This is an introduction to a series of articles that would bare all that there is to know about Ghana, west Africa and Africa as a whole. This article would gradually delve deep into an overview of the various tribes in Ghana. The Ghanaian people, Ghanaian culture, Ghanaian food, Ghanaian names and meanings, Ghanaian festivals, Ghanaian garments, What Ghana is known for, Languages spoken in Ghana, the founding of Ghana and Ghana as a republic nation, tourist attractions in Ghana and when is best to visit Ghana, Ghanaian music as well as a take on the year of return for the African diaspora.
Search the web now about the migration of the various tribes into ghana and you would hardly find anything substantial. What is out there on certain pages is mostly inaccurate. For instance, search about the migration of tribes such as the GA-Dangbe tribe and you would find these:
“One school of thought suggests that the proto-Ga-Adangbe people came from somewhere east of the Accra plains, while another suggests a distant locale beyond the West African coast.”
“The GA- Adangbe people are belived to have come from Ile Ife In Nigeria”
These are inaccurate and I will explain why when we get to the history of the aforementioned tribe. Same persist for other historical statements. Folklore or “Word of mouth” for short cannot be taken out of the Ghanaian, the west African or the African’s history and the attempt to take it out of the African story in pursuit of “Recorded Facts” would always lead to inaccuracies. As much as most historical records would like to claim “facts”, folklore is part of our facts.
When the average person searches for the history of a particular place, what they would expect to find is an overview but that is not the case. To find something meaningful on history of a place such as Ghana, West Africa or Africa on the web it would lead to a book for sale, dissertation or all-text hard to read content. How about just an overview with all the accurate records presented in the most orderly and easy-to-read manner. The articles to be covered in this series does just that. An orderly presented overview of Ghana, West Africa and the African people, culture, food, music among others.
Although historical accuracy is the focus of this article, we do not claim or give any assurance that this article is historically accurate. This is more of what the “Elders” say than what the “Historians” say. This article is mostly based on folklore than on recorded “facts”. If any account in this article should in any way conflict with what you already know, kindly disregard it.
The Origins Of Ghana
The origin of the present day Ghana can be traced to the medieval west African Ghana Empire, which covered the present day Mali, Senegal and Mauritania.
Most ethnic groups in Ghana migrated from the old Ghana empire after it was conquered by the Almoravid dynasty (an imperial Berber Muslim dynasty) which originated in the present day Morocco in the 11th century.
The conquered of the old Ghana Empire moved southwards of the Sahara. After a long period of time and wandering around, most entered the present geographical area which became the present day Ghana at different points in time. This would be elaborated in detail.
Today Ghana is occupied by five major ethnic groups namely the Akan, the Ewe, the Ga-Dangbe, the Mole-Dagbon and the Guan. There are other recognized minor ethnic groups but they all originated from these major five.
All the major and minor ethnic groups are individually identified as tribes. Ethnic groups have a distinct language and culture. Tribes are offshoots of ethnic groups. Tribe and ethnic group are used interchangeably.
The histories of the various ethnic groups in Ghana, West Africa and the African continent as a whole have always been kept and passed on from generation to generation through folklore or oral history in the form of stories, songs and festivals.
Ghana West Africa: Ethnic / Tribal Overview
The Akan Ethnic Group
The Akans migrated from the old Ghana empire to present day Ghana. Although the history of the Akan predates the Ghana empire as folklore has it that the Akan people migrated from Mesopotamia (close to Israel in the middle east) to Africa before forming the old Ghana empire.
Most west African tribes including the Ga-Danbge and Igbo people of Nigeria also have claims of migrating from regions in the middle east known as the present day Israel. These are not some religious apologist seeking a religious homeland. As these claims precede the Christian and western religion. At the time when these claims where being passed on as folklore these people were pagans (worshiped God through deities).
