HISTORY OF GOLA PEOPLE
The Oldest Tribe of Liberia
There are approximately 178,000 Gola in the world, 165,000 are from Liberia, most of them live in western Liberia, primarily in the districts of Lofa, Grand Cape Mount, Bomi, and Montserrando; the rest of the Gola lives in the neighboring country of Sierra Leone, where they are concentrated in the small provinces of Kenema and Pujehun. The Gola speaks the language Gola, which is closely related to kissi.
In the early 1300s, the Gola and Kissi migrated into western Liberia from Ivory Coast and beyond. The Gola are known to be slender builds and, like their Kissi neighbors, have lighter skin than other Liberian groups.
Most of the Gola are rural farmers who rely solely on farming for their livelihood; Family ties are strong, all of the family members work together to cultivate and harvest their crops. It is the tradition of the Gola that no one harvest their crops until the offerings of the first fruits to the gods are carried out. Yearly yam and groundnut harvests are also celebrated. During times of drought, a village elder offers a prayer for rain to a god known as Da. The elder prays while holding the skull of an ancestor. Afterwards, he sacrifices an animal to Da, usually a chicken, and pours its blood over the skull.
The Gola are mostly Muslim (75%) and 2% Christians. The rest still adhere to their traditional religious or animistic beliefs (belief that non-living objects have spirits). Ancestor worship is also commonly practiced, the Gola believe that the spirits of their deceased ancestors are alive and need to be fed and cared for. These spirits are said to become hungry and dissatisfied when they are not properly appeased, turning into evil spirits.
The Gola also believe in reincarnation (continuous cycle of death and rebirth). When someone dies, he is believed to be reborn into the family of either his father or his mother. For this reason, the names of ancestors are used over and over.
Since the 1950s and 60s, increasing numbers of Gola have left their farms in search of work in the cities.