Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast) is situated along the Gulf of Guinea between longitudes 3° 15’ West and 1° 12’ East, latitudes 5° South and 11 "North, and covers an area of 238,537 square kilometres. The country has two major climatic seasons. They are the wet and dry seasons. Along the coast are the Accra plains with the typical dry and wet climatic seasons. The rainfall season here is relatively short with an average record of about 30 inches (75 cm) per annum. The coastal region is mostly flat. This flat strip of land gives way to a series of ridges some forty miles inland. It is somewhat much cooler in the mountains (especially along the Akuapem ridge), making this area a desirable spot during the hot seasons. Most of the country - in the middle belt, consists of tropical rain forest. The humidity in this area is high; the rainfall amounts very high. Here, the topography is hilly, and the area is covered by dense vegetation. The forest gives way in the north to the drier flatlands of the savannah, in which the vegetation is sparse and the humidity lower. Several rivers traverse the country from north to south. The prominent rivers are the White and the Black Volta that lead to the Volta Lake. Other rivers are the Ankobra, Offin, Tano, Pra and the Birim that begin farther to the south.
The estimated population of 17.5million (official estimates in 1995) of Ghana is heterogeneous. The most prominent people are the Akan, subdivided into the Asante (also spelt Ashanti), Fante, Akuapem, Akyem, Kwahu and others such as the Assin, Wassa, Gomoa, Agona and Twifu make up 44.5 per cent of the population. Others are the Mole-Dagbani who constitute 15.9 per cent, the Ewe 13.0 per cent, the Ga-Adangme 8.3 per cent, the Guan 3.7 per cent, the Gurma 3.5 per cent and other groups 11.1 per cent. In the subsequent pages we shall consider the origins of these groups and their socio-political organisation.
The earliest attempt to trace the origin of the Akan was made by Thomas E. Bowdich in the pamphlet: An essay on the superstitions, customs and arts common to the Ancient Abyssinians and Ashantees, (Paris: 1821). Bowdich concluded his treatise with the assertion that " most of the higher classes (of Ashantees) are descended from eastern Ethiopians who had been improved by an intercourse with the Egyptian emigrants and colonists". However, Joseph Dupuis holds the notion that the Akan could be traced to only as far as northern Ghana from where, in his view, they were pushed southwards by Muslim warriors.
Scholars (including Beecham, Cruickshank, Reindorf, Rattray, Buell and Claridge) who also took considerable interest in the quest for the origin of the Akan ended up by supporting either Bowdich or Dupius. Some however developed a third theory, that the Akan originated from the Niger-Chad region. Another hypothesis, about the origins of the Akan was formulated by W. T. Balmer. In 1926, Balmer suggested that: "It is very probable that the Fanti, Ashanti, Ahanta and Akan people in general formed originally part of this ancient Negro Kingdom (Ghana) dwelling in districts more or less remote from the central city of government, Walata". Since Balmer’s publication two main schools of thought have emerged.
The first, designated the Migrationist School has as its protagonists Dr. J. B. Danquah and Eva Meyerowitz. They trace the Akan as far as the Tigris and Euphrates in Mesopotamia (Iraq or Iran) and thence to the medieval Ghana empire before their final settlement in modern Ghana. In a series of four books published between 1952 and 1961,’ Meyerowitz opined that, the ancestors of’the present Akan aristocracy were the descendants of Dia or Za (who originally came from Abyssinia or Southern Arabia). Libyan Berbers and the Gara (originally of Kushite stock) of the oasis of Djado in the Tibesti region who emigrated when the Arabs conquered North Africa and founded the Dia Kingdom on the Niger between Djenne and Timbuctu." According to Meyerowitz, it was from this Kingdom that a section of them conquered and ruled ancient Ghana while the rest moved south after Dia was conquered by the Islamized Berbers in 1009-10. These remnants founded Bono and Kumbu. Both of these kingdoms were later destroyed. From Bono migrated the Fante, the Aguafo, and Effutu; while from the latter (Kumbu) emerged the other Akan of today - Asante, Denkyira, Akyem etc.
Danquah on his part traced the Akan further east still, to the valley of Tigris and Euphrates, the home of the Turanian people. He pointed out in a radio talk on March 7, 1957 that the Akan, as well as the Ewe, Ga, the Gonja and the Bantu are part of the Turanian people of Sumer and Akkad, and that their culture was Turanian. In his opinion, the immigration of the people of Ghana to Africa occured before 750 BC. They first settled at a location south of Libya where their name was Akane. They left this place because of the Assyrian conquest of Egypt in 650 BC. They moved across the Sahara and established a kingdom between the Niger and South - Western Sahara in about 500 BC. This kingdom was named by the Arabs, Ghana, ’a Semitic redering of Akane\ When Ghana fell to the Almoravids in 1076, the Akan and other Negroes moved south again to ’the golden land between the Comoe and the Volta Rivers’. Danquah maintains that, it was from this location that they
started moving southwards in different waves. The first to move were the Nta people, part of which call themselves Guan; the second were the Fante and the third the Asante, Denkyira, etc. In a series of seven articles and radio talks put together under the title. The Quest for Ghana, he advanced arguments to support his conclusions.
