Ghana Facts

Social relations

In Ghana ,In general, Ghanaians emphasize communal values such as family, respect for the elderly, honoring traditional rulers, and the importance of dignity and proper social conduct. Individual conduct is seen as having impact on an entire family, social group and community; therefore, everyone is expected to be respectful, dignified and observant in public settings and in most every aspect of life. Naming ceremonies, puberty initiations, marriage and death are all marked by family ceremonies, and while Ghana has the highest percentage of Christians in West Africa, belief in traditional animist religions is still common. Seasonal festivals serve to bring a whole tribe or clan together in spectacular fashion.

Customs are often passed on through the extended family. While the customary leaders or chiefs, are given historical authority over social, family, and land-related matters. Relationships within traditional society are based on family membership, inherited status, and ancestral beliefs. In modern society, relationships are determined by achieved status, formalized education, membership in professional associations, and ethnic affiliation. The result is that, even those who live primarily in the modern urban setting remain bound to traditional society through the kinship system and are held to the responsibilities that such associations entail.

No part of Ghana , however, is ethnically homogeneous. Urban centers are generally ethnically mixed due to migration to towns and cities in search of employment. Rural areas, with the exception of cocoa-producing areas that have attracted migrant labor, tend to reflect more traditional population distributions. One overriding feature of the country’s ethnic population is that groups to the south who are closer to the Atlantic coast have long been influenced by the money economy, Western education, and Christianity, whereas ethnic groups to the north, who have been less exposed to those influences, have come under Islamic influence. These influences were not pervasive in the respective regions, however, nor were they wholly restricted to them.

In urban centres, the degree of traditionalism or modernism demonstrated by an individual is, to a large extent, determined by the length of residency in an urban setting, level of education, the degree of Westernization and, in some measure, by religious affiliation. Professionals in economics, politics, education, administration, medicine, law, and similar occupations constitute the elite of their respective groupings. Taken as a whole, however, such elites do not compose an upper class. The individuals who constitute the elites come from different social and ethnic backgrounds and base their power and social status on different cultural values. Most of them continue to participate in some aspects of traditional society and socialize with members of their own or other lineage groups. Most importantly, they do not regard themselves as an elite group.

People

Female figure on a gourd, Akan peoples. The mudfish, crescent moon and star decorations establish this vessel as one commissioned for the grave of a chief or paramount chief.

On the basis of language and culture, historical geographers and cultural anthropologists classify the indigenous people of Ghana into five major groups. These are the Akan, the Ewe, MoleDagbane, the Guan, and the Ga-Adangbe.

Ashanti

Main article: Ashanti people

The Ashanti people of the Akan, from which nearly half of the Ghanaian population is descended, comprise the largest ethnolinguistic group in Ghana and one of the few matrilineal societies in West Africa. The matrilineal system of the Akan continues to be economically and politically important. Each lineage controlled the land farmed by its members, functioned as a religious unit in the veneration of its ancestors, supervised marriages, and settled internal disputes among its members.

Ashanti kings, once renowned for their splendour and wealth, retained dignitary status after colonization. Celebration of the Ashanti kings lives on in the tradition of the Golden Stool (see Arts & Crafts, below). The Ashaniti are noted for their expertise in several forms of craft work, particularly their weaving, wood carving, ceramics, fertility dolls, metallurgy and kente cloth (see Arts & Crafts, below). Traditional kente cloth, is woven in complex patterns of bright, narrow strips. It is woven outdoors, exclusively by men. In fact, the manufacture of many Ashanti crafts is restricted to male specialists. Pottery-making is the only craft that is primarily a female activity; but even then, only men are allowed to fashion pots or pipes depicting anthropomorphic or zoomorphic figures.

The various Akan groups speak various dialects of Twi, a language rich in proverbs, and the use of proverbs is considered to be a sign of wisdom. Euphemisms are also very common, especially concerning events connected with death. The Ashanti village is the primary social and financial unit, and the entire village typically participates in major ceremonies.

Fanti

The coastal Akan (Fanti) were the first to have relations with Europeans during the “Scramble for Africa”. As a result of long association, these groups absorbed aspects of British culture and language. For example, it became customary among these peoples to accept British surnames.

A young Ghanaian standing on a partially submerged tree branch near the Wli Lower Falls, located in the Volta Region.

The language is Fanti

Ewe

The Ewe people occupy southeastern Ghana and parts of neighboring Togo and Benin. The Ewe are essentially a patrilineal people, the founder of a community became the chief and was usually succeeded by his paternal relatives. Ewe religion is organized around a creator deity, Mawu, and over 600 other deities. Many village celebrations and ceremonies take place in honor of one or more deities.

Coastal Ewe depend on the fishing trade, while inland Ewe are usually farmers and keep livestock. The local variations in economic activities have led to craft specialization. The Ewe also weave kente cloth, often in geometrical patterns and symbolic designs that have been handed down through the ages.

