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The Swiss

Religion and History

by Phil Bartle, PhD

When Friedrich August Louis Ramseyer, a Swiss Pietist from Basel, tried to found his "Ashantee Mission," he was abducted and spent three years in captivity.  When freed, he was not allowed into Asante, so he built his Ashantee Mission in Kwawu.  Kwawu used the event to declare independence from Asante by murdering the Asante ambassador.  The Bretuo and Tena clans (Twidan) in Abetifi and Abene were pro European and led the movement towards becoming a British Protectorate.  The Asona and Dwumina clans of the Benkum division were allied to those of Kyibi which was already part of the Gold Coast Colony.  Obo led the pro Asante faction in Kwawu, as head of the Nifa division, being of the Amoakade and Ada (Aduana) clans and relatives of the leaders of Kumawu.  Until Britain made Kwawu a protectorate, this was technically a time of Kwawu independence ─the only time.

Kwawu became, in effect, a colony of the Swiss missionaries, who organized road building, a post office service, and so much more.  After Asante was finally defeated in 1901, and Kwawu became part of the colony, the second generation of British administrators (not wealthy aristocratic dilettantes  like the first generation), became jealous of the Swiss and cooked up a conspiracy to remove them. They accused the Swiss of being German sympathizers and spies during the World War (false), put their men in concentration camps, sent the women to Britain, and handed over the congregation to the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, keeping all the public services to themselves.

Unfortunately, this chapter of Kwawu history is not yet written, and all I have to show here are four archival photos from the 1880s taken by the Basel missionaries.

Archival Photos from Basel

These are reproduced from the archives in Basel, Switzerland. Their resolution and size have been sharply reduced for this web page. You are encouraged to look at Emmanuel's web site and find many more photos from the 1880s, when Ramseyer's "Mission to Ashantee" was established in Abetifi, Kwawu. Larger sizes and higher respolution are available there.


Afahye (Kwawu Becomes a British Protectorate, 1888)

See a Kwawu afahye a century later. Ancestors.

Talking Drums

See talking drums a century later: Gods IV.

Kente Weavers

See kente Weavers a century later. Men II.

Mrs Ramseyer teaching sewing to girls

See a sewing class a century later: Modern Skills.

Basel Mission Photo References:

D-30.15.010 : The annexation of Okwawu.,
Ramseyer, Friedrich August Louis (Mr), date early : 5.05.1888,
reference no.D-30.15.010
original caption: Annexion von Okwau.
caption translation: The annexation of Okwawu.
photographer: Ramseyer, Friedrich August Louis (Mr)
location/peopleAbetifi {place}
date: early 5.05.1888
notes translation: Part of the ceremony when Kwahu was accepted into the British Gold Coast colony. NB the British official involved was a Sierra Leonian doctor (PJ 07.1998). condition: good - medium
height [cm]11.5
width [cm]16.2

D-30.14.055 : The court band (drums).,
Ramseyer, Friedrich August Louis (Mr)?,
date early : 1.01.1888, date late : 31.12.1896
reference no.D-30.14.055
original caption: Hofkapelle in Abetifi (Trommeln).
caption translation The court band (drums).
Photographer: Ramseyer, Friedrich August Louis (Mr)?
location/people: Abetifi
notes: Unter der alten No G 0267 in (D-30-0,1) wird als Photograph Max Otto Schultze angegeben. (PST).
notes translation: Under the old no G 0267 in (D-30-0,1) Max Otto Schultze is mentioned as photographer. (PST).
Condition: bad
height [cm]10.9
width [cm]16.1

