BLA'S TORVI SYSTEM
THE TƆVI SYSTEM AS A FOUNDATION OF CONFLICT RESOLUTION IN GBI-BLA
AUTHOR: Samuel Abednego Agbo
PHOTO CREDIT: Kumagah Asiwome
Our ancestors consider death as a passage from the physical world to the spiritual world. A number of rituals are therefore put in place to ensure the smooth departure of a person from the physical world into the spiritual world. The process is so important that every family member is expected to be actively involved. To get everybody involved, all existing disputes between family members have to be settled before the funeral. The journey of the spirit of a deceased person to the land of the ancestors is too important an issue for family members to keep holding on to their differences. Also, dispute(s) involving the dead person and any living family member(s) in particular or any other person in general has to be settled as much as practicable to the satisfaction of the deceased person to enable his or her spirit to have a smooth journey to the land of the ancestors. Hence, the moment a person dies, all customary conflict resolution and funeral preparation systems of Gbi-Bla and for that matter Gbi, are automatically activated. Xɔmedali, Tɔvidali & Kukodzo are the traditional platforms used to make all the important preparations before a funeral is held. `
Before presenting the three (3) traditional platforms, there is the need to first explain how TƆVIŊTSU / AMEDIE, TƆVINYƆNU / TSIDZOEƉOA and ASIXEƉEAMEŊLA are appointed in Gbi-Bla.
TƆVIŊTSU & TƆVINYƆNU
In the wisdom of our forefathers, every community member needs, at least, two other community members who should be close to him or her; persons he or she will naturally stick with and fight for and vice versa. These two persons must be a male and a female. The persons are considered by tradition as closer in ties to him or her than even his or her siblings. The relationship that exists between him or her and these persons should not be romantic at any point in time because they are considered ‘siblings’ from different parents. The two persons are referred to as TƆVIŊTSU and TƆVINYƆNU for the male and female respectively.
Ideally, an individual is expected to have TƆVIŊTSU and TƆVINYƆNU upon the attainment of adulthood but, more often than not, TƆVIŊTSU and TƆVINYƆNU are appointed at the time an individual has to undergo a notable traditional function e.g. marriage, TAVƆƐƉEƉE, LƆXOƉIƉI, TOTUDADA, etc.
An individual has the right to select his or her TƆVIŊTSU and TƆVINYƆNU with the guidance of clan elders. The elders could also appoint TƆVIŊTSU and TƆVINYƆNU for an individual with the consent of the individual. TƆVIŊTSU and TƆVINYƆNU cannot be imposed on an individual. A person can also request to change his or her TƆVIŊTSU / TƆVINYƆNU. One other feature of the traditional system is that, an individual can have more than one TƆVIŊTSU and / or TƆVINYƆNU.
In addition to ‘having each other’s back’ through the thick and thin of life, TƆVIŊTSU and TƆVINYƆNU play significant roles in the life of an individual in times of celebration and also in times of mourning. TƆVIŊTSU and TƆVINYƆNU are the ones who should be the main actors during a person’s marriage ceremony, anniversary celebrations, TAVƆƐƉEƉE, LƆXOƉIƉI, TOTUDADA, etc. In the procession to such programmes, the individual is expected to be flanged at the right by the TƆVIŊTSU and the left by the TƆVINYƆNU.
AMEDIE & TSIDZOEƉOA
The TƆVI system dovetails into another system herein referred to as KUNUWƆNAWO.
At the time of death, TƆVIŊTSU becomes AMEDIE while TƆVINYƆNU becomes TSIDZOEƉOA. A third functionary is appointed at this time called ASIXEƉEAMEŊLA
Where a person did not have TƆVIŊTSU and TƆVINYƆNU at the time of his or her death, the elders would appoint AMEDIE, TSIDZOEƉOA and ASIXEƉEAMEŊLA for the deceased person per custom and tradition.
AMEDIE, among other functions, is the Chief Mourner. No ritual could be performed without the presence and / or consent of AMEDIE. Nobody is expected to use or dispose of any of the belongings of the deceased person without the consent of the AMEDIE.
