Ga-Adangbe people

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MarcelDesailly.JPG George Ayittey detail.jpg Obo Addy.jpg
Marcel Desailly George Ayittey Obo Addy
Harry Aikines-Aryeetey Kaunas 2009.jpg JAnkrahhead.jpg Eric Adjetey Anang.jpg
Harry Aikines-Aryeetey Joseph Ankrah Eric Anang
Paul Sackey Stade francais 2012-03-03.jpg Nii amugi.png Rear Admiral David Animle Hansen.jpg
Paul Sackey Nii Amugi II David Hansen
Total population
Approximately 1.8 million[1]
Regions with significant populations
Ghana - Greater Accra Region & Eastern Region-, Togo, as well as the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States of America, and Canada
Ga and Adangme

The Ga-Adangme, Gã-Adaŋbɛ, Ga-Dangme, or GaDangme are an ethnic group in Ghana and Togo. The Ga and Adangbe people are grouped respectively as part of the Ga–Dangme ethnolinguistic group.[2][3]

The Ga-Adangbe people primarily live in the Greater Accra, Eastern Region, Ghana and others inhabit the Aného area in Togo. The modern day Adangbe include the people who live in Osu, Se (Shai), La, Ningo, Kpone, Krobo, Osudoku, Gbugbla (Prampram), Ada and Agotime who speak similar dialects.

The Ga also include groups occupying Anecho area in Togo, and Ga-Mashie in the central part of Accra, Nungua, and other Ga speakers who migrated from Anecho area in Togo, and surrounding areas.

Origin and History[edit]

The modern Ga is an ethnic group of several origins including possibly some distant origin with the Volta-Niger speakers.[4]

Oral history, by the Ga people, says that the Ga-Adangbe had descended from two out of ten of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel: Gad and Dan. The two compounded names make up the modern Ga-Adangbe. Descending from those two tribes, they crossed into Egypt, then into Ethiopia, then into Sudan. After years and years of migrating they finally settled into Ile-Ife, the spiritual homeland of the Yoruba people. After temporary settlement, they crossed through modern-day Benin and into Togo, where some Ga-Adangbes assimilated with the Ewe people. However, the final settlement for the Ga came into modern-day Accra.[5]

Genetic studies indicate that the modern Ga-Adangbe are closer to Akan genetically.[6] Linguistically the Ga-Adangbe speak a kwa language which is closest to Akan and are a patrilineal people.

Due to the Geopolitical significance of the Land the Ga occupy the ethnic group has historically mixed with Akans thus aspects of the Akan culture can be seen within Ga culture.[7][8]

Arts & Culture[edit]

The Ga people celebrate the Homowo festival, which literally means "hooting at hunger." This festival originated several centuries ago. It is celebrated in remembrance of a great famine that hit the Ga people in the sixteenth century. It is mainly a food festival which celebrates the passing of that terrible period in Ga history. It takes place in August every year and is celebrated by all the Ga clans.

The Ada people celebrate the Asafotu festival, which is also called 'Asafotufiam', an annual warrior's festival celebrated by Ada people from the last Thursday of July to the first weekend of August. It commemorates the victories of the warriors in battle and is a memorial for those who fell on the battlefield. To re-enact these historic events, the warriors dress in traditional battle dress and stage a mock battle. This is also a time for male rites of passage, when young men are introduced to warfare. The festival also coincides with the harvest cycle, when these special customs and ceremonies are performed. These include purification ceremonies. The celebration reaches its climax with a durbar of chiefs, a colourful procession of the Chiefs in palanquins with their retinue. They are accompanied by traditional military groups called 'Asafo Companies' amidst drumming, singing and dancing through the streets and on the durbar grounds. At the durbar, greetings are exchanged between the chiefs, libations are poured and declarations of allegiance made.

Music & Sports[edit]

Lady Fighter in Bukom

The Ga-Adangbe music includes drumming and dancing. One of their traditional music and dance styles (albeit a fairly modern one) is kpanlogo, a modernized traditional dance and music form developed around 1960. Yacub Addy, Obo Addy, and Mustapha Tettey Addy are Ga drummers who have achieved international fame.

In addition to music, the Ga' people are known for their long history and successes in the sport of boxing. The fishing village of Bukom on the outskirts of Accra, is considered as the mecca of boxing in Ghana and has produced several notable boxers. It is the home of many famous boxing "clubs" and gymnasiums. Notable fighters include David Kotei, Alfred Kotey, Joshua Clottey, and former WBA Welterweight champion boxer Ike Quartey, and former multi-weight class champion Azumah Nelson.[9][10]

Rites of Passage[edit]

Girl in typical Dipo ceremonial dress.

For the Shai and Krobo people, the Dipo is the formal rite of passage. Originally designed as a formal marriage training for mature women in their twenties,[11] Dipo has evolved into a pre-marital sexual purification [12] rite that involves teenage girls conducting traditional religious rituals and putting on dance performances for the public. Initiates are partially nude throughout much of the ritual. In addition, they are each adorned with custom-made glass beads, colorful loin cloths, and various forms of woven headgear. According researcher and author Priscilla Akua Boakye, "[Dipo] was a form of vocational training for young women in which they were taught generally how to assume their roles as responsible women." Despite the ritual being designated for older teenaged girls, it is not uncommon for young pre-adolescent and even toddler aged girls to take part.[11]

Funerals and "Fantasy" Coffins[edit]

The Ga people are known for their funeral celebrations and processions. The Ga believe that when someone dies, they move to another life. Therefore, special coffins are often crafted by highly skilled carpenters since this tradition spread in the 50's. Pioneers were master craftsmen like Ataa Oko (1919-2012) from La, and Seth Kane Kwei (1925-1992) from Teshie.