J. C. de Graft Johnson and J. D. Fage, supported the above school of thought with the former being emphatic that, "There is little doubt that the Akan people migrated from somewhere in the Ghana Empire". Fage however rejected Johnson’s assertion in a review of the former’s book in 1955 with the reason that; "Traditions of migration among the Akan-speaking peoples hardly point further to the north than the Niger Bend". On further reflection, however, he modified his view, for, in an article in the Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana two years later, he admitted that, there is "evidence of historical tradition which is extremely relevant to the idea of a migratory movement linking the Akan states with ancient Ghana". He concluded that, the movement from ancient Ghana referred to by Delafosse of "pagan and Negro elements towards the south-east to Djenne" and the earlier movement referred to by Mauny from Djenne further to the south-east "in point of time ... could well be one, or at least in some way associated.
Opposing the Migrationist School are Ward, Tait, Mauny and Irwin. According to this group, the evidence available does not collaborate the views of the Migrationists, although they fail to offer any viable alternative views about the origins of the Akan. Ward tor instance concluded a review of available evidence with the assertion that; "There can be no question, with our present knowledge, of ruling out the Ghana possibility entirely; but I think the evidence is against it". In a review of Meyerowitz’s Akan Traditions of Origins in 1953, Tait also found the former’s argument "most unconvincing." In a similar review of Meyerowitz’s books and some of Danquah’s articles, Professor Irwin on his part opened: "No dispassionate historian (or book reviewer) can do other than admit regretfully that so far as the origins of the Akan are concerned, we are not out of the wood yet, that hypothesis has not given place to coherent theory, much less to certainty, and that the verdict on Mrs. Meyerowitz’s latest book, as indeed on its predecessors must be: Not proven".
Adu-Boahen, another anti-Migrationist also sees "the arguments of the Migrationists unconvincing and their conclusions illogical". Relying on evidence from geography, oral traditions, linguistics and serology, he suggested four separate cradles as the origin of the ancestors of the Akan people: the Chad-Benue region, the area between the Lower Volta and the middle Niger, the region between the Comoe and the Black Volta and the basin of the Pra and Ofin. He argues that the Akan, like most of the West African Negroes and the Bantu, evolved between the Chad and die Benue from where they entered the Dahomey Gap, which is the territory lying between the Lower Volta and the middle Niger. According to him, further population expansion led to the dispersion of the people in groups to places like lboland, Yorubaland, Ivory Coast (Cote d’lvoire), Liberia, the Fon-Kwe-Ga-Adangme territories and the region between the Black Volta and Comoe river, the region of modern Tekyiman, Banda and Gyaman. Adu Boahen believes that some from this group moved further south into the forest region and finally settled between the confluence of the Pra and Ofin rivers where they developed into the Akan of today. Adu Boahen further asserts that, this was the region where the distinctively Akan institutions and culture - the Twi language, the Akan Forty-Day Calendar and the matrilineal and patrilineal clans that the Akan have today were developed. It was from this same region that some of the Akan began to move east and southwards. If was these groups of the Akan who founded the kingdoms of Kwahu, Akyem Abuakwa, Akyem Kotoku and above all the Akwamu to the east, the Etsi states of Asebu, Fetu and the Wassa, Sefwi and Aowin kingdoms to the south-west. The Fante moved in five groups under the leadership of three old priests -Obunumankoma, Odapagyan and Oson, towards the south to settle at Mankessim where they were later joined by the Adjumako-and Gomoa. It was at Mankessim that the various groups moved in different directions to settle at their present habitation.
Professor Adu Boahen re-affirmed his conviction further by the observation that the name of the Akan patrilineal groups, namely: Bosomtwe, Bosompra, Afram and Bosummuru are names of rivers or lakes in Asante or Akyem. Neither the Tano nor any of the rivers in the north - the Volta, the Oti,.the Comoe or the Bia - appear in the names of the patrilineal groups. Moreover, the totemic animals’ of the matrilineal clans are either exclusively forest animais, such as the grey parrot, or animais that can iive both in the forest and in the open savannah such as the bat, the dog, the buffalo and the bush cow, the vulture and the black kite. Some of these animals are exclusively from the forest regions whiist none is exclusively of the savannah regions. It is assumed therefore that they were collected in the forest and not the savannah region. Again, continued Adu Boahen, most of the clans trace their origins to the present Amanse, Adanse and Denkyira region, that is, the basin of the Ofin and Pra rivers and the heart of the Asante empire. The Ekozna say they hail from Adwafb in Adansi, the Bretuo say they descended from the sky by a silver chain at Ahensan in Adansi; the Asenee maintain that they descended from a beau called Berewuu in Adansi while die Oyvku are fully convinced that they came from a hole in Asumegya Asantemanso near Kumasi and the Agona say they came from Denkyira. While there may be some level of exaggeration in these accounts, the significant fact remains that all these places mentioned are found in Asante, and therefore their significance in the origin of the Akan cannot be whittled away. From the above, we can conclude that the Akan evolved from the north of the forest zone, specifically, the present day Bono-Takyiman-Gyaman region of Ghana.
