Historic Culture Of Ghanaians

40 Ghanaian proverbs

On the basis of the Ghanaian nationality law the indigenous people of Ghana and those considered Ghanaians are into six groups. These are the ethnic groups, the Akan, the Ga-Adangbe, the Dagbon, the smaller groups of the Whites, the Sindhi–Indian, and the Lebanese.

The cultural impact of the smaller groups on the Ghanaian culture is small. The influence of the Whites, Sindhi–Indian, and the Lebanese is greatly in the companies of Ghana and the economy of Ghana. The Akan greatly influence the Parliament of Ghana with the Ga greatly influencing the Ghana Army. Together the Akan, the Ga, and the Dagomba greatly influence the sports in Ghana and theGhana national football team, for instance Abedi Pele is a Gurunsi and his wife, Maha Ayew, is a Ghana Lebanese making both André Ayew and Jordan Ayew as Half-Lebanese and Half-Gurunsi.Adam Larsen Kwarasey who’s father is a Gurunsi and his mother a Ghana Whites of Danish descent, making Adama Larsen Kwarasey as Half-Whites and Half-Gurunsi. Asamoah Gyan with his Indian Hindu surname of Gyan is of Ghana Sindhi–Indian and Akan descent. Former-France international footballer, Marcel Desailly is a Ga.


Ashanti and Fanti

The Ashanti people and Fante people of the Akan, from the Ashanti whom nearly half of the Ghanaian population is descended, comprise the largest ethnolinguistic group in Ghana, and one of the fewmatrilineal 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 areligious unit in the veneration of its ancestors, supervised marriages, and settled internal disputes among its members.[1]

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. The Ashanti are noted for their expertise in several forms of craftwork, particularly their weaving, wood carving, ceramics, fertility dolls, metallurgy and kente cloth (see: Arts and 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.

The coastal Akan (Fanti) were the first to have relations with Europeans during the “Scramble for Africa“. As a result of this long association, these groups absorbed aspects of British culture and language. For example, it became customary among these peoples to adopt British surnames. The Fanti people live predominantly in the Central Region, though a large number also live in the Western Region of Ghana. The language is Fanti.

Ghanaians sailing across the Black Volta of Bui National Park, located in the Brong-Ahafo Region of mid-western Ghana.
Ghanaians on top of the Umbrella Rock, located in Koforidua the Eastern Region of Ghana.


Main article: Ga-Adangbe people

The Ga-Adangbe people or simply Ga people (named for the common proto-Ga-Adangbe ancestral language) inhabit the Accra Region, and the Eastern Region. 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-Adangbe reside in what used to be fishing communities, and more than 75 percent of the Ga-Adangbe live in urban centers. The presence of major industrial, commercial, and governmental institutions in the city and towns, 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 Dagomba and the Dagbani language (Dagbane) is spoken by about 15 percent of the nation’s population. The Dagomba mainly reside in Northern Ghana. For centuries, the area inhabited by Dagbane peoples has been the scene of movements of people engaged in conquest, expansion, and north-south and east-west trade. Hence, Mossi–Burkinabé of Burkina Faso, Hausa–Nigerian‘s,Gurunsi–Burkinabé, Fulani–Nigerien‘s, Zabarema–Nigerien‘s, Dyula–Burkinabé and Bassari–Senegalese are all illegally inhabiting 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–Nigerian‘s and Dyula–Burkinabé are seen in the language, due to the importance of trans-saharan trade and West African trade and the historic importance that the Islamic religion has had in the area.

[edit]The role and status of women

Main article: Women in Ghana

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 pre-colonial 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.[2]

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.[2]

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 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.[1]


Ashanti Empire 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 marriage and death. Most of the celebrations are attended by entire villages and are strictly observed by the traditional elders of the respective ethnic 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.


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, Ga, Dagbane, and the languages of non-Ghanaian origin Kasena and Ewe. Most publications in the country, however, are written in English.[1]


A Kpanlogo

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 ‘imported’ music; and choral music, which is performed in concert halls, churches, schools and colleges.

Southern Ghanaian music of the Akan and Ga incorporates distinct types of musical instruments with the most popular and well known being:

  • 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 Dagomba nations, as well as by the smaller Frafra-Burkinabé, Gurunsi-Burkinabé, Fulani-Nigerien’s, Hausa-Nigerian’s, Mande-speaking Busanga-Burkinabé, and Ligbi-Burkinabé peoples.
  • Upper – Northwestern Ghana is known for complex interlocking Gyil folk music with double meters. The Gyil is a close relative of the Balafon. The musical traditions of the Mandé-Burkinabé, Bissa-Burkinabé and Dyula-Burkinabé illegal immigrants and minorities in this area closer resemble those of neighboring Mandinka-speaking areas than those of other Upper-Northwestern groups
  • Dance

40 Ghanaian proverbs

Ghanaian dance is as diverse as its music. Each ethnic group has their own traditional dances and there are different dances for different occasions. There are dances for funerals, celebrations, storytelling, praise and worship etc. Some of these dances include:

  • Adowa – A dance of the Akan people of Ghana. This dance is especially noted for the grace and complexity of the dancers’ movements. The drumming is also noted for the complexity of the interlocking rhythms and the two atumpan drums which are used as the lead or master drum. Originally funeral dance music, Adowa is now also performed at annual festivals and social gatherings.

