The curious link between bride price payment and chattel slavery

J.H. Henkes Schnapps
J.H. Henkes Schnapps via Wikimedia Commons

One of the disturbing things I find with the commodification of women and bride price is its influence from chattel slavery.

Bride price list, there is JH Henkes schnapps, brandy, whiskey, at times with Star Beer….These drinks are not African and they were introduced through chattel slavery in the sale of humans. The link between chattel slavery and bride price is disturbing.

According to researchers into the history of Dutch and French gins in Africa, Researcher Dmitri van den Bersselaar; tells how even when guns, cloths etc. were brought to African slave trade partners, European and American gins were demanded as a seal for transactions. The Dutch and British just got the Chiefs on their side. Marketing their gins to them as a symbol of high social status and having civilised taste for foreign things. It also became a patriarchal symbol, as Dutch gins were for “real men“. 

When humans were sold in exchange on the coast, the African and European slave traders had a ritual of taking rum together and then Brandy and Dutch gins presented. I find it interesting that with Ga’s bride price, this combination is used. You can’t present only the famous green bottle JH Henkes Schnapp, you needed to add Whiskey, Brandy and Wine.

For South Africa, the Dutch gins were used as payment for their labour, called the “tot system”.

After WW2 and after abolishment of slavery, the Dutch led propaganda campaigns that further led to assimilation of Dutch gins into the culture of Ghanaians. They opened a joint venture in the 1960’s called Paramount Distillery- Ghanaians assumed it was a Ghanaian.

It was a Dutch partnership with some of the Akan Chiefs. The first Director was Asantehene Otumfo Opoku Ware …and yes, this same gins used for the exchange of humans had become a currency so bad that even it’s documented that Christian missionaries paid our Chiefs in gins to grant them favours.

Source: Notes by Tracy Naa Koshie Thompson with additional materials from The King of Drinks: Schnapps Gin from Modernity to Tradition by Dmitri van den Bersselaar


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