Saint Anthony of Padua and the God of Nana Ntona in Elmina: A Ghanaian Tale of Transcultural Religious Aesthetics
Butticci’s project explores the biography of a statue of Saint Anthony that was initially made for a Catholic church in Portugal, was then brought to Elmina, Ghana, by Catholic missionaries in the seventeenth century and, when those missionaries were chased away by the Dutch, ended up in a traditional shrine as Nana Ntona—Saint Anthony renamed as a local deity. As a local deity, Nana Ntona became popular for his healing and miraculous power. During the period of the Atlantic slave trade, when Elmina became one of the major Dutch sources of slaves, Nana Ntona became an asylum for runaway slaves and years later became the great protector of the Elminians who were fighting against the British colonial empire. In contemporary Elmina, Nana Ntona is one of the seventy-seven gods that inhabit a vibrant fishing town that is now seriously challenged by the harsh consequences of a ruthless neo-liberal fishing market. What is the role of Nana Ntona in contemporary Elmina? And what is his relationship to Saint Anthony, whose statue adorns the main altar of the Catholic Basilica of Elmina that so majestically oversees the town from Mission Hill? The research looks at the encounter between Roman Catholic iconicity and Gold Coast traditional religions and societies, their connections and disconnections, reciprocal appropriations and manipulations of objects, images, and religious aesthetics.