In 1965, Gus Dinizulu, an African American percussionist, traveled to Ghana with the dance company he was leading. There, he took the trip as an opportunity to explore his African roots and met Nana Oparebea, the Ghanaian chief-priestess of the Akonedi Shrine, one of the most famous shrine houses north of Accra. At the Akonedi Shrine, Nana Oparebea performed for Dinizulu a divination, during which she explained that his enslaved ancestors were parts of the Akan people of Ghana and gave him the mission to search for other African Americans who, like him, were of Ghanaian ancestries. She also offered him a set of altars, containing the spiritual forces of the deities revered in the Akonedi Shrine and asked him to import in the United States what was then labelled the Akan religion. Based on research led both in Ghana and in the United States, the aim of this paper will be to describe the process of diffusion, importation, transnationalization and indigenization of the Akan religion between West Africa and the East Coast of the United States. Focusing on ethnographic data, we will argue that this process can only be understood if it is placed in the context of African American identity formations. Therefore, we will show how in the context of globalization, religion and identity constructions are walking hand-in-hand, creating new discourses on hybridity and authenticity.
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