No Mistress for Master: Ghanaian Traditional Female Drummers in the Performance of Gender, Sustainability and Decoloniality


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


Theatre and Film Studies


Okyerema, a non-gendered Akan word, describes a consummate traditional drum performer in Ghana who doubles as leader of a traditional drumming group. Although the word itself is not gender-specific, many unscripted rules have prevented women from attaining this title. Notwithstanding these challenges, a few Ghanaian women have ‘shattered the glass window’ to become virtuoso traditional drummers. However, they have not received the much-needed scholarly attention. Through the lives, accomplishments and activities of four purposively-selected expert female traditional drummers, I interrogate the discourse on the performance of gender, sustainability and decoloniality, relying on extensive participatory ethnographic fieldwork, pertinent literature, and relevant theories. The outcome of the study will expand scholarship on gender studies in musical traditions in Ghana and within the broad frame of gender discourses in Africa where the ‘oppressed’ now manipulate and overturn gendered roles, challenge longstanding prejudices and omissions limiting their understanding of politics and society.