Folklore has it that the Akans were running away from Muslim indoctrination after the conquest by the Almoravid dynasty (an imperial Berber Muslim dynasty) which originated in the present day Morocco in the 11th century. As they sought to keep their culture.
They first settled in the present Northern Ghana at Gonjaland. This was in the 13th century. From Gonjaland, they migrated southwards.
They settled at the Pra-Valley. At the Pra-valley they established a state called Akan-man-mu, then they spread across the country to most of the regions as it stands now.
Akan is the broadest ethnic group consisting of tribes such as the Asante (Ashanti), Adanse, Akyem, Awamu, Kwahu, Fante, Guan, Denkyira, Brong, Akyem, Sefwi, Wassa, Akwapin and Assin.
The languages mostly spoken by the Akan are Twi and Fante although there are other derivatives from these languages spoken by the other Akan tribes. The difference between these Ghanaian languages is mostly ascent and a few words. Just like the difference between American English and British English.
Akan History and Culture
Akans were massters of textiles, sculpture (Gold, bronze etc), jewelry and goldweights. The Akan art laid create emphasis on visual communication as it incorporated Akan philosophy, visual representations of oral tradition, representations of proverbs, socio-political and knowledge systems, as well as artifacts to commemorate social or historical events, or to express religious views and aspirations.
Akans in Ghana currently occupy 5 of the ten major regions in Ghana namely Central Region, Western Region, Eastern Region, Ashanti Region and the Brong-Ahafo Region. There are Akans in Côte d’Ivoire as well. They settled there before moving into Ghana.
Kente (nwentoma) meaning woven cloth is a silk and cotton fabric made of interwoven cloth strips native to the Akan ethnic group of Ghana. Kente originated with the Ashantis and Ewes but as of who started weaving it first is a debate.
The word kente is derived from the word kenten meaning basket, due to the interwoven nature of a basket.
Folklore has it that two Ashantis went into a forest and found a spider weaving its web, they stood and studied the spider’s technique for two days then returned home and implemented it.
Kente used to be exclusively reserved for kings and royals. As time went on it became widespread and used by other Akans and non Akans alike, today it is the national fabric of the Ghanaian people. Kente even in this present era is not worn anyhow. It is won on occasions to signify the importance of such occasion. It is worn on occasions such as durbars, festive occasions, traditional marriages, naming ceremonies and at times at academic and non-academic graduations.
Kente is strictly woven by men as it is considered cloth of the kings.Although other non-Ashanti towns now weave Kente, towns such as Sakora, Ntonso Bonwire, Adanwomase, and Wonoo in the Ashanti Region are most known for weaving it.
Meanings of the Various colors Of the Kente Fabric
Gold: stands for royalty, wealth, high status, glory, spiritual purity
White: stands for purification, sanctification rites, festive occasions, victory
Black: stands for maturation, intensified spiritual energy, funeral, mourning
Blue: stands for peacefulness, harmony and love
Yellow: stands for preciousness, royalty, wealth, fertility, beauty
Green: stands for vegetation, planting, harvesting, growth, spiritual renewal
Grey: stands for healing and cleansing rituals; associated with ash
Maroon: stands for color of mother earth, associated with healing
Pink: denotes female essence of life, a mild, gentle
Purple: is associated with feminine aspects of life, worn by women
Red: stands for spiritual moods, bloodshed, sacrificial rites and death.
Silver: stands for serenity, purity, joy
Akan Religion / African Traditional Religion
The Akan religion was centered around a supreme triune God called Nyame (God), Nyankopon(Almighty God) or Odomankoma(“infinite creator”), who created the universe.
This God is one of many documented presences of a “trinity” in the African religion before the coming of the European and its associated western religion. He is considered to be distant and too divine to interact directly with humans.
The triune God’s wife is Asase Yaa (Mother Earth), considered second to God and together they brought forth two children: Bia and Tano and in essence all humans.
Since Nyankopon(Almighty God) is too distant and divine to interact directly with humans, Abosom (deities) serve as mediators between Nyankopon(Almighty God) and humans on earth.
