Aminetu Iddrissu is the third alleged witch I profiled in my article about Ghana for the Second Quarter 2014 issue of American Atheist magazine.
When we met Aminetu Iddrissu, a Muslim in her seventies who hardly speaks any of the local language, she was Kukuo’s newest arrival. She is there with her 30-year-old daughter, Nafisa Iddrissu, who translated for us. While we were there, Nasifa’s two naked boys, four-year-old Ibrahim Gafaru and six-year-old Abdulrahaman Sayibu, bounced around the hut grinning at us.
The bulk of Aminetu’s life passed normally and peacefully. While raising five boys and three girls, she ran a successful second-hand clothing business after her husband died. She was in a position to help other women and young people with loans, and she did so freely. When one of the women she had supported died during childbirth, Aminetu was blamed. So after coming to Kukuo for purification, she relocated to a different community and lived there with a couple she knew.
When that woman also died during childbirth, Aminetu was again blamed, despite the fact that the purification should have taken away all of her powers. Even though Aminetu was a friend to these women, even though she was not their midwife, and even though dying in childbirth is common in Ghana, the coincidence was too much for her neighbors. Aminetu was again sent to Kukuo.
Nasifa supports her mother and her two sons by working as a seamstress on a hand-crank sewing machine. While we were there, her younger boy nearly trampled all over the fabrics laid out for cutting. Toward the end of our conversation, some women arrived to pick up dresses Nasifa made for them. What they paid her was next to nothing.
Nasifa is at Kukuo out of necessity. After Aminetu’s second banishment, Nasifa’s husband divorced her because he refused to be married to a witch’s daughter. Nasifa will soon look to remarry, but for now she is doing what she can.