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Banished ‘Witches’ Sing Of Their Pain — And Their Dreams

On a brief track called “I Stand Accused,” a woman in a remote part of Ghana intones and repeats the title phrase with the intensity of a global town crier. She’s accompanied only by the sound of pieces of firewood being struck together. But in her solitude she’s speaking for a community called Witch Camp that has recorded the new album, I’ve Forgotten Now Who I Used To Be.

This singer is one of an estimated 1,000 women in northern Ghana who have fled their homes because of witchcraft accusations — and the fear that they will be physically attacked as a result. Reasons vary for such allegations: Some charges arise so that land they owned could be stolen. Other times women with mental or physical disabilities are condemned. Virulent sexism, ageism or personal jealousies are usually part of these accusations. Their livelihood can include chopping firewood for local chiefs and gathering discarded food for themselves. One track describes an especially harsh means of survival: “Abandoned (Forced Into A Life Of Prostitution).”