Abosom are creations of Nyankopon(Almighty God) and receive their divine power from him. Abosom are represented with fetishes in every household to whom the entire household prays to for protection and guidance.
Not everyone is deemed pure to communicate directly with the Abosom(deities) so Akomfo (fetish priests) are chosen by individual Abosom(deities) to serve them and act as mediators between the them and mankind.
Abosom(deities) are prayed to daily by pouring of libations and occasional animal sacrifices as an offering to them.
During libations, Nsamanfo (Acestors / Spirit of the dead) are also called upon for protection. Ancestors are believed to be everywhere in the spirit realm with the Abosom, watching over loved ones.
In asante traditional religion it is believed that the soul ( Okra ) of a person is a deity which must not be offended with sins and immoral conduct. Offending the soul ( Okra ) could lead to death of the body while the Okra ( soul) lives on.
They believe that when a person dies, their breath(life) goes back to Nyankopon(Almighty God) while the soul/spirit goes to Asamando (Place of the dead / Spirit realm). Spirits of ancestors are believed to watch over loved ones and come home regularly to dine with the living.
Due to this when eating or drinking, people who still believe in the traditional religion pour down some of the drink for the ancestors. During occasions, special food, animal sacrifices and libations are offered to the Abosom(deities) and nsamanfo(ancestors).
The concept of worshiping a supreme God through deities is consistent with all African traditional religions.
Asante / Ashanti Tribe
The name Asante is derived from the words ɔsa(war) and nti (because of), the word Asante therefore means “because of war”. The proper pronunciation of the name is Asante but it became known as Ashanti due to improper British pronunciation of the word Asante.
This name comes as a result of the purpose for which the Asante kingdom was created. The Asante kingdom began as a unification of Akan clans to fight the Denkyira kingdom which was also an Akan kingdom.
The Ashanti Empire (Asanteman) was an Akan empire and kingdom from 1670 to 1957 in what is now modern-day Ghana.
It started from Kumasi in the present day Ashanti region and spanned across the present day Brong-Ahafo Region, Central Region, Eastern Region, Greater Accra Region and Western Region of Ghana.
The history of the Ashanti kingdom is more renowned than any other culture in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In the late 17th century, the Ashanti king Osei Tutu and his adviser a fetish priest with extreme divine powers by name Okomfo Anokye together established the Ashanti Kingdom.
The Ashanti kingdom began with the enchantment of the Golden Stool (Sika dwa) From the heavens onto the lap of king Osei Tutu I, during a grand durbar of allied clans to denounce allegiance hence independence from the powerful Dankyire kingdom which the other Akan clans deemed oppressive.
The introduction of the Golden Stool (Sika dwa) was a means of centralization under king Osei Tutu.
The Golden Stool (Sika dwa) was symbolic of unity of the new alliance which grew to become the Ashanti kingdom. It was believed that the spirit(sunsum) of the Ashanti and the Ashanti kingdom lied within the stool and that as long as the stool stands, the ashanti kingdom stands. The stool was therefore to be protected to death.
This new alliance of Akan clans with an allegiance to king(Asantehene) Osei Tutu I subsequently waged war with the Denkyira kingdom and defeated them at the Battle of Feyiase in 1701. Several other Akan clans were convinced to pledge allegiance to king(Asantehene) Osei Tutu I to be become part of the kingdom. Conquered enemies were also annexed into the kingdom. Through diplomacy and warfare, the Ashanti kingdom expanded across and beyond present day Ghana.
In present day Ghana the Ashanti Kingdom still lives not as it used to be, it no longer has control over the territories it used to control, neither does it have its governing and administrative powers, but to the Ashanti as long as the Golden Stool (Sika dwa) lives, the Ashanti kingdom lives. Many believe the Ashanti kingdom would rise again.
