplinary framework to explore questions of cultural identity and the ‘arts of imagination’ embedded in the Komfa perspective. The theoretical body of the work is complemented by the inclusion of a novella called Komfa, based on the foregoing themes and issues highlighted in the overall text. This book contributes to the developing interest in African derived religious and spiritual practices, foregrounding Guyana which has largely gone unnoticed.