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What are the relationships between West African Traditional Religion and tourism?




The indigenous religion of West Africans is referred to as West African Traditional Religion (WATR). This religion was practice before the coming of the Christianity and the advent of Islam. The practice of this religion was prevalent in the West Africa, in countries, including but not limited to, Ghana, Benin, Sierra Leone, Togo, Liberia, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Mali, etc.

Tourism, on the other hand refers to the act of traveling to another place other than one's own place and staying to enjoy the new environment. It is normally place far from home, where one can experience different forms of recreation and cultures. It affords one the opportunity to explore new places, sights, etc. Tourism also involves visits to national parks, ancient religious sights and amusement parks.

There has been a long-standing relationship between tourism and religion. There has always been a special attraction of travelers to places of religious significance, including places where West African Traditional Religion is practiced. Today, going on pilgrimage to religious places constitute a significant chank of the tourism industry. In recent years, the relationship between religion and tourism has become even more complex, with many people traveling to religious sites for both spiritual and recreational purposes.

In this article, we will explore the various ways in which West African Traditional religion and tourism intersect.


Temporal migration

A lot of opportunities and adversities have taken people away from their home region. Some have even travelled to other countries and other continents. Some of the opportunities include education and trade and some adversities include lack of employment, ethnic violence and others. Anytime there is to be an indigenous religious festival, people temporarily migrate to their hometowns or home regions to partage in these religious activities. This serves as a form of religious tourism for the people. In Ghana, the celebration of the Adae kese of the Ashantis draws a lot of indigenous people back home. So also is the Hogbetsotso festival of the Anlo people or the Homowo of the Ga state. These festivals draw people from all parts of Ghana and even people from outside Ghana, who come along with their relatives, and friends for the celebrations. Not only that, they also come with their friends.

Time set aside for rest as sacred

Another important link between religion and tourism is the time set aside for quality rest. In many cultures, religion and tourism are considered as twins. Time set aside for rest is of particular importance in religious celebrations and activities. During such religious celebrations, serious farm work is suspended for the indigenous people to have time for activities planned for the religious festival. People go on their annual leave to coincide with the celebration of these festivals. It helps them to combine rest and local tourism.

Time for contemplation

When people travel to partake in religious festivals, it is a way of going far away from the hustle and bustle of life. This creates a sense of calmness where they are able to reflect on themselves and their life. There is a feeling of reverence toward the object of worship or a connection to the rituals performed with the various activities. This fosters a felling of peace and tranquility. It is therefore a time to have some level of self-introspection.

Leisure time for seeking self-understanding

Another link between religion and tourism is the leisure time it creates. There is enough time because work is temporarily suspended. With so much time on the on their hand, people are able to seclude themselves, hiding away from the noise and clutter to reflect on issues of personal importance to them. While reflecting on life, people become aware of things they would otherwise never have known. This helps them to refocus and redirect their life.


Religious Pilgrimage

Religious pilgrimage is a type of tourism that involves traveling to a location with special religious significance. Pilgrimage tourism is often motivated by a desire to visit holy places, participate in religious rituals, or take part in a special religious event. Pilgrims may travel to other countries or even other continents to visit religious sites and engage in spiritual activities. This type of tourism is often associated with economic benefits, as pilgrims typically spend money on accommodation, food, and other services during their visit. Additionally, religious pilgrimage can have a positive impact on local communities, as it can bring increased awareness and a greater appreciation for the local culture and religious practices.

Excursions to religious centres

The link between excursions to religious centres and tourism is that they both involve travelling to specific locations for different reasons. Religious centres are typically places of pilgrimage or places of worship, while tourism typically involves travelling for leisure or entertainment. Both involve journeys to different places, often with different motivations, and can be seen as part of a broader travel experience. Excursions to religious centres can be seen as an important part of tourism, as they can provide a unique cultural and spiritual experience.

Educational value of visit to religious centres

Visits to places of religious importance, like religious festivals and pilgrimages to sacred religious sites, are of great educational value to the visitors. The simple reason for this is that, the trove of information they receive during the visit is more than gold. It gives them a special insight into the reasons for some of the activities they are exposed to. There is therefore a better appreciation of their customs and practices. It also [people to learn to be at peace with others since there is an understanding of their ways of life.

Healing, spiritual strength, etc.

During religious festivals, people go back to connect with the ancestors to help them understand certain things that are happening in their lives at that particular time. Things for which answers have eluded them. West African Traditional Religion and tourism are intertwined since it is during these tours that such connections with the divine take place. It is also within these periods that people discover more things about the religion and its cultural practices. As tourists attend these religious festivals, the get to know more about the religion of the West African people.


There are two schools of thought on the relationship between religion and tourism. While some see it as a significant attraction to tourists, offering them unique chances to explore the culture of the people, others see it as a way of stirring controversy and unnecessary commercialization of the religion. Having said this, we can come to the conclusion that traditional religious practices still constitute a major aspect of the tourism destinations in West Africa. What is important is to ensure that both schools of thought derive the maximum benefit from what it has come to be.

Also Read:

The nature of African Traditional Religion

The characteristics of West African Traditional Religion

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