Ashanti Government and Democracy
The Ashanti kingdom ruled over approximately 3 million people. It was made up of several large city-states with allegiance to king(Asantehene) Osei Tutu I in Kumasi.
Democracy and decentralization of government as it is today existed in the Ashanti kingdom before the coming of the European. Although the Ashanti kingdom was mostly theocratic as it invoked more of religious punishments it had several aspects of modern democracy.
The Ashanti government had a very sophisticated bureaucracy and decentralized structures in Kumasi.
It had ministries and governing structures with very complex features of modern day democracy such as separation of powers, processes of impeachment and checks and balances. It had ministries for trade, diplomacy, law enforcement, military among others.
An instance was the Ashanti’s Foreign Ministry which was based in Kumasi. The ministry had departments that handled different foreign diplomatic relations with their trade partners namely the British, French, Dutch, and Arabs.
At the top of Ashanti’s power structure was the king (Asantehene). The Asantehene appointed officials according to their ability just like a modern day president appoints ministers.
The Asantehene was a democratic leader as he was elected by the queen mother and approved of by the council of elders, his powers were also not absolute as he was subjected to checks and balances from the queen mother and the council of elders. He shared legislative and executive powers with the decentralized governance. The Asantehene could be impeached and destooled if his rule did not conform to laid down principles just like a constitution.
Every chief swore allegiance to the one above him. Family heads submitted to Sub-divisional chiefs. Sub-divisional chiefs reported to divisional chiefs, divisional chiefs to the paramount chiefs, paramount chiefs submitted to the King(Asantehene) and the King(Asantehene)’s allegiance is sworn to the Aman(satates) and the Ashanti kingdom.
In terms of authority, the Asantehene precedes the paramount chiefs, the paramount chiefs precede the chiefs and the chiefs precedes the sub-chiefs. Below the Asantahene, local power was invested in the Obirempon of each locale.
The Obrempong was appointed by the Asantehene and had to be a royal and was given legislative and judicial power to give judgements and interpret laws. The function of the Obrempong was similar to the chiefs the only difference is that the Obrempong is selected by the Asantehene while the chiefs position is hereditary and goes through the process of enstooling.
The chiefs have their own territories, and assisted the paramount chiefs as their ministers.
Election Of The Asantehene And Subsequent Chiefs
The queen mother nominated male royals with lineage to the stool. The queen mother then consulted the elders of the families from which the potential king/chief were selected for the selection of the final candidate.
The selected candidate is then presented to the council of elders. The Elders then present the nomination to the people at a durbar.
If the people disapprove of the selected candidate, the process is restarted. If the people approve of the selected candidate, the selected candidate is enstooled by the council of Elders.
The chosen King then swears an oath to Asase Yaa (mother earth) and to the ancestors to fulfill his duties and presents himself a sacrifice for the betterment of the Asanteman.
Upon the throne, the King is considered sacred, a link between the people and the ancestors. The chiefs champions political and economic development in their jurisdiction.
The Golden Stool
Folklore has it that the Golden Stool (Sika dwa) was enchanted from the heavens onto the lap of king Osei Tutu I, during a grand durbar of allied clans to denounce allegiance hence independence from the powerful Dankyire kingdom which the other Akan clans deemed oppressive.
The Golden Stool (Sika dwa) is symbolic of Asante unity and of the alliance which grew to become the Ashanti kingdom. It is believed that the spirit(sunsum) of the Ashanti and the Ashanti kingdom lies within the stool and that as long as the stool stands, the Ashanti kingdom stands. The stool was therefore to be protected with the very lives of the Ashanti people. It is also believed that the Golden Stool (Sika dwa) houses the spirit(sunsum) of the Asantes living, dead and yet to be born.
During festivities, the Golden Stool outdoored and placed on a stool to the left of the king (Asantehene).
Ashanti Symbolism: Adinkra Symbols
Adinkra are traditional Asante symbols used to represent principles or statement of wisdom, aspects of life or the environment.