The most important of the Akan social set up is the identical exogamous matrilineal clans and patrilineal groupings. Every Akan group is divided into eight or seven principal patrilineal groups called Ntor or Kra. The matrilineal groups and their moities are Ekoma and Asokore, Oyoko (Anona in Fante) and Qako, Asona and Dwum (or Dwimina), Asenee and Adonten, Agona and Toa, Bretuo (Twidan in Fante) and Tena, Asakyiri and Amoakaade, and Aduana and Atwea and Aberade. The Ntor groups are Bosompra, Bosommuru, Bosommaram, Bosomtwe, A/ram, Nketia, Poakwa and Abankwaade. At birth, every Akan child belongs to the mother’s clan. On the other hand, in a predominantly male institution like the Asafo Companies, every Akan belongs to the father’s Ntor. The prevalent belief among the Akan is that, it is the animating spirit of the father which gives protection to children of the couple against all evil spirits.
The family is another important institution in the Akan society. In matrilineal groups, the family consists of all those who trace their lineage from one maternal relative. But in the patrilineal system, descent is traced from the paternal relative. All such relatives belong to the ’extended family’ and play very important roles in ensuring harmony in the family. Inheritance among the Akan is matriiineal. Thus, inheritance passes from uncle to nephew in case of males and from mother to daughter in case of females. In the distribution of a deceased’s properties, a dying declaration -samansew, is binding if there are witnesses. The system also allows maternal grandfathers, uncles and brothers to exercise greater authority over a woman and her children than her husband. This notwithstanding, natural rights usually outweigh theory and therefore the father is obliged to educate, chastise, and to maintain custody of his children.
The Akan also have a common naming ceremony. The baby is usually brought out into the open on the eighth day after birth and people from both the maternal and paternal families are obliged to be present at a rather brief ceremony which is usually performed by an eldest member of the paternal family. It is during this ceremony that the child’s family name, -agyadin, is given to him or her. If one happens to be the first child, he or she is usually named after the grandfather. The child’s first name - kradin, must always correspond to the day of the week in which it was born. It is during the naming ceremony that the child is initiated into the essence of truthful and discreet speech, the need for care, firmness and social sensitivity in the exercise of the spoken word. Moreover, a child’s actual name is of importance to the Akan as this is believed to influence a person’s character. Therefore, care is taken in selecting a name for a child.
Another aspect of the social organisation of the Akan is the performance of puberty rites. This is the rite which ushers the adolescent into adulthood. On reaching manhood, a boy’s father procured for him a short gun. This symbolises that the youth has reached the age of bearing arms to defend his community and can be called upon for service in times of war. He is also required by law, to pay taxes and other state levies. Among girls, passing through such a rite signifies the attainment of womanhood. From then on, a suitor can ask for her hand in marriage through her father or an accredited representative. Marriage is not an adventure by lovers who had the urge to crown their relationship by contracting marriage. An elaborate channel exists for strict compliance. This includes, as a already indicated, informing one’s father or his representative of one’s intent or desire to marry a particular woman.
The father or his representative investigates the would-be-in-law’s family (the woman’s family also did the same if they are formally informed) to ensure that it had no blemishes. This is followed by the payment of the "knocking fee" and the fixing of the date for the engagement ceremony at which the dowry or affiance fee - ti-nsa/tiri nsa is paid and other presents given to the woman by the man. The marriage is sealed by the payment of aseda - ’bride-price’, which gives the new husband rights over the female for sex and for work; he has every right to claim compensation for adultery. Members of both families were expected to be present.
The Akan perform elaborate funeral ceremonies for the dead. On the death of a person, all members of both the maternal and paternal families are informed of the sad news usually in euphemistic expressions like; "W’aka baab - literally meaning, "He could not return from a journey and "Odae a wun.sare" — " He could not wake up from his sleep". If the dead is a Chief or King the expression is "Odupz kese atutu" - "A mighty tree has fallen". The demise of Chiefs and Kings is not immediately announced. In the case of the death of a spouse, the message goes with a token sum of money to the surviving partner. These are the stages of a funeral: (a) preparation of the corpse (b) pre-burial mourning (c) internment (d) after burial mourning (e) periodic mourning. During the preparation of the corpse no wailing is allowed. The funeral expenses are "borne by the surviving partner and children, though both extended families contribute in cash and kind to ensure a fitting burial. If the deceased was unmarried, the extended families bear the funeral expenses. Minors receive very simple but fitting funerals. Families bear the funeral expenses. The death of a King or Chief is considered a great loss to the entire state and therefore adequate preparations are made for an elaborate funeral which sometimes spans over several days. All the Chiefs and Kings in the state and its neighbourhood usually attend and must be clothed in bin or adinkra with a red turban. Dancing and drumming is an integral part of the public funeral. The point of the funeral is not to dwell on grief, but to look to the future and to help the dead pass into the other world.
