The majority of Africans [enslaved and] shipped to Surinam between 1650 and 1800 came from the Akan-Fanti speaking regions (today’s Ghana) and the Ewe-Fon-Nago speaking areas (Togo, Benin, formerly Dahomey, and Western Nigeria) which together formed the greater Kwa-languages and culture zone. Also a considerable number came from the areas surrounding the estuary of the Congo River, namely the Loango (or Luwango) region belonging to the so-called Northwestern-Central Bantu culture zone. The remainder was a congeries picked up here and there along the west coast of Africa of which yet the greater portion came from the Mande speaking culture zone. It was these Africans who furnished the basic structure for the African-Surinamese religious system[: Winti].
Winti as a Religious System
Winti as a religious system has an internal as well as an external structure. The internal structure deals with life as man is inwardly guided and the external structure entails everything else surrounding the former, i.e. the religious experience. The external structure of the belief teaches man how he or she must approach the faith in order to effect an equilibrium between the spiritual and the mores. The internal structure deals with the will to live. This means whatever man wants from life, whatever man wants to make of his life.
Man’s will is to be found in the Power of Anana that allows man to be whatever he or she wants to be. All of his actions, his do’s and don’ts, his endeavors and all that emanate from his innermost is nothing but an expression of his faith in Anana. This expression of faith is determined by the Power of Anana through the akara (or akra or kra i.e. I myself, ego). The external structure deals with the externals that determine man’s faith in life: What do you do to turn your life in a certain meaningful direction? What pathway do you choose in order to realize the desired course in all tranquility, civility, satisfaction and orderliness? These are questions to be answered by the external structure of man’s spiritual life.
The external belief structure of Winti is related to the ways man tries to order his spiritual life. Via this institution man is guided by the chosen ones, the bonuman, who have knowledge of the internal structure of life and thereby, through their spiritual endowment, know what connections must be made for the benefit of man both as an individual and as a collective body. These elect who propagate the Winti principles can bring man’s life into harmony with his desires by means of the rituals. Briefly stated the external structure is the way how man expresses his belief, in other words the way how he gives shape to his belief and how he worships.
The power of influence of The Winti follows the lineage of the akara down the line of the kabra (i.e. the spirits of the ancestors).
The strength of the belief in Winti is located in Anana Kedjaman Kedjapo or The Winti. That is commonly expressed by the following aphorism: a ben de bifo, bifo ben-de ben de, di tron ben-de tide, meaning: it was anterior to being before becoming being today [i.e. It (= the Universal Entity) was before It (= the first ancestral spirit) existed, and realized Itself (= today’s living progenies) today.]
In Winti one believes that the akara represents the Power of Anana in man. In this akara lies embedded man’s elementary behavior patterns in terms of what he wants, can do and what he ought to do. By laying oneself open to all of the elements of the Power of Anana the akara is expanded with Its Essence thereby gaining knowledge, wisdom and self-confidence leading toward man’s self realization and a fulfilling life. In view of this man may focus on any part of the Power of Anana that fixes any particular part of his spiritual life. These parts are also referred to as winti often with their specific proper names.
These elements in the Power of Anana are approached in four ways based on the four quarters of, the four approaches toward the spiritual life meaning that the akara is encompassed by the Power of Anana from four angles.
The Philosophy in Winti
Many people are looking for tranquility and fulfillment in life via Winti. There is no doubt that Winti leads man on the right path in reflecting on and meaningfully ordering of his life. Likewise it is a source of strength when he is trying to organize his life according to his wishes and abilities. This is clearly demonstrated when trying to teach about the Winti principles.
The adherents are searching for solutions, via the Winti religion, for all kinds of life issues:
(1) issues having to do with how to live, how to organized one’s life in an orderly fashion and harmoniously and in tune with the surrounding spiritual force field. These then concern questions on attitudes that must help giving direction in life;
(2) issues having to do with upsetting the spiritual balance whereby the individual has lost touch of self and life. One could say that the person ‘has gone mad’ or that his akara has turned against him so that he withdraws from life;
(3) issues having to do with physical illness;
(4) issues having to do with symptoms and questionable happenings.
In Winti man and spiritual experience go hand in hand; one is inherent of the other; man is at the very center of the faith. The individual must first come to terms with himself or his bun akara (= good self) as the saying goes, if he wants to extract himself from the morass of untruth. The belief in one’s own ability must be engraved in the very core of his bun akara.
Source: An African American Religion Called Winti, Stichting Tata Kwasi Ku Tata Tinsensi Foundation. From http://www.afroatenas.cult.cu