Adinkra are usually embroiled in fabrics, jewelry and stools to make proverbial statement. They are also used as standalone symbols to emphasize royalty, authority or cultural pride. Each Adinkra symbol has a distinct meaning, often linked with proverbs.
Meanings Of the various Adinkra symbols
Here is a very brief overview of the various Adinkra symbols in pictures. Below every Adinkra is its meaning.
Communication Within the Ashanti Kingdom
The Ashantis had a unique means of mass communication within the Ashanti kingdom. This was used to make announcements and communicate to the people over long distance. The Ashantis made use of the gong-gong and the talking drum.
Akan Talking Drum
The Asantes made use of the Fontomfrom(a tonal drum) that mimicked the intonations of the Twi language. The twi language in itself is very tonal. The people made meanings from the tones that were broadcasted by the talking drum.
Although the talking drum could mimic just about every tone, when used for communication, it mimicked tones representing a limited set of important words such as those that would be used in an announcement, call to meetings and warning of impending danger. You would have to be well versed in the language, lived in the society for some time or you would have to be taught to make meaning of it.
The talking drum was always used to signify the death of an important personality such as a chief the moment he dies so that the people would know they have lost a prominent person.
Drumming the talking drum (Fontomfrom) is an art the requires a lot of practice to master.
In present day Ashanti, the talking drum (Fontomfrom) is still used to signify the death of an important personality. However, it is not often used for the other purposes it used to be used for due to advancement of modern technologies.
Talking drum (Fontomfrom) competitions are still held across various regions of modern day Ghana during cultural occasions. A list of words and sentences are mentioned to competitors in turn for them to mimic the tone with the drum. The one who mimics best wins.
Unlike the talking drum (Fontomfrom), which was used for other purposes other than announcements, the gong-gong was mostly used for announcements.
The gong-gong is a U-shaped hollow set of metal that makes a very loud single toned noise over very long distances when hit with its accompanying stick or metal.
A gong-gong beater of a traditional area would wake up at dawn on instruction of a chief, beat the gong-gong as he walks across the town and shout the announcement after beating the gong-gong for a while. This process is repeated after walking a while.
The gong-gong is still used in villages as source of announcement but not used in major towns and cities due to distance to be covered by the gong-gong beater and advancement in more efficient modern technologies.
All the Akan tribes believed that they are made up of two elements obtained from their parents by birth. These elements are blood and spirit. The blood which comes from the mother determines the clan(Abusua) and the spirit which comes from the father determines the Nton/ntoro(inherited skillset).
Since most Akans, are matrilineal, a child is what his/her mother is. In Asante, inheritance to stools is mostly based on matrilineal clan (Abusua ) system. However, some stools are inherited paternally (nton). For instance, the position of warlords was inherited paternally. Also the stool of royal artisans and drummers (Ntumpankafuohene ) is paternally inherited.
The nton is the genetic characteristics which shows the paternal group one belongs to. The clan(Abusua) is exclusively passed on through the mother while the nton/Ntoro is exclusively passed on from the father.
The Asantes believe that the soul ( Okra) or life of a person is passed on from the father to the children .
Ashantis are matrilineal. Where a person belonging to the clan of his mother inherits from his mother and not his father. A person can only be part of an Akan clan only when his/her mother is from the clan.
The children of the female members of the clans are the royals of the town but the children of the male members are not members of the clan and have no claim to the stool.
In the Asante matrilineal tradition, a man is strongly related to his mother’s brother (wɔfa) but weakly related to his father’s brother.
In inheritance, a man’s sister’s son (wɔfase) has priority over his own children. Uncle-nephew relationships dominate over Father-Son relationships.
In inheritance, age and gender takes precedence. Men come before women and the older siblings come before the younger siblings.
The Ashanti clans are : OYOKO & ADAKO CLAN, BRETUO CLAN, AGONA CLAN, ASONA CLAN, ASENIE CLAN, ADUANA CLAN, EKUONA CLAN, and ASAKYIRI CLAN.
