“One day you will be a great Bokor because you care about family”- the late Bokor Dafliso Agbovi
I was a second-year college student at Middlebury College in Vermont at the time. We were filming our first ReVolution film, “Like A Knife: The Real Vodu” which at that point had no clear direction. I managed to convince some professional photographers and videographers from America to come to Ghana and film since we could not do it ourselves at the time. During the trip, the team filmed an Afa ritual (Vorsah) one of my elders Togbe Dafliso, a legendary Togolese Afa priest, did for me. This is when he uttered these words to me. Togbe Dalfliso was one of the best diviners I ever met in my life and one that my father deeply trusted.
I was only 19 years old. I had just been recently initiated into Afa, and it seemed impossible for me even to learn the complex divination system of Ewe Afa. Firstly, I was not living in Ghana because I left home at 16 to further my education abroad in Costa Rica and America. This meant that I had, at most, two months a year to study with my elders. Secondly, I am not fluent in the Ewe language so most of Afa’s wisdom had to be translated to me in English by my father so that I could understand. I often had to take extra notes and translate voice recordings asking my brothers, colleagues, friends, and elders fluent in Ewe to teach me so I could learn in my broken, pidgin Ewe. But the vastness of Afa made me think someone like me couldn’t ever be a competent Bokor. So I was surprised when Togbe Dafliso said I would become one.
Over the years, I have asked myself questions about what Togbe said and its deeper significance. What is the relationship between caring for family and being a Bokor? What does family signify in Vodu? What does it mean to be a great Bokor? I wish to share my reflections on these questions with you today.
Firstly, Bokors are healers in Ewe society. Like other African healers, they were the doctors, psychologists, counselors, mediators, and community mobilizers before Africa was colonized. My father says, “A Bokor’s work is to help humanity using nature’s secrets.” A good Bokor…