The coffins can be anything wanted by relatives of the deceased from a pencil to any animal such as an elephant. Coffins are usually crafted to reflect an essence of the deceased, in forms such as a character trait, an occupation, or a symbol of one's standing in the community.[13] For example, a taxicab driver is most likely to be buried in a coffin shaped as a car. Many families spend excessive amounts on coffins because they often feel that they have to pay their last respects to the deceased and being buried in a coffin of cultural, symbolic as well expensive taste is seen as fitting. Prices of coffins can vary depending on what is being ordered. It is not unusual for a single coffin to cost $600. This is expensive for local families considering that it is not unusual to meet people with an income of only $50 a month. This means that funerals are often paid for by wealthier members of the family, if such a member exists, with smaller contributions coming from other working members of the family. This is needed as the coffin is only a portion of the total funeral cost that will be incurred. Some people foreign to Ghana are known to have been buried in Ga-styled coffins.[14]

Ataa Oko and his third wife, in front of his boat coffin, about 1960. p. 137,"The buried treasures of the Ga", 2008
Pompidou coffin, Kudjoe Affutu. 2010. Photo Regula Tschumi

The use of these fantasy coffins is explained by the religious beliefs of the Ga people regarding their afterlife. They believe that death is not the end and that life continues in the next world in the same way it did on earth. Ancestors are also thought to be much more powerful than the living and able to influence their relatives who are still living (lucky as they are). This is why families do everything they can to ensure that a dead person is sympathetic towards them as early as possible. The social status of the deceased depends primarily on the size and the success of the burial service and of course the usage of an exclusive coffin. Design coffins are only seen on the day of the burials when they are buried with the deceased. They often symbolise the dead people’s professions, the purpose being to help them continue with their earthly profession in the afterlife. Certain shapes, such as a sword or chair coffin, represent royal or priestly insignia with a magical and religious function. Only people with the appropriate status are allowed to be buried in these types of coffins. Various creatures, such as lions, cockerels and crabs represent clan totems. Similarly, only the heads of the families concerned are permitted to be buried in coffins such as these. Many coffin shapes also evoke proverbs, which are interpreted in different ways by the Ga. Design coffins have been used since around the 1950s, especially in rural Ga groups with traditional beliefs, and have now become an integral part of Ga burial culture.

Today, figural coffins are made in several workshops in Togo and Greater Accra. Successful coffinmakers are for example Cedi and Eric Adjetey Anang of Kane Kwei Carpentry Workshop, Paa Joe, Daniel Mensah and Kudjoe Affutu. Most of the figural coffins are used for funerals, only a few are exported for international art exhibitions.

Notable Ga-Adangbe People[edit]

See also[edit]


  • 2000 Parker, John, Making the Town. Ga State and Society in Early Colonial Accra, Porthsmouth, Heinemann.
  • 2010. Tschumi, Regula. "The Deathbead of a Living Man. A Coffin for the Centre Pompidou", in: Saâdane Afif (ed.), "Anthologie de l'humour noir", Paris: Editions Centre Pompidou, p. 56-61.
  • 2008.Tschumi, Regula. The Buried Treasures of the Ga: Coffin Art in Ghana. Benteli, Bern. ISBN 978-3-7165-1520-4
  • 2004. Tschumi, Regula. A Report on Paa Joe and the Proverbial Coffins of Teshie and Nungua, Ghana in: Africa e Mediterraneo, Nr. 47-48, S. 44-47.
  • 1991. "External Influences on Ga Society and Culture," in: Institute of African Studies Research Review, NS Vol. 7, Nos. 1&2, pages 61–71.
  • 1940 Field, M. J., Social organisation of the Ga people, The Crown Agents for theColony, London.
  • 1969 (1937) Field 1969: M.Religion and Medicine of the Ga People, London, New York.


  1. ^ "Ga". Retrieved 30 January 2013. , "Dangme". Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  2. ^ Aspect and modality in Kwa languages - Google Books. Retrieved 2013-03-29. 
  3. ^ "Atlas of the Human Journey". The Genographic Project. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  4. ^ Ghana Country Study Guide By Ibp Usa page 79
  5. ^
  6. ^ Genetic structure in four West African population groups.
  7. ^ A historical geography of Ghana - Google Books. Retrieved 2013-03-29. 
  8. ^ IAS 1700-1831.
  9. ^ "Africa | Bukom: heartbeat of African boxing". BBC News. 2003-06-25. Retrieved 2013-03-29. 
  10. ^ "Jamestown: the heart of boxing in Ghana". YouTube. 2010-02-10. Retrieved 2013-03-29. 
  11. ^ a b "Dipo - A Rite of Passage Among Krobos". 
  12. ^ "Special Reports | Path to adulthood in the divided world". BBC News. 2006-11-27. Retrieved 2013-03-29. 
  13. ^ National Museum of Funeral History. Retrieved 20 September 07
  14. ^ Fair trade arts and crafts direct from African artisans. Retrieved 20 September 07

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 5°35′16″N 0°05′59″W / 5.5877°N 0.0996°W / 5.5877; -0.0996