OYOKO CLAN:The symbol of the clan is a falcon. It is also the clan from which the Asantehene comes from. Its main towns are Kumase and Dwaben . Other towns are Kokofu, Bekwae, Mamponten, Bogyaa, Dadieso, Obogu, Atobiase, Pampaso, Kontanase ,Kwabre- Kenyase , Sawua , Ahenkro ,Adumase , Ohwim , Asankare , Dwansa , Nyaabo , Atwedee and Adwumakasekese.
ADAKO: Nsuta , Akokofe , Ntonso , Asaman , Adako- Gyakye and Kontanase.
ADUANA CLAN : The symbol of the Aduana is the dog. Major towns of the aduana clans are Kumawu, Asumanya, Kwaman, Boaman, Agogo, Apromaase, Tikurom, Kaase, Apagya, Bompata, Kwaso, Akyease, Takyiman, Nsuatre, Drobo, Manso-Mmem, Manso-Abodom, Ampabame , Danyaase , Akwaboa , Adokwae, Dumase, Agyamasu, Worakese , Kwaman , Banso, Offinso-Dantin , Kwatwema , Awua-Domase, Amoaten- Gyaakye and Nyinahen.
AGONA CLAN: The symbol of this clan is the parrot and members of this clan are eloquent. Some towns of the Agona clan are Tafo, Bodwesango, Fomesua, Asienimpon, Trede Ahwaa, Ampabame,Nkawie , Konkoma, Gyenyase, Amoaman , Adwumam, Sepe, Akyenakrom and Asuonwin.
ASAKYIRI CLAN : They are to be found in the Adanse area and their main towns are Akorokyere (Akrokere), Ayaase and Asokore. Other towns of the clan are Abofuo, Abrenkese, Asakyiri(Amansie)Abofuo, Kusa, Odumase(Adanse), Benin, Afeduase-Adukro Boaberease(Adanse), and Apeadu.
ASENIE CLAN: The symbol of the clan is the bat and its main towns are Kumase Amakom and Dompoase. Other towns of this clan are Antoa, Agona, Nkoranza, Wenchi, Atwoma, Kofiase,Adonten, Kwamo ,Akyaakrom ,Asuboa , Dompoase (Adanse), Poano ,Mpataase, Atwima-Takyiman, Kobireso, Abenase and Denyase.
ASONA CLAN :The symbol of the clan is the crow or wild boar. It is said that more people generally, belong to this clan than to any other clan. The principal towns are Edweso and Offinso. Other towns of the clan are Ejura, Feyiase, Manso-Nkwanta, Bonwire, Atwima-Agogo, Abrakaso, Taabuom, Beposo, Toase, Abirem , Adanse- Akrofrom ,Asotwe , Onwe , Manso Nkwanta, Tano-Odumase , Anyinasu, Manso-Atwedie, Nnuaso , Apenkra , Adunku , Odumase- Domeabra , Domenase , Onwi-Odaho , Denyase-Odaho, Akwamu- Kumase, Kronko- Kumase , Konongo, Apemanin , Kotei , Antoa- Krobo , Senkyi , Adadientam, Dedesua , Manso-Asaman ,Akwamu- Bekwai, Sabene-Akrofroum and Konongo- Odumase.
BRETUO CLAN: are found mainly in Mampon, Amoafo, and Afigyaase/Effiduase. Its symbol is the leopard. It is worth noting that the commander of the Asante army against Denkyira was the Mamponhene and in the past, generally, matters relating to war in Asante was the domain of the Mamponhene. Towns of this clan are Gyamaase , Adanse- Ayaase , Adanse Ahensan, Ofoase , Aboontam , Baworo , Kyekyebiase , Asenemaso , Mprem , Adudwam, Donyina , Yonso , Nintin , Tewobaabi, Adubinsokese , Atasemanso , Gyamase- Kyekyewere, Bedomase, Apaa, Domeabra, Agogo-Hwidiem, Adankranya,
EKUONA CLAN: are not found in great numbers in Asante. They are mainly found among the Fantis but in Asante, their main town is Adanse Fomena. The symbol of this clan is the buffalo. Other towns of the clan are Banko, Kona, Asokore-Mampon, Brekum, Kokofu-Abuoso, Adumasa, Heman, Abenkyem, and Duayaw-Nkwanta.
