Many of us know Azumah Nelson – the famous World Champion boxer. What many don’t know is that he is a descendant of the Tabom people – An Afro Brazilian group who returned home from Bahia in Brazil.
Brazil is a country in the Americas which received the majority of the African slaves. It is estimated that between 3,000 and 8,000 Afro brazilians returned home between the 18th-20th centuries. There are two stories regarding the reasons for the Africans return. One is that the group had brought their freedom in Bahia and then decided to return to the home of their ancestors, the other is that they caused a revolt and were sent back by the authorities because of the trouble they had caused. The families who returned were:
- Azumah Nelson
- Mahama Nassu
- Manuel Zuzer
The returnees included Africans born on the continent and descendants of africans who were yet to step foot on the continent. They came with their Brazilian culture, language and trade – which benefitted the Ga communities they settled amongst. Although Ghana became one of the few examples where such a group became fully integrated into the African community, you will still see some Brazilian elements such as Brazilian Architecture – Brazil House in James Town being an example.
The writer Marco Aurelio Schaumloeffel states that the word Tabom originated from a response to a traditional Portugese greeting. On returning the Tabom people spoke Portugese and when greeting would say ‘Como Esta?’ and the response was ‘Ta Bom’ – this would also be used to greet Ga people who then used this term -not knowing the meaning- to refer to the Afro Brazilians.
It is good to note that not all Afro Brazilians returned to Ghana some returned to Nigeria, Benin and Togo and are referred to as Aguda, Amaros and have surnames like Souza, Silva, Olympio and Cardoso.
The first group of People arriving from Brazil to West Africa came on the S.S. Salisbury. Although the exact date seems to be disputed, it can be agreed that the Tabom arrived in Ghana between 1829 – 1836. One story states the Tabom first arrived as one group on the 8th of August 1836 and another suggests they came as three groups with the first group arriving in 1829 under Kangidi Asuman who later changed his name to Azumah Nelson. Some went to Nigeria and from there came to settle in Ghana under the leadership of Mahama Sokoto.
When the Tabom arrived in Ghana they were well received by the Ga Mantse Nii Ankrah of Otublohum. After a few years the Tabom people were given land in areas such as Adabraka and Asylum Down by Nii Tackie Tawiah I where they were able to settle and begin their plantations growing food. Their architectural and sewing skills were much appreciated and to this day the Tabom are seen as some of the best tailors in Accra. Their chief has the same rights as other equivalent Ga chiefs and is part of the Ga traditional council.
Tabom: The Afro-Brazilian Community by Marco Aurelio Schaumloeffel