D-30.22.007 : Weavers
Ramseyer, Friedrich August Louis (Mr)
date early : 1.01.1888, date late : 31.12.1895
reference no.D-30.22.007
original caption: Weber.
caption translation: Weavers.
Photographer: Ramseyer, Friedrich August Louis (Mr)
location/people: Abetifi {place}[leer]
date early: 1.01.1888
date late: 31.12.1895
notes Links - Johanne Ata, Kirchenältester. (Aufschrift auf der Rückseite von D-30.22.004). - in Abetifi. (D-30-0,1). - Als Nr. 64 publiziert im Album Quatre-vingts vues de la Côte dOr dAfrique daprès les originaux de M. Fritz Ramseyer, Neuchâtel 1895. - Bildlegende im Album: Deux tisserands. - Leurs métiers sont des plus primitifs; ce sont quatre pieux fichés en terre, avec quelques bâtons transversaux; sur lun deux repose la chaîne et à un autre est suspendue la trame. Sur ces métiers ils tissent des bandes de la largeur de la main, qui sont ensuite coupées de longueur voulues et cousues les unes aux autres jusquà ce que le tout ait atteint la largeur dun ntama ou pagne, dont ils sentourent comme dun châle. Les pédales sont mises en mouvement au moyen de ficelles placées entre les orteils, puis la navette passe dune main dans lautre à travers la trame soulevée. notes translation: Annotation on back of photo D-30.22.004: On the left Johanne Ata, church elder. (PST). - in Abetifi. (D-30-0,1).
Published as no 64 in the French version of the album Achtzig
Ansichten von der Goldküste (Westafrika) nach Originalaufnahmen des Missionars Fritz Ramseyer, Neuchâtel 1895. (RI). - In the German version of this album in our collection picture no 64 is missing.
The French caption reads: Two weavers. Their looms are very simple. Four posts are stuck into the ground. Other (cross-) pieces of wood join them. The bands of cloth run over one of these cross pieces, and the threads run over another. On such looms they weave strips of cloth one hand - breadth wide. These are then cut to the required length and sewn together to reach the size of an ntama, a cloth in which people wrap themselves. The looms pedals are worked by strings held by the weavers toes. The shuttle moves from hand to hand backwards and forwards through under the set of threads which is raised [for that movement of the shuttle]. (PJ 07.1998).
condition medium
height [cm]12.1
width [cm]17.3

D-30.14.042 : Sewing class in Abetifi with Mrs. Ramseyer
Ramseyer, Friedrich August Louis (Mr),
date early : 1.01.1888, date late : 31.12.1893
reference no.D-30.14.042
original caption: Frau Missionar Ramseyer in der Flickstunde.
caption translation: Sewing class in Abetifi with Mrs. Ramseyer
photographer Ramseyer, Friedrich August Louis (Mr)
location/peopleAbetifi {place}
notes: Als Nr. 69 publiziert im Album Achtzig Ansichten von der Goldküste (Westafrika) nach Original aufnahmen des Missionars Fritz Ramseyer, Neuenburg 1895. (RI). - Bildlegende im Album: Die Flickstunde in Abetifi. - Unsere Anstaltsschüler haben jeden Samstag morgens ihre Kleider am Bache selbst zu waschen. Nachdem sie trocken geworden, begeben sie sich um zwei Uhr zu Frau R., unter deren Aufsicht sie auf der Veranda wenn nothwendig ihr Kleider ausbessern. Anfangs fällt es den Knaben schwer; doch da unsere Neger eine gewisse Anlage für die Schneiderarbeit besitzen, wissen sie sich bald zu helfen. - Veröffentlicht (La Messagère du Monde Païen, Feb. 1893).
notes translation: Published as no 69 in the album Achtzig Ansichten von der Goldküste (Westafrika) nach Original aufnahmen des Missionars Fritz Ramseyer, Neuchâtel 1895. (RI). - Caption in the album: Mending clothes in Abetifi. Our pupils have to do their own washing in the river every Saturday morning. After the clothes have dried they go to Mrs. Ramseyer at two oclock and mend them on the veranda under her supervision. In the beginning work is difficult for the boys but our Africans have a certain talent for sewing and they soon manage quite well.
The French caption reads: Le samedi matin les ainés de nos écoliers vont à la rivière, et avec quelques boules de savon indigène lavent leur habits. Laprès-midi, ceux qui ont des déchirures viennent auprès de Mme R. qui les initie à lart de mettre une pièce où cela est nécessaire; comme nos nègres ont un don particulier pour la couture, ils savent bien vite se tirer daffaire. Saturday morning the eldests of our schoolchildren go to the river, and with some balls of indigenous soap washes their dresses. Lapr�s - Noon, those that have the, rips come by Mrs. R. that starts learning them lart to put a piece where it is necessary; as our Negro have a grant particular for the sewing, they know well quickly how to pull itself/themselves daffaire.
(FBI 07.1998). - Published (The Messenger of the Pagan World, Feb. 1893).
positive processb/w, paper print, collodion,
(PJ 07.1998). - Published (La Messagère du Monde Païen, Feb. 1893).
condition bad
height [cm]12
width [cm]16.7

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