Periodic observances are held on the 8th, 15th , 40th, 80th day and first anniversary after the death. There is a yearly meal - qfarehyia-aduane, at which all ancestors are remembered. In religious matters, the Akan believe in the existence of the Supreme Being, - knowledge of whom is considered to be in-born. This is echoed by the saying, Obi nkyere abofra Nvame" meaning, "The child does not need to be taught about God’s existence". One could thus state that religion seems almost inseparable from every action and thought of the Akan. The Supreme Being is called Nyame or Nyankroprm and given appellations such as Toturobonsu - Giver of Rain, Ama Owia - Giver of Sunshine and Tetebotan -Ancient Rock. He is believed to be the embodiment of Power and Justice. Onyakrop is considered the Chief Arbiter in all cases and the Final Authority in all matters.
Below the Supreme Being in die religious belief of the Akan are the divinities (gods) - abosorh, and the ancestors. It is believed that the divinities dwell in lagoons, streams, mountains, hills, trees etc. They can punish wrongdoers and their presence therefore is considered a check on the morality of members of the community. Ancestors9 who were mostly heroes or heroines, chiefs and elders, perform duties as guardians and policemen of public morality. This role confers on them the power to punish those whose lifestyle does not conform to acceptable moral standards. However, those
whose activities are seen to merit praise are rewarded with good harvest, health and prosperity. As ’owners of the land" the ancestors are aivvays consulted in making the choice for a vacant stool. The Akan also celebrate festivals such as Fetu Afahye, Odwira, Akwasidae which are of social and religious importance. Religiously, they are meant to remember the dead, offer thanks and sacrifices to the deities and ancestors for their care of the state and her people. The social functions of festivals are seen through the opportunity they offer the chiefs and their subjects to meet once a year to ensure social cohesion. Like most other people, the Akan have a class system. The royalty constitutes the first estate. The second estate is constituted of free commoners. They are followed by pawns and slaves.
At thi head of the Akan political set-up is the Chief who occupies his position through the royal line of succession. That is to say, he assumes his position because of his belonging to the royal family.
Once enstooled, the chief exercises executive, legislative and judicial powers. He has the final authority in issues relating to war, peace, justice and good governance. Despite these, a Chief can be destooled if he misconduct himself or abuses his office. For instance, he can not sell the state regalia, engage in fisticuffs or commit adulter}’. His symbols of office and authority are the State Sword and the Stool. The latter is believed to contain the spirit of the state. Another important institution in the Akan political system is the Council of Elders. Composed mainly of statesmen, divisional heads and those advanced in age, it helps in the formulation of laws for the state. In most cases, the Council deliberates and approves all important actions of the Chief before they can be enforced.
There is also the Queenmother - Ohemaa, who occupies a very important position. She is the head of the women and has the prerogative of being consulted to nominate and^subsequently install the Chief. The Chief and the Council of Elders often consult with her on important issues affecting the state. The Queenmother also arbitrates in disputes among women in her state. The Akan political organisation has room for divisional Chiefs: Benkumhene, Nifahene, Adontehene and Kyidomhene. Apart from collecting taxes on behalf of the Paramount Chief, they personally take charge of the state’s armies -Asafo Companies. For instance, the Benkumhene takes charge of the Left Wing while the Nifahene is in charge of the Right Wing. The Adonienhene and Kyia’umhene are in charge of ilie Reconnaissance Force and the Rear Guard respectively.
Linguists are the other office holders in the Akan political set-up. They have the singular duty of being the link between the Chief and all visitors. Anyone who wants to seek audience with the Chief has to see them first. The Chief usually addresses his audience through the linguist: In addition to being the Chiefs spokesman, diplomat, envoy, prosecutor, protocol officer, and prayer officiant, the linguist - okyeame, is also the Chiefs confidant and counsellor, His syinbol of office is the linguist staff which has judicial and political functions. To ensure social justice, each Akan state has a court which is presided over by the Chiefs. Both criminal and civil cases are heard and judgement ranging from fines, banishment or even death penalty are passed in trials. The Paramount Chiefs court has the power to hear appeals on the ruling or judgement of the courts of the sub-Chiefs.
Made up of the Mamprusi, the Dagomba, and Nanumba, the Mole-Dagbani occupy the northern territories of Ghana. Available historical information asserts that the first three states (which were founded in about the first half of the fifteenth century) claim common ancestry in Tohajie - the Red Hunter. As an invading force from the east, probably from the Lake Chad region, they moved westward into Zamfara in northern Nigeria and south-westwards (through Medieval Mali). Tohajie’s grandson known as Gbewa or Bawa moved westward to settle at Pusiga where he started building his own kingdom through wars of conquest. The conquests led to the extension of the kingdom as far as Fada n’ Gurma in the north-east, Gambaga in the south and Sansane Mango in the east. Bawa gave birth to eight children, Zirile being the eldest of the sons. The eldest was Yamtori who was a girl and thus by custom, could not succeed to the throne. Zirile thus succeeded his father as demanded by tradition. On the death of Zirile, there was a succession dispute as each of the younger brothers wanted to be the king. The throne should have been given to Tohogu who happened to be the eldest among the surviving brothers.
