The Kabyè are a West African populatioN settled in the north of Togo, in Benin and Ghana and speaking the Kabyè language, a Gur Voltaic language, belonging to the largest family of Niger-Congo languages.
The Kabyè represent the second ethnic group of Togo, with over 12% of the population, and have as their main center the city of Kara.
It is estimated that the Kabyè are in all 730,000 individuals, of which just under 700,000 in Togo, 30,000 in Benin and a small number in Ghana.
The history of this people dates back to the 17th century when the Kabyè took refuge on the mountain ranges of Northern Togo in an attempt to escape the raids of slave empires.
During that time the villages were often the object of violent raids by the kingdoms of Dahomey and the Ashanti who were always looking for slaves, for this reason many communities withdrew to the mountains, where it was easier to hide and defend themselves.
Despite this escape from the slave kingdoms, it seems that the Kabyè were also involved in the slave trade at regional level, it even seems that they were the same Kabyè to sell their relatives, perhaps in an attempt to maintain social stability and not suffer the consequences of slave raids, that could be much more violent.
After the period of incursions of the slave trade, the Kabyè dedicated themselves to agriculture with considerable success, so that today they are known for their skills and knowledge in cultivating a land not particularly fertile as that of Northern Togo.
The German colonial period forced many Kabyè to work on the infrastructure that the country, the Togoland, needed, such as roads and railways.
In more recent times, the Kabyè region has significantly improved its infrastructure thanks to the former president of Togo who was from the Kabyè ethnic group, Gnassingbé Eyadema.
The Kabyè are skilled peasants who are able to get good harvests from a hard and dry land, build terraces to improve the quality of the fields and increase production.
Historically they are also good blacksmiths, they produce objects of daily use and for agriculture beating the iron; the huts used as a blast furnace are small and contain a large brazier, where the fire is kept alive through the use of bellows.
All the work is done with man’s strenght, the task is divided between three men who work coordinated: one is assigned to the bellows, one takes care of placing the iron in the fire and then placing it on a large stone to be beaten, the last man of the team beats the hot iron using a large stone, all with bare hands and wrapped in intense heat.
The women manage other activities, dealing with the production of ceramic objects, the exploitation of land products, cooking them or selling them in the markets, as well as taking care of the trade in iron objects.
The villages are composed of houses scattered in the territory and surrounded by fields they cultivate, the single family unit consists of several huts joined together in a circle that enclose an inner courtyard.
A single access allows you to enter the housing complex that turns out to be self-sufficient and well protected.
The religious practices are attributable to the voodoo, the fetishes are present at the entrance of the houses and the ceremonies that are celebrated are numerous, as well as the offers and sacrifices that are made to obtain the benefit of ancestral spirits.
In the Kabyè culture the initiation rites are very important, both female and male, the most important is the Evala, a form of traditional fight that is undertaken by the boys.
Boys learn to fight when they are very young and this sort of wrestling soon becomes an important discipline in their education; when they reach their eighteenth birthday, they can participate in the fight competitions; a boy must compete for three consecutive years before he can be considered a man.
Every year in July young people gather in the Northern Togo city of Kara to compete in a week-long wrestling match, a large festival accompanied by rituals and dances.
Another important event is the Sinkaring, the harvest festival.
During this festival the boys must show their strength and resistance, proving that they can defend their community; it is a time of feast and celebration for the success of the harvest.