Kulturkampf in Lomé: German and Ewe Identification and Alienation in Togoland, West Africa, 1884-1913

John Gregory Garratt


Togoland, a German colony in West Africa from 1884-1913, was a contested cultural space between German colonizers and the Ewe, the colony’s principal African ethnic group.  In Lomé, the colony’s capital, missionaries and colonial officials attempted to create a “civilized,” cosmopolitan city by mimicking Europe through city planning and arranging their homes and traditions to mirror life in Germany.  Germans feared an “Africanization” of their day-to-day lives due to a cultural isolation and alienation in Eweland.  While under Imperial Germany’s political hegemony, the Ewe employed a myriad of methods to exercise their cultural traditions, and in turn, impinged upon German colonialists.  The Ewe modified their oral histories and folklore to reflect harsh colonial experiences, while ostensibly celebrating German holidays such as the Kaiser’s birthday.  By 1913, the cultural struggle in Lomé had transformed into a political movement to mitigate the worst forms of colonial injustices, which culminated with a populist petition handed to the colony’s governor.  Eweland was a German colony for thirty years, yet Lomé was neither a culturally German nor African space, but a space that was actively disputed.

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