However, Tohogu’s succession was disputed by his younger brothers led by Sitobu and Mantambu. Civil war broke out between the brothers and Sitobu and Mantambu chased Tohogu away from the capital. Under the circumstance, he had to flee southwards io Gambaga and men eastward io Mamprugu. After a brief stay, he returned to Gambaga where he founded the Mamprugu kingdom. The people took the name Mamprusi whilst the king was called Nayiri. The capital of the new Kingdom was later transferred to Nalerigu. The other brothers - Sitobu and Mantambu (Ngomantambu) also moved south and founded Dagbon and Nanum respectively. All the states regard Mamprugu as their "parent’ kingdom and Nalerigu as their ’spiritual" home.
To the south-west of Mamprugu, Dagbon, and Nanum emerged the kingdom of Gonja. Available historical evidence suggests that Gonja was founded by Mande warriors and traders from Mali led by Wadh Naba or Nabaga perhaps in the second half of the sixteenth century. They were attracted by the southern trade which had developed in the area between the Black and White Volta. Nabaga was believed to have been sent on an errand by the Mande Chief to find out why there was a fall in the supply (export) of gold to Mali. Nabaga however failed to carry out the orders of the Chief and rather set up a military base at Yagbum around AD 1554. With help from Dyula Muslims in Begho, Nabaga launched an army of Ngbanya horsemen against the indigenes. He defeated, for example, the Guan-speaking inhabitants on whom he imposed Gonja authority.
Bono which was considered a threat to the existence of Gonja in the area was defeated in 1595. Between 1623 and 1666, the King, Ndewura Jakpa or Lanta led an invasion against Dagomba. He carried out further conquest taking the important salt-producing centre of Daboya from the Dagomba. Jakpa also defeated other states in a number of major engagements and founded several towns and villages including the important market centre of Salaga.
Social organisation. The Northern people described here have three main social groups. They are the ruling aristocracy, the Muslim community and the majority commoners who follow traditional beliefs. Though they all enjoy some level of prestige, ultimate social influence was in the hands of the aristocratic class.
Inheritance is paternal and the family system is the extended type which includes brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers etc. The people are mostly polygamous and men are allowed to go in for many wives so long as their financial stand was good enough to maintain the wives and children. With the coming of Islam, many people adopted the Islamic religion with the observance of the five pillars of Islam. Many others have maintained their worship of local gods and the veneration of ancestors.
The political system of the people of northern savanna zone has an interesting blend. Whereas the descendants of the invaders occupy the skins as the political heads (eg. Nayiri among the Mamprusi, Ya Na among the Dagomba), the original inhabitants retain some influence through the Tendana - owners of the land, in the spiritual affairs. The Tendana has charge of the state cult and also ceremonially enskins the Chiefs. The political head of the state is the Paramount Chief-Nayiri among Mamprusi, Ya Na among the Dagombas. He wields executive and judicial powers and is assisted in the administration of the state by the Council of State Elders which meets periodically to deliberate on issues of great importance. Next are the sub-Chiefs who are believed to be the descendants of the founding fathers. They are in charge of the administration of the provinces and are often consulted on important issues. To ensure effective governance, the Mole-Dagbani states were divided into well defined units or districts. With the introduction of Islam, the royal dynasties were converted and Islamic political positions such as Qadi - magistrate, and Iman - spiritual head, were incorporated into the political structure. To ensure social justice, the sub-Chiefs exercise judicial powers in their provinces. However, the Ya Na’s court has the power to hear appeals from the lower courts i.e. the courts of the sub-Chiefs.
The Ewe are located to the south-east of the country and occupy a compact territory stretching about eighty miles from east to west and seventy-five miles from north to south, that is , from the Volta on the west to the Mono river on the east. Tradition asserts that the westward displacement of the Adja-Ewe people from their original home at Keiu (a Yoruba territory in the modern Republic of Benin) due to Yoruba civil wars led one group of the Ewe under the leadership of Afotche to cross the Mono river to found Nuatja (Notsie) in the Republic of Togo. Some of these late arrivals fled Nuatja around the beginning of the seventeeth century because of the alleged cruelty of King Agokoli I, (Afotche’s successor,) and travelled to Ghana in three groups.
The first group moved in a north-westward direction and founded Kpandu, Kpalime, Leklebi and Wodze among others. The second group travelled westward and founded Ho, Adaklu, Akorvie, Abutia, etc. The third group, which moved south to the coast are the Anio (Awuna). The latter moved in two batches or groups. Ihe first group was led by Amega Wenya. They halted at Atiteti on the northern banks of the Keta lagoon. Later, a section of the group crossed the lagoon and founded settlements on the sand-spit between the lagoon and the sea. This is where two sons of Amega Wenya - Akaga and Awanyado, founded a town which they named Keta, which means ’head of the sand’. Ihe second was led by Sri. This group first settled in the open land between the lagoon and the estuary of the Volta river. After a brief spell of time, Sri led his people to re-unite with their kinsmen to found the Anio state with the capital at Anioga, a few miles south-west of Keta. By the middle of eighteenth century, the Anio kingdom had become well established.
