Interview with Dr. Datey-Kumodzie. Introduction

Daniela Merolla and Kofi Dorvlo started a video project in 2007 on Ewe migration stories and the Hogbetsotso festival in which these stories are re-enacted. The Hogbetsotso celebration is usually held in the first week of November every year. In November 2007, Merolla and Dorvlo interviewed Dr. Datey-Kumodzie who had been recommended to them as being well informed about the Hogbetsotso festival and the xotutu (migration stories).

Biographical Notes

Dr. Datey-Kumodzie was born at Anloga-Lashɖbe. He was trained as a teacher at the State Academy of Music in Stuttgart and holds a doctorate degree from the University of Cologne with a thesis on Ewe songs and religious beliefs (Datey-Kumodzie, S. Musik und die Yeweh- oder Hu-Religion. Der Sogbo-Musikkult. Diss. Köln, 1989, manuscript). He also wrote the unpublished manuscript Hu-Yehweh, The Eternal Wisdom of Africa, on Ewe knowledge systems. He is the president of the organization called Sofia Mission (African Mystery Systems of Religion and Science). Dr. Datey-Kumodzie lives in Accra.

‘Modern’ construction of a myth of origin?

In the fragments of the interview presented on this CDRom, Dr. Datey-Kumodzie recollects the historical migration of the Ewes as enacted during the Hogebetsotso and offers songs related to the festival. The story narrated by Dr. Katey-Kumodzie, however, differs from the usually known migration stories (xotuto). In the interview, the well-known part – that which relates the Ewe migration from Ketu in Nigeria and from Notsie in Togo and the performance in the Hogbetsotso festival (see video fragments in this CDRom) – is enclosed in a narrative of the origins of humanity.
The creation of the world and the Ewes by the Mother Goddess is referred to in a first song. From this point on, with a powerful performance in terms of singing and narrating style, Dr. Katey-Kumodzie recounts that human beings crept out of water after centuries of evolution (“they were dolphins”). According to him, the first migration started from the Lost Continent of Mu from which the original Ewe speakers spread to the whole world, to India and China, to Mesopotamia, to the ancient Greco-Roman world and Egypt. From Ethiopia the ancient Ewes (also?) migrated to Egypt and from there they went south towards Nigeria and from that point on his narrative reconnects to the known oral migration stories of the Ewes. Dr. Katey-Kumodzie however adds another wave of migration from west to east from ancient Ghana down through present day Gonja, Ashanti and Ga territories before crossing the Volta eastwards to the Anlo area. The content of the ‘narrative of origin’ of the Ewes and all humanity is summarized in two short sections of Dr. Datey-Kumodzie’s paper “Finding a Knowledge Foundation for Africa” (2006) retrieved at
This narrative – as told in the interview and summarized in Dr. Datey-Kumodzie’s paper –appears to the interviewers as a ‘modern myth of origin’ given by a convoluted mix of Ewe cosmological ideas, migration stories, scientific ideas on evolution, historical knowledge of different periods and cultures, and popularising fictional narratives of the Lost Continent of Mu. Moreover, the interviewee’s narrative can be seen as “Ewe-centric” in so far that the language spoken by the first human beings was Ewe and this language and cosmological knowledge fertilized and left traces in the most known civilizations of the whole world.

Lost Continent of Mu

The Lost Continent of Mu was theorized by August Le Plongeon and James Churchward in the 19th century. They claimed the existence of an ancient continent that had disappeared in the Atlantic Ocean. Today archaeological, linguistic and genetic evidence has lead scholars to dismiss such a hypothesis and to see it as a fictional narrative. See Fagan, G.G., Diagnosing pseudoarchaelogy, Archaeological Fantasies, G.G.Fagan Ed., 2006, Routledge, London and New York, 23-46.