TSIDZOEƉOA, among other functions, is the one responsible for the wellbeing of the body of the deceased till burial. She has to be by the body from mortuary to the funeral home and keep an eye on the body till burial.
ASIXEƉEAMEŊLA supports AMEDIE and TSIDZOEƉOA in executing the burial, funeral and all other related customary responsibilities. The ASIXEƉEAMEŊLA is always a male.
A person’s TƆVIŊTSU and TƆVINYƆNU and where necessary AMEDIE, TSIDZOEƉOA and ASIXEƉEAMEŊLA must hail from specific clans / sub-divisions as prescribed by custom and tradition.
SELECTION OF TƆVIŊTSU / AMEDIE & TƆVINYƆNU / TSIDZOEƉOA
The selection processes vary from sub-division to sub-division in Gbi-Bla and this is strictly backed by history and custom.
The Tsrivi Sub-division is made up of three clans namely Akunu Clan, Buami Clan and Nyavor Clan.
The Akunu Clan is made up of the Simpi Family, Gorkel (Kokloboto) Family, Sunu family and Aʋafianyo Family.
The Buami Clan is made up of the Digo Family, Gorlu (Asempah) Family, Venyo Family, Agbo (Akpedanu) Family and Soglo Family.
The Nyavor Clan is made up of the Amewu (Duglu) Family, Avetse Family, Boateng Family, Senoo Family, Lartey Family, Edzii Family, Zu Family, Kpegah Family and Atey Family.
A member of the Tsrivi Sub-division can have TƆVIŊTSU / AMEDIE and TƆVINYƆNU / TSIDZOEƉOA from any of the two other clans in Trsivi outside his/her clan. Both could come from the same clan or one from each clan.
A member of the Akunu clan may have TƆVIŊTSU / AMEDIE from Buami clan and TƆVINYƆNU / TSIDZOEƉOA from Nyavor clan. The same person may have both coming from either the Buami clan or Nyavor clan. The same applies to the other two clans in Tsrivi.
(It must be noted however that this selection arrangement has not always been the case. The Akunu Clan until the early 1980s was a subset of the Buami Clan.)
The Blanyigbe Sub-division is made up of three clans namely Asiamah Kotobri Clan, Bansa Clan and Gledogbe Clan.
The Asiamah Kotobri Clan is made up of the Asiamah Family, Achemdey Family, Aguduawu Family and Egbenunya Family.
The Bansa Clan is made up of the Gladza Family, Tsekpo Family, Kakatse Family and Kumeni Family.
The Gledogbe Clan is made up of the Adigbo Family, Adjah Family, Tsigbe Family and Nyangamagu Family. It must be noted here that NYANGAMAGU is a sub-set of the Tsigbe Family.
The TƆVIŊTSU / AMEDIE and TƆVINYƆNU / TSIDZOEƉOA of a member of the Blanyigbe Sub-division can either come from the person’s own clan but from a different family or from either of the two other clans of Blanyigbe.
A member of the Tsigbe family could have a TƆVIŊTSU / AMEDIE from the Adjah Family and TƆVINYƆNU / TSIDZOEƉOA from the Adigbo Family. The TƆVINYƆNU / TSIDZOEƉOA could equally come from either the Bansa Clan or Asiamah Kotobri Clan and vice versa.
Another member of the Tsigbe family could have TƆVIŊTSU / AMEDIE from the Bansah Clan and TƆVINYƆNU / TSIDZOEƉOA from the Asiamah Kotobri Clan and vice versa.
The Bladzigbe Sub-division is made up of three clans namely Ayim Clan, Kpoŋɛ Clan and Vule Clan.
The Ayim Clan is made up of the Aliƒe Family, Dagana Family, Nsua Family and Mensah Family.
The Kpoŋɛ Clan is made up of the Tsriku Family, Wutsi Family, Amoaku Family, Blu Family, Kofinti Family, Osai Family and Aʋli Family.
The Vule Clan is made up of the Awumey Family, Gandedzi Family, Prah Family, Yadar Family, Abubu Family and Avorgoe Family.
