Boabeng-Fiema: Sacred Monkeys?

In what is becoming a bit of a trend in Africa for me, my guide was about half my height.  He stood in front of my and talked in a serious voice.

“The monkeys are sacred here,” he told me while attempting to connect eye-to-eye. “They come to the village each night and every morning to feed before heading back to the forest.”

Boabeng-Fiema

Of course, I had my doubts.  I’ve seen these types of “sacred” animals all over the world.  What often happens is that a village realizes that tourists will come if the animals are around, so they do all they can to make sure the animals are there.  In the village of Boabeng-Fiema, Ghana, I imagined it to be much of the same.  And even as I saw the dozens of monkeys racing all over the village I couldn’t help but believe that the people simply feed the monkeys so that they around.

However, as the guide told the story of the monkeys of Boabeng-Fiema I was quickly convinced that there is something else at play.

Boabeng-Fiema, mona monkey

The tale my frail height-challenged guide told was quite interesting, and shows the superstition so many Africans live under in various parts of the continent.

It is said that a hunter went off into the forest in search of a catch when he came across a troop of monkeys surrounding a fetish.  Intrigued by the fetish, the hunter brought it back to the village with him.  To his surprise, all the monkeys followed.

Boabeng-Fiema

A shaman was consulted to help understand the connection between the fetish, the monkeys, and the village.  The shaman came to the obvious conclusion that the monkeys were tied to the fetish.  However, it seemed that the connection was much more powerful.

A villager is said to have attacked a monkey and caused it harm.  Following the incident, the same type of attack was laid on the attacker.  It was then said that any harm done to the monkeys would result in a similar harm being done to the person.  Thus, a person that kills a monkey will soon die as well.  Or a person who chases a monkey from the village will soon be chased from the village themselves, and so on.

mona monkey, Boabeng-Fiema

It was decided by the shaman that if the people wanted the monkeys around they could keep the fetish in the village, but never harm one.  At some point, if they decided that they didn’t want the monkeys anymore then they could return the fetish to the forest and thus ridding themselves of their primate friends.  But they believed that the monkey and the fetish were good luck and thus decided to keep both.

Black and White Colobus monkey, Boabeng-Fiema

To this day, both Mona and Black & White Colobus Monkeys run wild through the villages.  They steal maize from the farmers, sneak into kitchens, and sit on benches eating stolen cashews.  But the villagers will never chase the monkeys away, they’ll never yell at a monkey, and they’ll certainly never lay an abusive hand on one.

Mona Monkey, Boabeng-Fiema

In fact, the monkeys are so revered in Boabeng-Fiema that there is even a cemetery just outside the village where people have buried those who have died.  According to my guide, the monkeys don’t ever die in the forest, they come to the village to die so that someone will find them and give them a proper burial.

monkey cemetery

Now, whether or not you believe the monkeys of Boabeng-Fiema to be sacred or a part of a tale told by elders is obviously debateable.  And although I’m sure that you’ll find the gross domestication of the monkeys to be more than just a little bit disturbing, It’s hard not to feel a little bit intrigued by the relationship between man and monkey in this village in the heart of Ghana.

And although the curious hand wonders, I wouldn’t dare lay a malicious hand on a monkey in Boabeng-Fiema.


Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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42 Comments

    • Thanks Rachel!

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  1. What a wonderful story and as an animal lover, one that does not have pets but extended family members. I do not dress them up to be little people but love them and respect them for who and what they are. They have jobs and responsibilities like everyone else in the family and in return there is a lot of love. What I think they have found in this little village is respect! And I am sure the villagers have learned much more from their monkey neighbours then they learn from the villagers. The hard lessons like tolerance, patience and respect. So in a way I guess you can say the monkeys are sacred seeing how they have taught a people lessons the bible has been trying to teach for 2000 years but did it in one generation.

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    • Great points Jeanne… “Animals are people too!” haha

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  2. Very touching story and beautiful colorful photos. Particularly impressed by the monkey on 4 photo, a very sad sight.
    And do not harm nature.

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  3. what an intriguing story! the people of this village must believe this for you to be convinced that it is so even if not completely. Africa is a land of myths, legends and religion. You’ll find in abundance folklore et al unique to different people

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  4. What a great story. Sounds like the village really is in tune with their primate residents. We could all learn something from this.

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  5. this line is best
    In fact, the monkeys are so revered in Boabeng-Fiema that there is even a cemetery just outside the village where people have buried those who have died. According to my guide, the monkeys don’t ever die in the forest, they come to the village to die so that someone will find them and give them a proper burial.

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  6. I love hearing of such stories, whether true or not. That is what makes travel so magical. Monkeys sure do seem to get a lot of support all around the world and in particular Hindu countries. For different reasons obviously, but always fascinating. Great photos too.

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    • And Cow! What isn’t sacred in India??? haha

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    • Thanks Laura!

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  7. Great photos. I love meeting different things than already experienced.

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  8. in every country there are thousands of beliefs and what can we do best is to respect them in order for them to respect our beliefs. Good job on this one brendan. :)

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  9. in Bali, there is also sacred monkey,

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  10. Great post! I really like superstitious stories and beliefs.

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  11. in every country there are thousands of beliefs and what can we do best is to respect them in order for them to respect our beliefs. Good job on this one brendan. :)

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  12. no doubt this is a very interesting subject, I believe that apes deserve respect and importance.

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  13. great post. i Just know about buried monkey hehe

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  14. great post ^_^

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  15. nice picture ^_^

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  16. Great! The monkeys at Boabeng-Fiema look brilliant! Would love to go to Ghana.

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  17. Appreciation man who has a soul …….. human

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  18. wow the monkey is so considered sacred that they made a burial for them

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  19. Hi Sir..
    In Indonesia, Monkey Use to Get Money in front of Traffic Light :)
    They can ‘Sing’ & Dance, sometimes their Face use a woman’s mask..
    You have come here Sir :)
    Thanks for Your amazing info here..
    Cheers.

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    • Hi Sir..
      In Indonesia, Monkey Use to Get Money in front of Traffic Light :)
      They can ‘Sing’ & Dance, sometimes their Face use a woman’s mask..
      You have come here Sir :)

      Post a Reply
  20. Thanks for the writings. Headed to Ghana soon and I think Boabeng is now on the list.

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    • Sweet! You’ll like it, I think. Few places can you get closer to these types of monkeys, especially the colobus which are normally really shy.

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  21. good villagers will never chase the monkeys away, they’ll never yell at a monkey, and they’ll certainly never lay an abusive hand on one.

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  22. In indonesia, monkey is favourite animals to show

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  23. Nice picture…In Lombok you can see any Monkey in street…

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  24. Nice adventure, and wonderful pictures Brendan, really also with your video

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  25. Just Love It, Beautiful Article, Very Beautiful Photos and also crazy monkeys :p

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  26. good picture. I like it

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  27. i like to play w/ monkey

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  28. i like monkey and this fauna must be save in world

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  29. monkey must be safety from angry people. that monkey is awesome

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