Mole-Dagbani

Mole-Dagbani is spoken by about 15 percent of the nation’s population, the name of which is a portmaneau of two closely related languages: Moore language (Mole), spoken by the Mossi, and Dagbani language (Dagbane) spoken by the Dagomba, two related peoples. The majority of the Mossi live in Burkina Faso, which the Dagomba mainly reside in Northern Ghana . Its speakers are culturally the most varied. For centuries, the area inhabited by Mole-Dagbane peoples has been the scene of movements of people engaged in conquest, expansion, and north-south and east-west trade. Hence, Hausas, Gurunsi, Fulanis, Zabaremas, Dyulas and Bassaris are all integrated into the Dagbani areas, and many speak the language. For these reasons, a considerable degree of heterogeneity, particularly of political structure, developed here. Many terms from Arabic, Hausa and Dyula are seen in the language, due to the importance of trans-Saharan and West African trade and the historic importance that the Islamic religion has had in the area.

Guan

The Guan are believed to have migrated from the Mossi region of modern Burkina around A. D. 1000. Moving gradually south, through the Volta valley, they created settlements along the Black Volta, the Afram Plains, in the Volta Gorge, and in the Akwapim Hills before moving onto the coastal plains.

Ga-Adangbe

The Ga-Adangbe people (named for the common proto-Ga-Adangbe ancestral language) inhabit the Accra Region, Easten Region, Togo and Benin. The Adangbe inhabit the eastern plain, while the Ga groups, occupy the western portions of the Accra coastlands. Both languages are derived from a common root language, modern Ga and Adangbe languages are still similar.

Despite the archeological evidence that proto-Ga-Adangbe-speakers relied on millet and yam cultivation, the modern Ga reside in what used to be fishing communities, and more than 75 percent of the Ga live in urban centers. The presence of major industrial, commercial, and governmental institutions in the city, as well as increasing migration of other people into the area, has not prevented the Ga people from maintaining aspects of their traditional culture.

The role and status of women

Women in premodern Ghanaian society were seen as bearers of children, retailers of fish, and farmers. Within the traditional sphere, the childbearing ability of women was explained as the means by which lineage ancestors were allowed to be reborn. In precolonial times, polygamy was encouraged, especially for wealthy men. In patrilineal societies, dowry received from marrying off daughters was seen as a traditional means for parents to be acknowledged for taking good care of their daughters. Also to thank them for the good training.

To help rural women transition into the modern world, the city of Nsawam has created the “Dora-Project for young rural women”.

In rural areas of Ghana , where agricultural production was the main economic activity, women worked the land. Coastal women also sold fish caught by men. Many of the financial benefits that accrued to these women went into upkeep of the household, while those of the man were reinvested in an enterprise that was often perceived as belonging to his extended family. This traditional division of wealth placed women in positions subordinate to men. In traditional society, marriage under customary law was often arranged or agreed upon by the fathers and other senior kinsmen of the prospective bride and bridegroom.

Among matrilineal groups, such as the Akan, married women continued to reside at their maternal homes. Meals prepared by the wife would be carried to the husband at his maternal house. The wife, as an outsider in the husband’s family, would not inherit any of his property, other than that granted to her by her husband as gifts in token appreciation of years of devotion. The children from this matrilineal marriage would be expected to inherit from their mother’s family. The Ewe and the Dagomba, on the other hand, inherit from fathers. In these patrilineal societies where the domestic group includes the man, his wife or wives, their children, and perhaps several dependent relatives, the wife was brought into closer proximity to the husband and his paternal family. Her male children also assured her of more direct access to wealth accumulated in the marriage with her husband.

The transition into the modern world has been slow for women. On the one hand, the high rate of female fertility in Ghana in the 1980s showed that women’s primary role continued to be that of child-bearing. On the other hand, current research supported the view that, notwithstanding the Education Act of 1960, which expanded and required elementary education, some parents were reluctant to send their daughters to school because their labor was needed in the home and on farms. Resistance to female education also stemmed from the conviction that women would be supported by their husbands. In some circles, there was even the fear that a girl’s marriage prospects dimmed when she became educated.

Despite these resistances, women have risen to positions of professional importance in Ghana . Early 1990s data showed that about 19 percent of the instructional staff at the nation’s three universities was female. Of the teaching staff in specialized and diploma-granting institutions, 20 percent was female; elsewhere, corresponding figures were 21 percent at the secondary school level; 23 percent at the middle school level, and as high as 42 percent at the primary school level. Women also dominated the secretarial and nursing professions in Ghana . When women were employed in the same line of work as men, they were paid equal wages, and they were granted maternity leave with pay.

Festivals

Ashanti yam ceremony, 19th Century by Thomas E. Bowdich

The celebration of festivals in Ghana is an essential part of Ghanaian culture. Several rites and rituals are performed throughout the year in various parts of the country, including child-birth, rights of passage, puberty, marriage and death. Most of the celebrations are attended by entire villages and are strictly observed by the traditional elders of the respective ethic groups.

The Panafest is held every summer. It is celebrates Ghanaian roots. People from other African countries, as well as African-Americans with roots in Ghana , often visit the country and celebrate their heritage.

