This handsome, colorfully bedecked man is Togbe Ngoryifia Céphas Kosi Bansah. Born on April 22, 1948, he also known as Céphas Bansah, and has a title of the Ngoryifia (“developmental chief”) of the Gbi Traditional area of Hohoe, Ghana. He is often referred to as the King of Hohoe.
In addition to the 200 thousand citizens of Hohoe, 2 million Ewe people, living in Togo, consider him their leader and chief.
Despite his high statue, however, Céphas Bansah is also known as an accomplished auto mechanic, and not in his homeland, but in Germany, where he owns a garage. At the same, King Céphas Bansah tries his best to stay on top of his duties as a chief, working diligently to improve the lives of citizens.
In 1970, his grandfather, the King of Hohoe, sent his grandson to Germany, to learn a trade. After graduating, Céphas Bansah decided to stay in Germany — he met and fell in love with a German woman named Gabriele. Céphas Bansah opened an auto-mechanical service and lived quietly, happily married to Gabriele, brinning up their children.
Then, on one rather normal day in 1987, a Fax came from Ghana, and changed his life. Céphas Bansah’s grandfather died, and his father and older brother were declared unfit to rule because both of them were left-handed — “unclean”, according to the beliefs of the Ewe people.
Céphas Bansah succeeded his grandfather as the Ngoryifia of Hohoe. Immediately and resolutely he immersed himself in his newly acquired duties of a chief, using phone, Skype and e-mail, while at the same time still working nine to five in his garage.
The King still makes his home in Ludwigshafen, Germany. Several times a year he travels to Ghana, to get to know the needs of its citizens, often accompanied by his German wife.
Since 1992, the country has become a democracy, but the tribal kings continue to play a huge role in the life of its people. The King builds schools, bridges, wells, regularly sends over water purification equipment and donates vehicles. He helped his people secure medical services – 22 doctors now work in the area hospitals.
To raise money for these noble projects, Céphas Bansah appears on German national television and public events in Germany, often performing as a singer.Yet another source of money to finance the King’s many projects benefiting his “democratic subjects” is “Akosombo,” — the beer that King brews and distributes, though he never drinks alcohol.
Photographer Mirka Laura Severa met the King in 2009 during her studies in Ludwigshafen. Since then, she began documenting the life of the monarch, regularly traveling to Ghana and Togo with him, visiting his home, where he prepares delicious traditional dishes of oxtails, bananas and yams.
In November of last year, the King and Gabriele returned home to Ludwigshafen from Africa, only to find their house burglarized. Unfortunately, thieves stole almost all of his royal regalia, including 4 crowns and several gold chains his royal grandparents once owned. (I suppose, the bejeweled crown and golden chains adorning the King’s person on the photograph above and below are now gone as a result of this robbery.)
“Thieves had come [sic] over the balcony on the first floor, pried the door open, smashed the cabinets and ransacked everything,” Céphas Bansah told the UK’s Times newspaper.
According to the King, the hundred years old items are virtually irreplaceable. Their value was put at about €20,000 (£15,900).
As of this writing, it isn’t known whether or not the perpetrators has been apprehended and the stolen items recovered, although many sources repeated, reprinted and retold the reports of the robbery in the King’s quarters. To make the story of the stolen crowns even more profound, the story of the Hohoe’s mechanic-king has been brought to life. Heil to the Chief! Too bad about the jewelry, though.