The Kpoŋɛ Clan select TƆVIŊTSU / AMEDIE from the Vule Clan and TƆVINYƆNU / TSIDZOEƉOA from within the same Kpoŋɛ Clan.
The Vule Clan also select TƆVIŊTSU / AMEDIE from the Kpoŋɛ Clan and select TƆVINYƆNU / TSIDZOEƉOA from within the same Vule clan.
The Ayim Clan select both TƆVIŊTSU / AMEDIE and TƆVINYƆNU / TSIDZOEƉOA ONLY from WITHIN the Ayim Clan but from families outside a deceased person’s family.
SELECTION OF ASIXEƉEAMEŊLA IN GBI-BLA
TSRIVI & BLADZIGBE SUB-DIVISIONS
The Tsrivi Sub-division is made of the Akunu Clan, Buami Clan and Nyavor Clan.
Members of the Tsrivi Sub-division collectively refer to the members of the Kpoŋɛ and Vule clans of Bladzigbe Sub-division as their TƆVIWO and vice versa.
When death occurs in the Tsrivi Sub-division, the Tsrivimetsitsie would request for ASIXEƉEAMEŊLA from Bladzigbemetsitsie during the occasion of TƆVIDALI. The Bladzigbemetsitsie upon receiving the request would confer with his elderly kinsmen and select a man from either the Kpoŋɛ Clan or Vule Clan.
When death occurs in any of either Kpoŋɛ clan or Vule clan of Bladzigbe Sub-division i.e. the Bladzigbemetsitsie would request for ASIXEƉEAMEŊLA from Tsrivimetsitsie during the occasion of TƆVIDALI. The Tsrivimetsitsie upon receiving the request would confer with his elderly kinsmen and select a man from the Akunu Clan, Buami Clan or Nyavor Clan.
The Ayim Clan select ASIXEƉEAMEŊLA from ONLY WITHIN the Ayim Clan but from outside the deceased person’s family.
Blanyigbe Sub-division is made up of three (3) clans i. e. Asiamah Kotobri Clan, Bansa Clan and Gledogbe Clan. These three (3) clans collectively refer to each other as TƆVIWO.
Blanyigbe select ASIXEƉEAMEŊLA from outside the clan of the deceased person. For example, when a member of the Asiamah Kotobri Clan dies, the ASIXEƉEAMEŊLA must come from either the Bansa Clan or Gledogbe Clan.
XƆMEDALI, TƆVIDALI & KUKODZO
Xɔmedali, Tɔvidali & Kukodzo are customary mediation platforms put in place for the resolution of all existing disputes that could impact on the funeral of a community member. They are also platforms for preparation towards the burial and funeral of a deceased person.
Xɔmedali, Tɔvidali & Kukodzo, among other things, ascertain and resolve issues relating to the following:
1. All disputes involving the deceased person and any other person(s) that can impact on the burial and funeral.
2. All disputes among family members of the deceased person that can impact on the burial and funeral.
3. Those the deceased person is owing and / or those owing the deceased person.
4. Vital message(s) the deceased person might have left with any person while he or she was alive. Those who provided care to the deceased person during the final days / hours are interrogated.
5. The level of care provided to the deceased person during his or her final days on earth. It is believed that the spirit of a deceased person who is dissatisfied with the level of care provided to him or her during his or her life time ought to be pacified before the burial and funeral.
6. The retrieval and proper disposal of the belongings of a deceased person. It is the belief of our people that a deceased person whose properties are not well handled can seek for redress from the world of the dead, often resulting in the death of other family members.
7. The identification / appointment of AMEDIE, TSIDZOEƉOA, ASIXEƉEAMEŊLA, etc.
1. The entire clan of the deceased person.
2. The maternal family of the deceased person.
3. The spouse and family of the spouse of the deceased person.
If a member of Tsrivi Sub-division (that is Akunu, Buami and Nyavɔ clans) or any of the following two clans of Bladzigbe (that is Kpoŋe and Vule) dies, the TƆVIDALI involves:
1. All clans in Tsrivi, that is Akunu, Buami and Nyavɔ
2. The following two clans of Bladzigbe: Kpoŋe and Vule
When death occurs in Tsrivi Sub-division, the Asixeɖeameŋla comes from Bladzigbe (from either Kpoŋe clan or Vule clan) and when death occurs in Bladzigbe (from either Kpoŋe clan or Vule clan), the Asixeɖeameŋla comes from Tsrivi (from either Akunu clan, Buami clan or Nyavɔ clan).