The Ewe social set-up is woven around clans which represent the genealogy of prominent or powerful ancestors who had played major roles in the evolution of the people. Within the clans are sub-divisions which also serve as vehicles of social cohesion as they offer assistance when the need arises. Inheritance is patrilineal and is rooted in the order of seniority. Therefore, when the father dies, the most senior of the male children is customarily recognised as the successor. Festivals form on integral part of Ewe social life. Most of them are agricultural, the commonest being the Yam festival eg. Eteza. Others, including the people of Avatime, celebrate the Rice festival. Not only are the festivals celebrated to announce the new harvest, but the ancestors and gods are also given sacrifices. The festivals also serve as a forum at which the divisional and sub-Chiefs renew their allegiance to the Paramount Chief. The Anio on the other hand celebrate the Hogbetsotso festival which re-enacts or commemorates their flight from Notsie to escape the tyrannical rule of Togbui Agokoii i.
The Ewe are polytheists. Towns, villages and individuals have gods they worship. Served by priests and priestesses who are chosen by the gods, they are regarded as guardians of society. The deities protect and reward individuals tor good deeds and punish, sometimes severely, those who commit crimes either against an individual or the state. The ancestors are also propitiated. Traditionally, the week is divided into five days. The first four days are taken as working days with the fifth as a holiday. With their contacts with the Akan, the Ewe have however, a’dopted the Akan seven-day system. On reaching marriageable age, a boy’s father looks for a suitable partner for the son. For girls, a special ceremony - Gboto, is performed on their first menstruation. The mother gives the girl a piece of cloth. This carries the symbolic message that the girl has now come of age and should therefore ’cover’ herself from this time on. All childhood pranks must then be abandoned.
The Ewe perform elaborate funeral rites for the dead. On the death of a member of the community, both parents, if alive, are informed. A sort of tribunal is called to know the cause of death and how the deceased was taken care of while living. Where there is suspicion as to the cause of death, a soothsayer is called to find out the cause. Where there is no foul play, a date for the burial of the deceased is fixed, most often, almost immediately. However, depending on the status of the dead and sometimes availability of funds, the funeral might be delayed. Group funeral is also practiced annually or periodically.
At the head of the political organisation is the Togbui (Togbe) or Fiaga - Paramount Chief. Below him are the village or town Chiefs - Dufia. As the custodian of moral and political laws, the Fiaga possesses both executive and judicial powers and is assisted in the government of the state by a Council of Elders who offer counsel as and when necessary. The chiefs are supposed to be the representatives of the dead and so serve as a link between the living and the dead. The selection of Chiefs is through the male line of the royal family. A number of Ewe settlements developed into independent states. By 1900, about two hundred such states existed in Eweland. Due to the independent nature of these petty states, all attempts made to bring the Ewe under a single, powerful kingdom failed. Another reason is thai no powerful ruler like Osei Tutu emerged among them. Linguists occupy very important positions in the political structure of the Ewe - they serve as the mouthpiece of the chiefs. Chiefs also address their audience or guests through the linguists and vice versa. There is also the position of the head of the ruling family who serves as a check on the chief. Moreover, the head enjoys enormous powers including the right to appoint or destool the Chief.
assens ihai they migrated from the ’east’ which is believed to refer to some place in Yoruba territory in present day Federal Republic of Nigeria, through Seme. The migration which was either by land or sea was made by small parties and is believed to have taken place from the early decades of the fifteenth century, and was completed by the early years of the seventeenth century. After crossing the Mono, and later, the Volta, they made a brief settlement before dispersing finally. The Ga were the first to move and they went to the region of Ayawaso which they developed as their principal town. Later, the prospect of benefiting from the European trade compelled many of the inland settlers to move to the coast, probably, in the early seventeenth century. The Ga Mashi, Nungua, and Tema were the first to move. The La and Osu followed and originally settled in the Adangme territory of Ladoku and Osukodu respectively. Due to what is not very clear, a group of the La led by Mankralo Numo Okrang Nmashi moved out to found themselves a settlement at Teshie.
The Krobo and Shai (Adangme) originally settled together at Tagulogo, near Lolovo Hill. After a dispute, the Shai moved in two main groups, Hiowe and Mia, to Ada, then to the Shai Hills where at the western end of the summit stretch, the Hiowe built their chief settlement of Hiowe as well as Salom, Bonase, Nangala, Laga Kayikpon, Gblaka, Drawe, and Minawe. The Mia on the eastern end built Mia the largest of their settlements, together with Yoma, Abotia, Lekpedze, Lenodze, Kpofu, Asinidze, Manya, and Magbiem." Krobo tradition, on the other hand asserts that they migrated from Lolovo to Ada with the Shai. They then migrated into the Accra plains where they settled on top of the Krobo Mountain and founded towns such as: Manya, Susee, Okpe, Ogormeh and Debiarn.
We must be quick to point out that scholars like Prof. Adu Boahen are skepiic about me external origin of the Ga-Adangme. For, his conclusions in an article in the Ghana Social Science Journal (1977) suggest that since it takes at least a thousand years for a language to break off from a proto-language and develop into" a language of its own, and that the Ga-Adangme language is distinctively Ghanaian, then at least some of the speakers of the Ga-Adangme must have been in their present area for a thousand years or more. Prof. J. Anquandah also supports this view with the reason that, ’There is yet no shred of archaeological evidence to confirm the view of the external origin of the Ga-Adangme’. Nevertheless, it will not be out of place to suggest that some families did migrate from southern Nigeria to the present Ga-Adangrrie area.