Scientific Questions

It is well known that narrative strategies make it possible for storytellers to integrate different forms of knowledge from varied sources as well as input from the audience and to adapt them to present circumstances. Such strategies are recognizable in Dr. Datey-Kumodzie’s interview that creates a ‘modern’ mythical narrative by mixing heterogeneous materials. Linking the Ewe ancestors to major/most well-known civilizations belongs, for example, to a strategy for (re)constructing Ewe identity and history. It is a response as well to a variety of cultural predicaments, such as political and ideological discussions around nationalism and pan-Africanism, globalizing processes in knowledge building, and the need to find/re-state one’s location in the mental geography and history that stretch once and again to include the whole world. We also see it as a brave attempt to find a role for local knowledge – but in a lettered and esoteric elaboration – that risks becoming ineffective and futile when segregated in the realm of mythology or philosophy. To be noted, ‘local knowledge’ in this ‘modern’ mythical narrative means pre/other than Christian/Islamic religions and European/Arabic philosophies and science (Datey-Kumodzie 2006, see Excerpt).
A number of elements of this narrative of origin are problematic for ‘scientific knowledge’ as professed in present academic disciplines. Etymologies that are offered as pieces of evidence to sustain the narrative are based on a resemblance in sound, what is – for linguists – not a serious basis for asserting the etymological link (see video fragment “Hogbetsotso” and comment). The hypothetical reconstruction of world history and Ewe migrations is acceptable as a personal narrative. It is however problematic if understood as “history” in the sense of the academic discipline: not only is chronology mixed up at times, but we also have the integration of the Lost Continent of Mu in global history. Similarly, the idea that the Ewes together with the Akan, Ashanti and Ga would have migrated from Ethiopia to Egypt and to the rest of the world (China, Mesopotamia and Greco-Roman world) before reaching West Africa is highly dubious if not fictional.

A shared ‘modern myth’?

An open question is whether Dr. Datey-Kumodzie’s interview expresses his personal reinterpretation, or whether it is a somehow shared, perhaps a secret knowledge among (certain milieus of) Ewes. During the interview of about two hours, he executed an impressive performance, alternating narrative and song, and it is evident that his narrative and style are his own. However, interviews conducted in November 2009 in Anloga (traditionally the ritual and political capital of the Anlo-Ewe in Ghana) with some educated Ewes (teachers and office workers) show that the idea that Ewes migrated from Ethiopia to Egypt before reaching West Africa is well-known and it is often presented as a historical ‘fact’. In this, we might see the influence of a schoolbook such as Eve Kɔnuwo (Ewe Rituals) by S. J. Obianim (Sedco Publishing, Accra, 1990) in which the author discusses such an origin as a possibility. However, there is little archaeological or linguistic evidence for it.

The reconstruction of human history in terms of Ewe worldwide migrations is shared by Togolese Ewe members who produced a video summarizing the creation and migration narrative of the Ewe, similar to the narrative by Datey-Kumodzie. Such a video was aired on the “Supreme Master Television” (28 July 2007) that broadcasts the teachings and actions of their spiritual leader Ching Hai. The video found its way onto the World Wide Web (see Youtube and information placed on the Abibitumi Kasa website forum, retrieved on 31-08-2010).

Although the aim of the Ewe creation and migration story aired on the “Supreme Master Television” is unclear, the video appears to assert the centrality of Ewe cosmology and religious/philosophical knowledge in human global history. As in Dr. Datey-Kumodzie’s paper, the Ewe/African local knowledge foundation is seen as being central to new technical and spiritual developments in Africa (see ‘The African and his heritage today’ in Datey-Kumodzie 2006, see Excerpt). One wonders whether they do not have the same agenda and whether they have not had the views from the same source.


The problematic relationship between data derived from scientific investigation and other forms of knowledge is painfully at stake for the researchers, and raises ethical questions. The researchers, while intending to respect the interviewee’s word and intentionality – which includes the ‘narrative of origin’ presented as truthful and scientifically sound – at the same time can only but interpret it as a powerful piece of narrative performance and as a personal mythopoetics (or myth-making) built with heterogeneous ‘global’ elements and local - either shared, secret or ‘reconfigured’ - knowledge.

Importance of the interview

The interview is a most interesting document of a present form of ‘local knowledge’ that is adapted and ‘invented’ in a creative and esoteric way to respond to social and cultural processes, including the increasing importance and assertiveness of Christianity and Islam in West Africa, nationalism, globalization and glocalizing developments. The presence of a Youtube video with similar content increases the interest related to the oral-written-electronic interactions in present identity negotiations and creations.