When death occurs in the Ayim clan of Bladzigbe Sub-division, the TƆVIDALI involves all clans of Bladzigbe Sub-division (that is Ayim, Kpoŋe and Vule clans).
When death occurs in the Ayim clan, Asixeɖeameŋla is selected from the same Ayim clan but from outside the family of the deceased person.
When death occurs in Blanyigbe Sub-division, the Asixeɖeameŋla comes from any of the two other clans apart from the clan of the deceased person. For example, when death occurs in the Asiamah Kotobri clan, the Asixeɖeameŋla comes from either the Bansa clan or Gledogbe clan.
Kukodzo largely follows the same traditional procedure as TƆVIDALI. One cardinal difference is that it involves the whole town (traditional division) in particular and the entire Gbidzigbe NORTHERN ADONTIN in general which is Bla, Kpeme and Abansi (Three Town).
KUKODZO is the sole responsibility of Tɔgbe Buami, the Overlord of Gbi-Bla. He is customarily responsible for the physical and spiritual well-being of all natives of Gbi-Bla, both home and abroad, whether dead or alive. He is also, to a very large extent, responsible for all human beings that reside in Gbi-Bla. In other words, Tɔgbe Buami is largely responsible for the socio-spiritual balance of Gbi-Bla. Tɔgbe Buami reserves the power and the right to, upon the advice of ABRIWA, sanction any native or resident who breaches any traditional customary procedure(s) of Gbi-Bla. Tɔgbe Buami also bears the responsibility of ensuring that all natives and / or residents of Gbi-Bla live in harmony with the gods and the ancestors of Gbi-Bla and for that matter Gbi and he must ensure that the gods and ancestors are placated for any action or inaction that might incur their wrath.
All proceedings in XƆMEDALI and TƆVIDALI end up in KUKODZO. It is the customary traditional platform put in place by our forefathers to enable Tɔgbe Buami to customarily audit and streamline preparations for the burial and funeral of deceased natives of Gbi-Bla and where necessary, deceased residents who choose Gbi-Bla as their home.
KUKODZO has three (3) main functions, which are:
1. To resolve all issues which could not be satisfactorily resolved by the two (2) earlier customary platforms i.e. XƆMEDALI and TƆVIDALI.
2. To officially announce the burial and funeral arrangements i.e. burial date, funeral dates, the nature of the funeral, etc.
3. To announce key functionaries for the burial and funeral programmes i.e. AMEDIE,
TSIDZOEƉOA, ASIXEƉEAMEŊLA, etc.
In undertaking the sacred customary duty of KUKODZO, Tɔgbe Buami is assisted by his sub-divisional chiefs and elders from the entire Gbidzigbe northern ADONTIN which is Bla, Kpeme and Abansi (Three Town). The following is the customary arrangement put in place by our forefathers for sub-divisional chiefs and elders who could assist Tɔgbe Buami in
1. If the deceased person hailed from Blanyigbe, then the sub-divisional chiefs of Bladzigbe (i.e. Tɔgbe Vule and Tɔgbe Ayim) and elders from Tsrivi and Bladzigbe are those expected to assist Tɔgbe Buami in the KUKODZO proceedings.
2. If the deceased person hailed from Bladzigbe, then the sub-divisional chief of Blanyigbe (i.e. Tɔgbe Aʋaliɛ) and elders of Tsrivi and Blanyigbe are those expected to assist Tɔgbe Buami in the KUKODZO proceedings.
3. If the deceased person hailed from Tsrivi, then the sub-divisional chiefs of Bladzigbe (i.e. Tɔgbe Vule and Tɔgbe Ayim) and Blanyigbe (i.e. Tɔgbe Aʋaliɛ) and elders from Blanyigbe and Bladzigbe are those expected to assist Tɔgbe Buami in the KUKODZO proceedings.