Dancers performing in Ghana.

  • Azonto – It is performed by all the ethnics groups in Ghana especially by  the Akan people and Ga people of Ghana. It is often referred to as “the dance of the youth,” Azonto originated from theGreater Accra Region of Ghana. Azonto is an expressive dance and music form of the Kpanlogo. Azonto Dance form incorporates complex co-ordinated body movement and non-verbal communication in a rhythmic fashion in very few one-two timed steps. Just like most sub-Saharan African dances, knee bending and hip movements are rudiments to dancing it. The dance has effectively evolved from a few rudimentary moves to embrace depictions of ironing,washing, driving, boxing, and others. Generally, the dance reflects the creativity and rich sense of humour of the Ghanaian people.
  • Kpanlogo – A performed dance by the Ga people of Ghana. It is also often referred to as “the dance of the youth,” Kpanlongo started during the wake of Ghana’s Independence as a musical type for entertainment in Accra. Kpanlongo is presently performed at life-cycle events, festivals, and political rallies.
  • Klama – It is the music and dance associated with puberty rites of the Krobo people of Ghana. It emphasizes the graceful movement of hands and feet. With small rhythmic steps and heads turned demurely downward, the dancers embody quiet elegance. The different movements of the dance are designed to reveal the beauty of the dancers. Suitors watching from the sidelines will often approach a girl’s family after the ceremony and make an offer for her hand in marriage.
  • Bamaya – It is performed by the Northern Dagomba people of Ghana. It narrates the legend of a time of great drought. An oracle told the people that the drought was brought about by the manner in which the men were severely repressing and demeaning the women. It further stated that the drought would be relieved only when the men lowered themselves to the role they were imposing on the women by putting on skirts and participating in this dance. When the men did this it began to rain. It is currently performed during harvest time in northwestern Ghana by both Dagbani men and women.
  • 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 Akan tribe. The Akan’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 –in 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 Akan 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. The meanings of the motifs may be categorized into aesthetics, ethics, human relations, and religious concepts.

    This brass ornament was produced by Akan 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 (ntumpane).

    The famous wooden “stools” are symbolic and ritual objects rather than items of furniture. The ownership of a symbolic carved chair or stool, usually named after the female founder of the matriclan, became the means through which individuals traced their ancestry. These lineages have segmented into branches, each led by an elder, headman, or chief. A branch, although it possesses a stool, is not an autonomous political or social unit. Possession of the ritually important stool is seen as vital, not only to the existence of the elder but to the group as a whole.


    The most sacred symbol of the Akan people is the Golden Stool, a small golden throne in which the spirit of the people is said to reside. It is kept in safekeeping in Kumasi, the cultural capital of the Akan-Ashanti people and the seat of the Asantehene’s palace. Though the chieftaincy across Ghana has been weakened by allegations of corruption and cooperation with colonial oppression, it remains a very vital institution in Ghana.


    Tamale Stadium

    Vida Anim, Ghanaian athlete

    Association football is the most popular sport in the country. The national men’s football team is known as the Black Stars, with the under-20 team known as the Black Satellites. The under-17 team is known as the Black Starlets, while the national men’s Olympic team are known as the Black Meteors. They have participated in many championships including the African Cup of Nations, the FIFA World Cup and the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

    On October 16, 2009, Ghana became the first African nation to win the FIFA U-20 World Cup by defeating Brazil 4-3 in a penalty shootout.[3] On June 13, 2010, Ghana defeated Serbia 1-0 in first round play in the 2010 FIFA World Cup becoming the first African team to win a FIFA World Cup game hosted on African soil and subsequently became the only African team to progress from the group stage to the knock out phase at the 2010 event. On June 26, 2010 Ghana defeated the USA by 2 goals to 1 in their round of 16 match, becoming the third African country to reach the quarter final stage of the World Cup after Cameroon in 1990 and Senegal in 2002. A loss to Uruguayin Johannesburg on July 2, 2010 by penalty shoot-out ended Ghana’s attempt at reaching the semi-finals of the competition.[4]

    While men’s football is most widely followed sport in Ghana, the national women’s football team is gaining exposure, participating in theFIFA Women’s World Cup and the CAF Women’s Championship. The Ghana women’s national football team is known as the Black Queens, while the Ghana national women’s under-20 football team are the Black Princesses.

    There are several club football teams in Ghana, which play in the Ghana Premier League and Division One league, both managed by the Ghana Football Association. Notable among these are Accra Hearts of Oak SC and Asante Kotoko, which play at the premier league level and are the dominant contenders in the tournament.

    Prominent Ghanaian football players recognised at the international level include Michael Essien, Abedi Pele, Asamoah Gyan, Ibrahim Abdul Razak, Tony Yeboah, Anthony Annan, Quincy Owusu-Abeyie, John Pantsil, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Samuel Osei Kuffour, Richard Kingson, Sulley Muntari, Laryea Kingston, Stephen Appiah, Andre Ayew, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, John Mensah and Dominic Adiyiah.

    Ghana is also the birth place of World Wrestling Entertainment Wrestler Kofi Kingston (born Kofi Sarkodie-Mensah), who is wrestling on the Smackdown brand. Also is Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampongwho competed in the Vancouver Winter Olympics. The country has also produced quite a few quality boxers such as Azumah Nelson a three time world champion, Nana Yaw Konadu also a three time wo

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