One thing that hits any new visitor to Ghana is the knowledge of the diversity of people that coexist in Ghana’s territorial space. The country is made up of major ethnic groups that coexist in peace and in their own ways enrich our national sphere with beauty and splendor by showcasing their culture for the larger world to see. These ethnic groups in Ghana bring their different languages and cultures to wherever they go, and this makes this country the home of a myriad of people molded into a beautiful entity.
Major ethnic groups in Ghana
The various major ethnic groups in Ghana have some legends and myths (stories) that are usually transmitted orally to new generations. Some of these Ghanaian stories and legends are actually telling of the history of the people.
Since most of these were transmitted orally at a time when the people were not literate, we cannot verify the truthfulness or otherwise of these accounts.
The Akan Ethnic Group
Akan people are believed to have migrated to their current location from the Sahara desert and Sahel regions of Africa into the forest region around the 11th century. Many Akans tell their history as it started in the eastern region of Africa.
The Subgroups of the Akan people include: the Agona, Akuapem, Akwamu, Akyem, Ashanti, Bono, Fante, Kwahu, Wassa, and Sefwi, Anyin, Baoulé, Chakosi (Anufo), Sefwi (Sehwi), Nzema, Ahanta, and Jwira-Pepesa.
The Akan subgroups all have cultural attributes in common; most notably the tracing of matrilineal descent, inheritance of property, and succession to high political office.
Notably one of the most prominent Akan subgroups: the Ashanti have one of the most famous legends of all surrounding a magic golden stool that descended from the heavens.
Legend of the magic golden stool
Legend has it that the golden stool was conjured from the heavens through the chants of one of their greatest traditional priests by the name of Okomfo Anokye. He called forth the golden stool at a time when the people of the Ashanti were disoriented with the chaos and conflicts caused by in-fighting making them an easy pick for surrounding enemy kingdoms.
The Golden landed on the lap of the first Asante King, Osei Tutu, which he used to unify the people in the 17th century. What makes this legend unique is the fact that the golden stool actually exists and is believed to have never touched the ground. It can be found in the Manhyia palace in Kumasi, the capital of the present Ashanti kingdom.
The Ga-Adangbe Ethnic Group
The Ga people can be located along the coastal edge of the Akwapim scarp of Ghana. They are between the Central Region and the Volta Region. The Ga Sub-groups comprises seven clans which are Sempe, Otublonhum, Abola, Asere, Akugmage, Gbese and Ngleshi Alata.
From all these clans the overwhelming majority live along the coast of Ghana in towns such as Ada, Tema, Nungua, Teshie, La, Labone, Osu, Korle-Gonno, Chorkor, Agege and Dansoman. The Ga and Adangbe people are kinsmen.
Apart from sharing the same geographical location and also having identical dialects some common traditional practices and festivals also suggest that the Ga and the Adangbe are originally one people. One of such traditional festivals happens to have a myth surrounding it.
Legend of the Ga people
As the story goes, there was a period of famine and hunger during the early years of the Ga settlement in The Greater Accra where they predominantly dwell. The hunger was so terrible that the early settlers started dying off. All of this was due to a bad drought around that time. As a result, the chief priests of that time had to perform sacrifices to appease the spirits in order to drive away the famine. It is said that the spirits and gods heeded their prayers and not long after, the rains returned and the crops boomed into life.
The Ga people in response created the Homowo festival whose name literally means to jeer or boo away hunger. To this day, the festival is still celebrated by the Ga people where they prepare meals-kpokpoi (made from maize) and palm nut soup, and sprinkle them throughout the town and eat some to appease the gods and spirit. During this time, there is a ban on noise making in an attempt to curb disturbance to the gods and spirits.
The Northern Ethnic Groups
Northern Ghana comprises the three northernmost administrative regions of Ghana: the Upper West Region, Upper East Region and Northern Region. These lie roughly north of the Lower Black Volta River, which together with its tributaries the White and Red Voltas and the Oti and Daka rivers, drain the area that comprises Northern Ghana.
Northern Ghana today is home to a number of different peoples speaking a variety of related languages and exhibiting considerable cultural similarities. Some of these subgroups are: Dagomba, Mamprusi, Gonja, Nanumba, Sisala, Kassena amongst others. Their rich and beautiful culture is further fueled by imaginative tales of history, legends and myths.
One of such stories involves crocodiles
As the story goes, the founder of Paga (Paga is a small town in the upper East region of Ghana) Nave was said to be on the brink of death from thirst after he left his home in Leo, in present-day Burkina Faso.
He chanced upon a crocodile which upon seeing him, not only spared his life, but also guided him to a water hole now called Katogo and saved his life. It is said that he forged a bond with the crocodiles of the pond and decreed that none of his descendants should ever kill or harm any crocodile. Amazingly, the crocodiles known to be ferocious predators never harmed any of his descendants and towns settlers.
These crocodiles are considered very sacred and it is a taboo to hurt or kill them. They are believed to house the souls of the Paga people. Mysteriously, the death of some of the biggest crocodiles always coincides with the death of most of the important personalities within the village.
The Ewe Ethnic Group
The Ewe, one of the major ethnic groups in Ghana reside in the south eastern part of Ghana. Their original homeland is traced to Oyo, in western Nigeria, which was a major Yoruba kingdom. Most Ewe are farmers, corn (maize) and yams being their staple foods.
Sea fishing is a full-time occupation in some coastal areas. Spinning, weaving, pottery making, and blacksmithing, as well as trading, are all important. The sub-groups of this ethnic group consist of: Anlo, Bey, Gen, Peki, Ho, Kpando, Tori and Ave. These sub-groups share similar traditions, practices and most importantly history.
One of such history details of a wicked king whose cruelty had no equal. His name was Togbe Agorkoli.
Legend of Togbe Agorkoli king
Togbe Agorkoli was the mythical ruler of Notsie, He ruled the Ewe people with an iron fist and had any person who spoke against his rule put on trial and inevitably found guilty, which meant a death sentence. In order to keep his subjects in fear of him, King Argokoli had a mud wall built around his kingdom to prevent anyone from escaping.
When the Ewe people decided that they did not want to suffer under his rule any longer, they sought a very famous and powerful hunter known as Togbe Tsali. Tsali agreed to heed their pleas. During a festive holiday, it is said that he enchanted the drums to put all the royals and Togbe Agorkoli to sleep. He then mobilized the citizens to pass through a crevice made in the thick mud wall surrounding the kingdom, resulting in the Ewe people’s freedom from Notsie.
In a moment of ingenuity while escaping, Tsali convinced the citizens to walk backwards, so as to confuse any pursuers the King would send after them – Their footprints would look like they were walking into the city. True to his word, the pursuers who were sent by the king found themselves confused because the footprints of the escapees led back to the kingdom they had just left behind. After the exodus, the Ewe were led by the wise man called Torgbui Ewenya.
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