4. In all KUKODZO proceedings, there is expected to be representatives from Gbi-Kpeme and Gbi-Abansi, delegated by the DUMETSITSIE of Gbi-Kpeme and Gbi-Abamsi (i.e. KPEMEMETSITSIE and ABANSIMETSITSIE) respectively. (The ADONTIN system requires that when death occurs in Gbi-Bla, the DUMETSITSIE of Gbi-Kpeme and Gbi-Abansi should be informed and requested to send representatives to support Tɔgbe Buami in the KUKODZO proceedings. The same thing is done when death occurs in Gbi-Kpeme and Gbi-Abansi, where delegations are sent from the other two towns to support the divisional chief of the deceased person in KUKODZO proceedings.)
For the actual proceedings, the sub-division from which the deceased person hailed present themselves to Tɔgbe Buami, his sub-divisional chiefs and elders for a traditional customary assessment to ensure that preparations for the burial and funeral are in accordance with the customs and traditions of Gbi-Bla in particular and Gbi in general. In appearing before Tɔgbe Buami and his sub-divisional chiefs and elders in KUKODZO proceedings, the delegation is led by the SAMEMETSITSIE i.e. Tsrivimetsitsie, Blanyigbemetsitsie or Bladzigbemetsitsie, depending on where the deceased person hailed from.
During the proceedings, the SAMEMETSITSIE would report on all that transpired during TƆVIDALI. He will then call on the DZOTINUMETSITSIE (Head of Clan) or ƑOMEMETSITSIE (Head of Family) of the deceased person to feed-in with any information that he (SAMEMETSITSIE) might have left out.
DƆNƆGBƆNƆWO (those who provided care to the deceased person during the final days / hours) and all other persons considered to possess relevant information are also interrogated.
At this point, the issues of interest are those that could not be satisfactorily resolved in TƆVIDALI. All such issue(s) must be presented in KUKODZO for resolution. Failure to present any of such issues in KUKODZO is a serious breach of custom and tradition and attracts severe punishment(s) in the form of fines (ram, goat, drinks, etc.).
After all presentations / interrogations / queries, Tɔgbe Buami will then dispatch the elders to go and consult ABRIWA. In the wisdom of our ancestors, chiefs do not go to ABRIWA in KUKODZO proceedings. Whatever opinion any of them might have on the proceedings is relayed to the elders to be taken to ABRIWA. Before leaving to consult ABRIWA, the elders will request for not more than two persons from the sub-division of the deceased person to join them in consulting with ABRIWA. The person(s) who join the elders to consult ABRIWA is /are expected to relay to ABRIWA some vital information, including the persons identified to be AMEDIE, TSIDZOEƉOA and ASIXEƉEAMEŊLA for the consideration of ABRIWA. Such person(s) would re-join their kinsmen immediately after executing their assignment, while the elders confer further with ABRIWA.
The verdict of ABRIWA is delivered through Tɔgbe Buami’s TSIAMI in the following manner:
1. Persons found by ABRIWA to have breached customary rules are fined.
2. The names of key functionaries in the burial and funeral programme e.g. AMEDIE, TSIDZOEƉOA and ASIXEƉEAMEŊLA as directed by ABRIWA are announced.
3. The form and manner of the burial and funeral and dates are also announced as directed by ABRIWA.
Generally speaking, the ruling / message(s) from ABRIWA are quite straightforward if there are no unresolved issues from TƆVIDALI that require the intervention of ABRIWA.
(The above is quite an abridged presentation on customary preparations that are made for burial and funeral programmes in Gbi-Bla. Others are entreated to feed-in with relevant missing-links or correct any inaccurate information identified.
Also note that the above did not discuss the funeral arrangements for chiefs, queen mothers and other traditionally prominent natives of Gbi-Bla. Those will be discussed in due course.)
NOTE: The photo published with this piece is for demonstration purposes only, as the two people it features together may not be torviwo.