Ghana, Kumasi, the Central Market. Posters and billboards dealing with religious matters can be seen everywhere.
How do you praise your God? How do you pray to Him? Do you believe in Jesus Christ?
Ghanaians believe. Posters and billboards advertising conventions, new churches, miracle prayers, religious matters of all sorts are spread all around Ghana. Pastors of every Christian denomination proclaim the Word of God in radio and television, in buses, street corners and market squares. Everywhere you can hear the word: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! His name and image are found in many contexts-often employed more in a magical way than as a personal approach to God. Self proclaimed pastors and prophets are another thing. We should remember what the Carpenter from Nazareth said: ‘Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing’. Being a pastor in Ghana is partly a way of making money. Being a well established pastor in Ghana can prove extremely lucrative. Mixed in with authentic pastors are a great number of tricksters, but exploring this phenomenon was not the purpose of my project.
In this story I have tried to capture the power of prayer, what it means to people, and the many forms and traditions it takes within Christianity. I visited numerous prayer camps, places where all Christian denominations gather to concentrate on prayer and fasting. In the course of my visit I met people who stay and fast up to forty days and take no food at all, who are in short, quite comparable to biblical characters. Most of these believers come from Ghana, some travel from neighbouring countries such as Togo and Cote d’Ivoire. In general they are members of various Charismatic, Pentecostal, Methodist and Presbyterian churches. They pray in tongues (it is believed to be a gift from the Holy Spirit known as glossolalia); they clap their hands, dance, play tambourines and drums, break the hold of demons over people and spend hours on prayers. Some attendees gather on a mountain hoping to maximise the efficacy of prayer by praying over various physical objects such as olive oil, visa application, passport and money. Such articles are used as a point of contact with God in the hope that God can bless these items.
On one hand this Christianity accepts the will of God, on the other there is strong emphasis on success, winning, getting what is prayed for. Unlike orthodox Catholicism, fasting is not treated as a way to sacrifice your body to God but rather to gain a favour from Him such as the power of healing or prophecy. One could question many aspects of this approach of Christianity but there is one area for sure, where these people score points in contrary to many lukewarm in faith westerners: these people commit themselves completely to prayer. Most of them are well aware of the importance of taking care of their spirituality and worshipping God. What might be regarded with a cynical smile by a westerner is here in Ghana treated completely seriously.
A group of men gathered on a mountain to pray over various physical articles such as olive oil, visa, passport and job’s applications or money. Such articles are used as a point of contact with God. A believer who sells plastic chairs in a town below, left one chair on a mountain to pray on it in the hope that his business will improve.
A man is praying in tongues during a very hot midday sun.
A man is walking on a camp area and praying in tongues. Speaking in tongues known as glossolalia is believed to be a gift from the Holy Spirit.
Ghana, Atwea mountain, a group of young people gathers to discuss and pray together
Ghana, Kumasi region,Atwea mountain, a woman stays away from people spending her time on prayer and fasting
A group of women dance, sing and pray during celebration called ‘War night’ held on Atwea mountain
Ghana, Kumasi region, believers sing and pray in tounges during celebration called ‘War Night’ held on Atwea mountain
Ghana, Kumasi region, Men pray in tounges holding various papers e.g. job, visa or passport application or names of relatives who they pray for
A man fasts for fourteen days, drinking only water, he holds the Bible and stays away from people. He goes back to the church only when prayer sessions are held. Many believers stay in such prayer camp praying and fasting up to forty days.
Mattresses are used by prayer camp goers for sleeping and as a personal space where they can keep their belongings and bags with clothes, food and water. Most of the mattresses are made from foam, some are made from felt, all of them are kept on a prayer camp’s grounds and heavily used by attendees
A group of people are praying during church session on Atwea mountain near Kumasi area. Depending on the camp, church sessions are carried on, on most days, e.g. ‘War Night’ starts at twelve midnight and goes on for five or six hours. ‘Morning Glory’ can start at four o’clock and finishes at nine or ten a.m.
A group of women prays in the evening by gathering in a circle on the grounds of a prayer camp. The praying method includes speaking in tongues, clapping hands, reading various verses from the Bible, calling the name of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.
A junior pastor Fred Emanuel Gogo is dispossessing a woman from Tamale, the north of Ghana. Demonic powers are believed to have a strong and destructive influence on various facets of the believer’s life. In this instance the exorcism includes calling on, the name of Jesus and, the power of the Holy Spirit and, using water and olive oil.
Ghana, Kumasi, Posters and billboards dealing with religious matters can be seen everywhere. Being a pastor in Ghana is partly a way of making money. Being a well established pastor in Ghana can prove extremely lucrative. Mixed in with authentic pastors are a great number of tricksters
Every few days a group of young people from Cape Coast gathers together at the town square at night time to pray and discuss verses from the Bible.
The name and image of Jesus are widely used in Ghana. Various posters and billboards, shop names, buses and taxis, beauty saloons and restaurants contain images of Jesus Christ. The popular game ‘Ludo’ features Jesus Christ on one side and a snake on the other side.
Most of these believers put strong emphasis on success, winning and getting from God what they pray for. Such Christianity is quite unlike traditional Catholicism where church goers supposedly accept the will of God even if it conflicts with their personal plans.
Krzysztof Maniocha was born in 1979 in Poland. He has spent the last thirteen years in Ireland. During this time he graduated from Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology, with a BA ( Honors ) Degree in professional photography. He has spent several years assisting leading commercial photographers and working as a fixer for foreign photographers. Additionally, he has been freelancing in fields such as advertising, documentary work and press photography.
Krzysztof’s documentary stories have been featured with the photojournalist agency, ‘Uspecto Images’, whom he’s been involved with since 2011.