samgeall links to an article on the relationship between occult practices and cyberfraud in ghanaian popular culture…
Sakawa: On Occultic Rituals and Cyberfraud in Ghanaian Popular Culture by Joseph Oduro-Frimpong [pdf]
this may sound obscure but let’s just think of occult practices as means to an end. when riki lake or oprah tells guests they must love themselves before they can love others, that is a form of re-imagining, a means toward an end which is itself a form of magic.
maybe this is a way to achieve success in the music industry, which all things being equal, is becoming a realm of hype (“collective fantasies”), and “emprically unproven relations between phenomena” which require will require “new magic for new situations”. in a world in which concepts, economies and tectonic plates are becoming increasingly unstable we no longer need a “coherent, ordered system”. in fact, ask the israeli army, who use deleuze and guattari to plan urban warfare, using means and ends alone is usually the most direct approach. this is itself an occult approach, bypassing accepted models to visualise a situation and force it into happening. ritual magic usually involves some kind of exchange. redemption/transcendence through sacrifice has been around for as long as there has been people. producers with an occult hustle should probably read the small print and make sure they’re not the ones getting crucified.
“It is in view of conceiving of occult discourses in our contemporary world as “new magic for new situations” (Comaroff and Comaroff 199: 284) that I approach sakawa narratives as ‘collective fantasies’ (Tholden van Velzen and van Wetering 2001: 18). In adopting this notion as a way of understanding these narratives, I am not suggesting that it is a coherent framework shared by all Ghanaians to explain the connection between the enactment of occultic practices and the success of cyberfraud. The concept lies allows for certain flexibility in exploring “new possibilities . . . with empirically unproven relations between phenomena . . . without the necessity of turning them into a coherent, ordered system” (Meyer 1995: 248). Within such system, collective fantasies “often employ the realm ‘realm of darkness’ in order to express and clarify existential questions” (Meyer 1995: 248). From this perspective, I demonstrate how sakawa narratives are popular in Ghana precisely because they express discontent with certain economic and social situations in the country. Such an expression, as couched in sakawa narratives, is a “retooling of culturally familiar technologies” (Comaroff and Comaroff 199: 284) of previously existing narratives involving religious beliefs and (alleged) practices that go with satanic/occultic riches (Meyer 1995).” (4-5)
the article contains analysis of the relationship between popular culture (video films) and the political elites to sakawa. i’m not ghanaian and i’m not an anthropologist so i won’t go too deep into it, but here’s the synopsis of the climax of the film Dons in Sakawa:
“At the Shrine of Calipha, Lord Bokka makes the supplicants aware that each has a “golden rule” to observe that ensures their continued success in the cyberfraud business. Although these ritual rules are not made explicit to the audience, as the film progresses, one becomes aware of them. Thus, for Mike, he had to find and be sexually intimate with a mad woman once a month. Justin had to be faithful to Stacy (his girlfriend for several years), and not have any other sexual affair. Hakeem was not supposed to use his wealth to cater for the health needs of his mother and younger female sibling.
However, all the friends flout these rules. Mike discontinues with his monthly sexual escapades with mad women, which results in his eventual madness. Justin becomes attracted to a young lady and jilts Stacy. One day while Justin and his new-found love were coming out from a fashion boutique, Stacy confronts him about his inconsiderate behavior but Justin snubs her. Stacy pulls out a gun, shoots Mike and then commits suicide. With Hakeem, although he initially refused to pay upfront, the needed funds so that the mother could be attended to, he finally gave in after reflecting on how his single-parent mother had struggled to see him through his university education. Soon after Hakeem’s mother’s was released from the hospital, Hakeem visited her at her home. On his way out, Lord Bokka appeared in the courtyard of Hakeem’s mother to demand Hakeem’s soul. A Christian pastor of the church Hakeem’s mother attends was present and the pastor decided not to allow Lord Bokka to take Hakeem’s soul. This impasse results in a spiritual fight between the representatives of Good and Evil where the latter lost and Hakeem redeems his soul.” (7-8)