The Homowo Festival-The word “Homowo” literally means hooting at hunger. Traditional oral history tells of a time when the rains stopped and the sea closed its gates. A deadly famine spread throughout the southern Accra Plains, the home of the Ga people. When the harvest finally arrived and food became plentiful, the people celebrated with a festival that ridiculed hunger.

Kobine is a traditional dance and festival unique to the Lawra area of north western Ghana . The dance and the festival named after it are celebrated in September and October to mark the end of a successful harvest.

Literature

See also: List of African writers (by country)# Ghana

The literary tradition of northern Ghana has its roots in Islam, while the literature of the south was influenced by Christian missionaries. As a result of European influence, a number of Ghanaian groups have developed writing systems based on Latin script, and several indigenous languages have produced a rich body of literature. The principal written Ghanaian languages are the Twi dialects of Asante, Akwapim, and Fante. Other written languages are Nzema, Ewe, Dagbane, Ga, and Kasena (a Grusi language). Most publications in the country, however, are written in English.

Music

There are three distinct types of Ghanaian music: ethnic or traditional music, normally played during festivals and at funerals; “highlife” music, which is a blend of traditional and mported music; and choral music, which is performed in concert halls, churches, schools and colleges.

Southern Ghanaian music incorporates several distinct types of musical instruments including:

Axatse -is a type of rattle or idiophone. It is constructed by hollowing out a gourd or calabash. Beads are attached with string which is woven in a fishnet design.

Gankogui -is a double bell or gong. It is constructed from iron. In Ewe music in general, and during Atsi in particular, gankogui keeps the time.

Kaganu-is a narrow drum or membranophone about two feet tall, its head is about three inches in diameter and it is open at the bottom.

Kidi -is a drum about two feet tall, its head is about nine inches in diameter and has a closed bottom. The Kidi responds to calls from the lead drummer.

Atsimevu-is the lead drum. It is a narrow drum approximately four feet tall and its head is about eleven inches in diameter.

Sogo-is the largest of the supporting drums used to play Atsi. In other pieces it is used as a lead drum. It is about two and a half feet tall, its head is about ten inches in diameter and it is closed at the bottom.

Kpanlogo- Carved from a single piece of wood, and covered in skin to create the drum head.

Northern Ghanaian music incorporates the following instruments:

North and Northeastern Ghana is known for talking drum ensembles, goje fiddle and koloko lute music, played by the Gur-speaking Frafra, Gurunsi and Dagomba nations, as well as by smaller Fulani, Hausa, Mande-speaking Busanga and Ligbi peoples.

Upper-Northwestern Ghana is home to the Dagara, Lobi, Wala and Sissala peoples, who are known for complex interlocking Gyil folk music with double meters. The Gyil is a close relative of the Balafon. The musical traditions of the Mande Bissa and Dyula minorities in this area closer resemble those of neighboring Mandinka-speaking areas than those of other Upper-Northwestern groups.

Cuisine

Ghana has diverse traditional dishes from each ethnic group,tribe and clan. Generally though,most Ghanaian dishes are made up of a starchy portion,and a sauce or soup saturated with fish,snails,meat or mushrooms.

Arts and crafts

Kente weaving is a traditional craft among the Ashanti people of Ghana . A kente cloths is sewn together from many narrow (about 10 centimetres (3.9 in) wide) kente stripes. This image shows different patterns of typical Ashanti Kente stripes.

Kente Cloth

Kente is one of the symbols of the Ghanaian chieftaincy, which remains strong throughout the country, particularly in the areas populated by members of the culturally- and politically dominant Ashanti tribe. The Ashanti’s chief, known as the Asantehene, is perhaps the most revered individual in the country. Like other Ghanaian chiefs, he wears bright Kente, gold bracelets, rings and amulets, and is always accompanied by numerous ornate umbrellas (which are also a symbol of the chieftaincy itself). Weaving is a highly developed craft, with dozens of standardized and named textile designs. The colors and patterns of the Kente are carefully chosen by the weaver and the wearer.

Kente cloth is worn primarily in the southern part of the country and n contrast to other forms of traditional weaving – is reserved mainly for joyous occasions. It is also quite appropriate for outsiders to wear it for religious and festive occasions.

Adinkra Symbols

During the 13th Century, the asante people developed their unique art of adinkra printing. Hand-printed and hand-embroidered Adinkra clothes were made and used exclusively by the royalty and spiritual leaders for devotional ceremonies and rituals. Each of the motifs that make up the corpus of adinkra symbolism has a name and meaning derived from a proverb, a historical event, human attitude, animal behavior, plant life, or shapes of inanimate and man-made objects. These are graphically rendered in stylized geometric shapes. Meanings of motifs may be categorized as follows: Aesthetics, Ethics, Human Relations and Religious concepts.

This brass ornament was produced by Ashanti craftsman, and originally used to keep precious gold dust. The lid is decorated with a village scene; the chief is sitting under his umbrella playing owari (a type of African bead game).

Wood carving

Traditional wood carvings are divided into many branches, each with its own specialists. Among the major products are wooden sculptures and talking-drums (atumpan).

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