The Fante Tribe
The Fante tribe is a subset of the Akan ethnic group. Therefore, akan history applies to fantes as well.
They also entered present day Ghana from Northern Ghana at Gonjaland in the 13th century. From Gonjaland, they migrated southwards with fellow Asantes.
They settled at the Pra-Valley with the Akans and was part of the Akan-man-mu state. They then migrated further southwards towards the coast.
The Fantes are akans who speak Fanti. They reside in the central and western regions of present day Ghana. They first settled at Takyiman. From Akan-man-mu the Fante moved to Mankesim and then spread along the coast to present day central and western regions.
Folklore has it that three traditional priests namely Obunumankoma, Odapagyan and Oson led the Fante to their present place. Mankesim is the traditional home of the Fante.
The Fante acted as middlemen between the white merchants and the people in the middle belt of Ghana mostly the Ashantis when the European came. As a result of disagreement and desire to control trade routes between the coast and the middle belt, the Fantes fought countless wars most of which was with their arc rivals at the time, the Ashantis. The Ashanti-fante wars led to the colonisation of the entire Ghana.
The Fantes sought for military assistance from the British who asked them to sign a bond(bond of 1844) thereby surrendering their sovereignty in exchange for British protection from the Ashantis. After the conquest of the Ashanti who were the strongest and major force in the region, by the British, they gained governing control over the Asante kingdom thereby the whole of present day Ghana.
Fantes are mostly identified by their English surnames as most of them adopted English surnames instead of their local surnames.
The Guan Tribe
The Guans are akans. They first settled in present day Burkina Faso and later migrated to Ghana. Folklore has it that the Guans were first to arrive in Ghana. They are said to have followed the black Volta to the south east coastal plains, where they turned westward to fill the inland forest areas of the Akwapim, Akyem and the coastal plains of Ghana. Today the Guans can be found in parts of modern day Volta, central and eastern regions of Ghana. The Guan includes the Efutu, Kyerepong, Nkonua among others.
The Ewe Ethnic Group
The Ewe are the dominant ethnic group in the Volta region of Ghana. The Ewe ethnic group are made up of the Anlo, Kreppi, Tono among other tribes.The Ewe migrated from Ketu in the present day Benin to Ghana along the east coast of ghana. The Ewe are closely related to the Aja and Fon people of Benin. From ketu they settled at Tado and Notsie in the present day Togo. The ewe left Notsie because they were mistreated by king Agorkoli of Togo.
Folklore has it that they walked backwards to avoid their routes being tracked by king Agorkoli when he realized they had left.
They escaped from the walled city of Notsie in three groups. The first group, the Anlo group settled around the ketu lagoon in the present day Volta Region. The second group settled around Ho in the present day Volta Region. The third group settled around Kpando also in the Volta Region. Ho is currently the regional capital of the Volta Region.
The Ga-Dangbe Ethnic Group
Folklore has it that the Ga-Dangbe migrated from Israel in the middle east and first settled in Ile Ife in present day Nigeria. The Ga’s migrated by sea from Ile Ife to the coastal plains of Ghana, while making occasional stops on their route. The Dangbe’s moved in several different groups by land headed by clan heads(Asafoatse) and settled west of the Volta river.
While the Ga’s lived on the coastal plains, the Dangbe’s dispersed due to internal conflict. Some moved eastwards and northwards and settled at the present day Ningo and Prampram. Others continued their journey to the Shai hills and around current dwelling of the krobo people.