The nucleus of Ga-Adagme traditional social set-up is the family. The family plays very important roles in both the social and economic spheres of the lives of its members. For instance, members are obliged to contribute to effecting a decent burial for a dead member. Inheritance is patrilineal. The father therefore plays an important role in the Ga-Adagme home. Rites of passage include naming of the new born child on the eighth day. The ceremony is performed by the eldest member of the paternal family and is usually attended by family members of both parents of the child. Puberty rites are performed. Among the Krobo, the Dipo rite is performed to initiate the adolescent girl into adulthood. It is an obligatory rite and any Krobo girl who does not undergo initiation before she becomes pregnant is banished from her village. Marriage starts with the two families conducting investigations into the would-be in-law’s family background. Characteristics which if present could prevent the marriage from being contracted include: a family reputation for witchcraft, quarrelsomeness, evidence of the presence of such incurable diseases as leprosy and insanity, and doubts as to the morality and character of Jhe girl and of other women of her family. Among the Ga Mashie, where the the two families have satisfied themselves of unblemished family record, the girl’s family gives the go-ahead for a series of payments, constituting the bridewealth to be made for the marriage to be considered contracted. These payments are: shibimo (engagement fee); kpleino (acceptance fee); henotobo (waistcloth injunction fee); bladzio (menstrual custom fee); potoli (bridewealth) and shamobo (urine soiled cloth).
Elaborate death or hineral rites are also performed. This includes laying the body in state and keeping wake amidst weeping. Cash and rings are given as parting gifts. A date is fixed for the final funeral rites by the bereaved family who most often receives messages of condolence from friends. The Ga-Adangme also have festivals. The most important of which is the Homowo. Homowo is celebrated in August to mark the beginning of the new year, while the Adangme celebrate the Asafotufiam. In the religious sphere, like all Ghanaians, the Ga-Adangme believe in the Supreme Being who is worshipped through lesser gods some of whom are represented by lagoons and the sea. Libation is poured to invoke the spirit of the ancestors. Priests play a major role in the religioiis lives of the people. For instance, they lead the people during sacrifice or activity(ies which touch the peoples’ (states’) communication with the Supreme Being, the ancestors and the gods.
The Ga-Adangme traditionally lived in petty states - akutsei,(sing, akutso) ruled by priests who combined political and spiritual roles. They later learnt the chieftancy system of the Akan from the Akwamu (who for sometime exercised overlordship over them). The akutsei were further divided into traditional areas - we, such as Ga-Mashi, Nungua, Teshie and Tema, Ladoku, Osudoku, Ningo, Ada and Kpone. We also have hiamlin (men’s section) and yeiamlin (women’s section). The hiamlin is occupied only by full and half brothers and their sons, who are ten years and above, and the other men such as slave and their assimilated descendants. The yeiamlin on the other hand is occupied by female members of the we, their sons and grandsons below the age of ten, daughters and granddaughters, as well as female slaves of the we and their assimilated descendants. At the head of the Ga political structure was the Wulomo below whom were the sub-Chiefs of the seven traditional areas. The Adangme on the other hand have traditional heads for each area. The Ga-Adangme have the Council of Elders who assist the Chitf in administering the state by providing counselling and serving as a check to prevent him from becoming a despot. The Ga-Adangme also have linguists. They serve as the chief spokesmen of the rulers. The linguist’s staff symbolises their authority. Asafo Companies also exist among the Ga-Adangme. They are formed by able-bodied youth under the leadership of the Asafoatse. Their main duty is to defend the various traditional areas.
The word ’Guan’ is used to describe a group of distinct languages spoken by about 6 per cent of Ghana’s population. According to Guan speakers, they were originally savanna dwellers who lived in settlements that spread over a geographical area that extended from Bole and north-western Brong-Ahafo through to Krachi, the Volta Region, the Afram plains, Akuapem, Dangme down to the Accra plains and westwards along the coast even as far as Eguafo.
Guan tradition asserts that they are the undisputed aborigines of Ghana. This assertion is confirmed by material cultural remains of Ghana’s first pastoral farmers and village builders who are also the first manufacturers of clay sculptures of sheep, cattle and dogs. These pioneer fanners and village builders made polished stone axes, stone hoes, stone beads and local pottery. Their settlements date to between 1500 BC and 500BC. Tne distribution of these cultural materials from Bole through Ntereso, Kintampo, Chukoto to Kumasi area, Somanya and the Accra plains is very similar to the present distribution of the Guan. Comparing the language and archaeological evidence, it could be suggested that there were Guan settlements in the Black and White Volta Basin some time around the second millenium BC from where they spread onto the Afram plains, Atebubu and southwards along the Volta valley to the coastal savannas. Also, archeological excavations conducted in the 1960s at Buipe, the Ngbanyito capital of northern Ghana revealed material remains of the earliest farmers and village builders’ culture lying below the pottery of the ancestors of modern Gonja.
