The Ga-Dangbe, Gã-Daŋbɛ, Ga-Dangme, or GaDangme are an ethnic group in Ghana and Togo. The Ga and Dangbe people are grouped respectively as part of the Ga–Dangmeethnolinguistic group. The Ga-Dangmes are one ethnic group that lives primarily in the Greater Accra of Ghana. Ethnic Ga family names (surnames) such as Oblitey, Lartey, Nortey, Aryee, Poku, Lamptey, Nartey,Narteh, Narh, Dugbatey, Teye, Matey, Addo,Siaw , Dangma , Lomotey,Tetteh,Ankrah, Tetteyfio, Laryea, Ayitey, Okai, Bortey, Quaye, Quaynor, Ashong, Kotei, Sowah, Odoi, Ablor, Adjetey, Doddoo, Darku and Quartey.
Under their great leader King Ayi Kushi (Cush) (1483-1519) they were led from the east in several states before reaching their destination in Accra. Oral traditions state the Ga came from the region of Lake Chad and reached their destination in the 16th century. It is also believed that by the 17th century they traveled down the River Niger and crossed the Volta to reach present day Ghana.
This leader is the Moses of the Ga-Dangme people, with his seven puritan laws he gave them and that has formed the basis and philosophy of the state, making the state a friendly state recognised by all in respect to making Greater Accra Region the capital of the then Gold Coast in 1877.
The Ga people were organized into six independent towns (Accra (Ga Mashie), Osu, La, Teshie, Nungua, and Tema).
Each town had a stool, which served as the central object of Ga ritual and war magic. Accra became the most prominent Ga-Dangme towns and is now the heartbeat and capital of Ghana. The Ga people were originally farmers, but today fishing and trading in imported goods are the principal occupations. Trading is generally in the hands of women, and a husband has no control over his wife's money. Succession to most offices held by women and inheritance of women's property are by matrilineal descent. Inheritance of other property and succession to male-held public offices are by patrilineal descent. Men of the lineage live together in a men's compound, while women, even after marriage, live with their mothers and children in a women's compound. Each Ga town has a number of different cults and many gods, and there are a number of annual town festivals.
The Dangme people occupy the coastal area of Ghana from Kpone to Ada, on the Volta River and South Atlantic Ocean along the Gulf of Guinea and inland along the Volta River. The Dangme People include the Ada, Kpone, Krobo, Ningo, Osudoku, Prampram, and Shai, all speaking Dangbe of the Kwa branch of the Niger-Congo family of languages. The Dangme People have the largest Population among the two related Ga-Dangme People. About 70% of the Greater Accra Regional Land is owned by the Dangmes located in Dangme East and Dangme West Districts of Ghana. Also, in the Eastern Region and Volta Region of Ghana, about 15% of lands belong to the Dangme People. These are mainly in the Manya Krobo and Yilo Krobo Districts of the Eastern Region.
In the Agotime Area of Volta Region and the Dangme Area in the Southern part of Togo.
Dangme occupations are fishing, trading and farming which is based on the huza system. In this system a tract of land is acquired by a group of people, usually members of an extended family; the land is subdivided among them according to the amount each has paid, and each individual thereafter has complete control of his own section. Negotiations with the seller are carried out by an elected huzatse (“father of the huza”), who later acts as the huza leader and representative. Millet was formerly the staple food, but more common crops now include cassava, yams, corn (maize), plantain, cocoa, and palm oil. Lineage members generally return to the traditional lineage home from the huza farms several times a year to participate in the festivals of their lineage gods. There are also many annual festivals.
The Ga-Dangme are organized into clans based on patrilineal descent; the clans are subdivided into localized patrilineages, the basic units of the Ga-Dangme historical, political, cultural tribal group.
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 Dangbe people from Ada 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 are made.
The Dangbe people from Odumase - Krobo also Celebrate the [Ngmayem] festival, An Annual Harvest festival to Celebrate the bounty harvest of their farmers is celebrated by the Krobo people throughout the last week (Seven days) of October with a visit to their famous Ancestral home, the Krobo Mountains [Kloyom] on the last Friday of October with a climax on the Saturday with a grand Durbar of Chiefs and People of the Krobo Traditional Area. the [Konor] who is the Paramount Chief sits in state as the overlord together with his sub-chiefs, Government officials, other traditional Authorities and Invited guests.
The Ga-Dangbe 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.
Music of the Ga-Dangbe people also include [Klama], [Kpatsa] and the Dipo dance all of the Krobo people.
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, Dipo has evolved into a pre-marital sexual purification 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.
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 1950s. 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.
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.
Ataa Oko and his third wife, in front of his boat coffin, about 1960. p. 137,"The buried treasures of the Ga", 2008
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.
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