Native Ga towns include Ga Mashie, Manhean, La, Osu, Teshie among others. Native Dangbe towns include Shai, Ningo, Prampram, Krobo, Ada among others.
The Ga built a powerful state that grew to become the Ga kingdom. Ayawaso was the capital of the Ga state under the reign of king okai kwei, the Ga kingdom reached its heights.
Like the Fante, the Ga were fisher folks and acted as middlemen when the Europeans came. They acted as middlemen between the European traders and those from the middle belt mostly the Ashanti kingdom. This resulted in wars over trade routes as the Ashantis wanted to deal directly with the Europeans. In 1742 the Ashanti defeated the Ga state and ruled it until the Ashanti were defeated by the British and the entire region annexed under the British colony.
The Mole-Dagbon Ethnic Group
The Mole-Dagbon migrated from around east of lake chad to present day Ghana. They were led out of the lake chad region by a leader called Tohazie(red hunter) however they entered Ghana with a new leader called Na-Gbewa. They first settled at Pusiga, a village in present day northern Ghana. Pusiga was already settled by natives. Folklore has it that the Mole-Dagbon defeated the locals there and established a state that grew into a kingdom.
The Mole-Dagbon is made up of the Mamprusi and Dagomba tribes. They are closely related to the Mossi in present day Burkina Faso.
When Na-Gbewa died he was succeeded by his son Zirile. After the death of Zirile, conflict broke between his sons over the succession of the throne. Tohogu the eldest surviving brother of Zirile was defeated by his younger brother Sitobu. Tohugu then fled and founded the Mamprusi kingdom while Sitobu founded the Dagomba kindom.
The Mamprusi Tribe
The Mamprusi tribe are a subset of the Mole-Dagbon ethnic group. They are descendants of Tohogu the son of Na-Gbewa. They are native to modern day Northern Region of Ghana. Some principal towns of the Mamprusi kingdom were Gambaga and Pusiga. The Mamprusi were middle men between the Asante’s in the middle belt and the Mossi and Hausa people from the north. The language of the Mamprusi people is Mampruli. The title given to the paramount chief of the Mamprusi is Nayiri.
The Dagomba Tribe
The Dagomba like the mamprusi are descendants of Na-Gbewa through Sitobu his son. They are also native to modern day Northern Region of Ghana. Yendi is the traditional capital of the Dagomba state. The language of the Dagomba is Dagbani. The Dagomba regard Mamprusi as their “parent” home while they regard Gambaga as their spiritual home.
Like the Mamprusi the Dagomba facilitated trade between southern and northern Ghana. They served as middlemen between the Asantes and their trade partners in the north and collected taxes from traders who passed through their land. This resulted in wars over trade routes. The Dagomaba were defeated in 1746 and annexed to the Asante empire.
The Gonja Ethnic Group
The gonja people migrated from Mande in the present day Senegal. The Gonja were led by a leader called Ndewura Jakpa. The title of the paramount chief of the Gonja people is Yagbon-Wura. Some principal towns in Gonjaland are Salaga and Damango.
Like the Mole-Dagbon, the Gonja also controlled trade between southern and northern Ghana. Salaga was a trade center. They traded livestock, cloth, leather goods and shear butter from the north for gold, cola nut and other cash crops from the south. The Gonja language is similar to the Guan language.
This article has presented an in dept overview of the various tribes in Ghana. In subsequent updates this article would delve into topics such as The Ghanaian people, Ghanaian culture, Ghanaian food, Ghanaian names and meanings, Ghanaian festivals, Ghanaian garments, What Ghana is known for, Languages spoken in Ghana, the founding of Ghana and Ghana as a republic nation, tourist attractions in Ghana and when is best to visit Ghana, Ghanaian music as well as a take on the year of return for the African diaspora.
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Read also: 6 Most “Disgusting” Ghana Foods : African Food.