The archaeological evidence of Guan origin is collaborated by oral traditions and historians. For instance, Nana Kojo Gyan, Chief of Breman and Kyidomhene of Eguafo Traditional Area stated;’ we are Guans, we the Guam were the first people to migrate to the coastal’area; because we were Guans, people called us Eguafo’. Also, Nans’ D$ampi of Apirede - Akuapem traces the origin of the founders of Apirede to a place near Bole in Gonja, whence they moved to Chakoli (near Nanjuro) in present-day Nchumuruland, and then to the Afram Plains’ the Birim Basin and the foothills of the Akuapem Mountains19. Again, the founding ancestor of Boso, Obeng Kwatia, and the caretakers of the fetish Letsu came from Eastern Gonja, and the nuclear Anum society also settled in the area of Mampong Asante during their southward migration. The Nkonya ancestors claim they migrated from the north, and, passing through Kpembe (Salaga) and, the vicinity of Atebubu, they first settled some where on the west coast near Cape Coast.
Prof. Adu Boahen writes: "Neither the Akan nor the Ga-Adangme found the forest and the coastal districts of Ghana unoccupied. It is clear from oral traditions as well as linguistic evidence that these immigrants met the Guan who were living in these areas in different degrees of concentration and political organisation. These Guan are represented today by the Anum, Kyerepong, Bosso, Afutu and Asebu". Also Prof. J.K. Fynn maintains that ’the Etsii claim to being indigenes in the forest and coastlands of the Central Region of modern Ghana’ appears to have relevance for the whole question of Guan origins. Prof. K. B. Dickson adds his observations thus: ’Indeed, it would not be far fetched to suggest further the possibility that the Guan, in view of their possible countrywide distribution, would have been direct descendants of the Neolithic population’ (i.e the early agricultural society), and mat ’Neither would it be out of place to speculate on the possibility of the Guan having introduced or acquired iron technology before the Akan arrived, for it may not be for nothing that Gua, a senior god of the Kpesi (Guan) in the Accra plains, is the blacksmith and thunder god’.
Guan tradition asserts that a dynasty arose called the Ataras which set up a powerful state stretching from the Afram Plains to the interior of Ashanti region, embracing areas like Mampong, Sekyere, Kwabere, Kumasi and Old Tafo. The most famous of the kings who ruled between 1500 and 1690 was Atara Orlnam VI. The first capital was located at Sensremanso i.e. modern Atimpoku, between the Senchi rapids and Kwameakwa. The capital was however moved to the Atebubu area by Atara Ofinam VII. Between 1690 and 1697, the Adanse waged war against Atara Ofinam VIII, defeated him and drove him across the Volta.
It may be difficult reconciling some aspects of Guan traditions like that which claims that their ancestors were ruled by priest-chiefs who had regalia like the Akan chief, with their palaces located close to their shrines with that which suggests that they had secular chiefs who established Atara kingdoms the fact remains that we have Guan people now living in five regions of Ghana, namely: Central, eg. Winneba, Awutu and Senya Breku; Eastern, eg. Larteh, Okere, Boso and Anum; Volta, eg. Nkonya, Likpe,Krachi, Santrokofi, Bawili, Buem: Jasikan, Borada, Gwaman, Baglo, Teteman; Northern, eg. Yeji, Gonja, Nawuri, Nchumuru and Choruba; Brong Ahafo, eg. Prang and Dwan. In all these cases the historical and archaeological evidence available indicate that they are the indigenes of what is now Ghana.
Generally, the inheritance system is patrilineal. The family plays a very important role in the life of the people as members have the obligation to seek the welfare of one another. In this regard, a member could take up the responsibility of caring for the child of an insolvent relative. Religion plays a very vital role in Guan social life. They worship many deities. Among the Anum, prominent gods like Sakum and Letwi exist. The Krachi also have Dente while the Atwode have the Bruku. The deities are served by priests who possess additional powers to adjudicate on cases brought before them. The Guan celebrate festivals which have both religious and social significance. Some of the Guan festivals include the Aboakyer of the Efutu of Winneba and the Edzodzi of the Anum and Boso. Socially, the festivals give opportunity for family re-union and forges closer ties among members of the community. The festivals also afford the opportunity to offer sacrifices to the deities and ancestors for their guidance throughout the year. Among the Guan, the new born child is outdoored and named on the eighth day after birth. The ceremony which is performed by the eldest member of the father’s clan attracts members of both families of the parents of the child as well as friends of the couple and other members of the community.
The Guan originally lived in a cluster of states and therefore had no centralised administration. They lived in villages made up of independent clans ruled by priests and priestesses. The priests and priestesses were not only in charge of the shrines, but wielded political power. Among some Guan states today, the chief wields absolute political power but is assisted by the Council of Elders in administering the state. Like the Akan, the Guan have the position of Queenmother who occupies a very important and influential position in the society. As part of her duties, she has the prerogative of nominating someone from the royal line to occupy a vacant stool. She can also cause the destoolment of a chief if his activities and behaviour run contrary to the conduct expected of occupants of stools.