Ga-Adangbe people

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Marcel Desailly George Ayittey Obo Addy
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Harry Aikines-Aryeetey Joseph Ankrah Eric Anang
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Paul Sackey Nii Amugi II David Hansen
Total population
Approximately 2.0 million[1]
Regions with significant populations
Ghana - Greater Accra Region & Eastern Region-, Togo, as well as the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil 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-Adangmes are one ethnic group that lives primarily in the Greater Accra, Eastern Region and the Volta Region of Ghana. Others areas are Aného in Togo and Benin.[4] [5] [6]

The Ga peoples were organized into six independent towns (Accra, Osu, Labadi, 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.[7] 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.[7]

The Adangme 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 Adangme People include the Ada, Kpong, Krobo, Ningo, Osuduku, Prampram, and Shai, all speaking Adangbe of the Kwa branch of the Niger-Congo family of languages. [8] The Adangme People have the largest Population among the two related Ga-Adangme People. About 70% of the Greater Accra Regional Land is owned by the Adangme's located in Dangme East and Dangme West Districs of Ghana. Also, in the Eastern Region and Volta Region of Ghana, about 15% of lands belong to the Adangme 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 Adangbe Area in the Southern part of Togo. [9]

Adangme 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.[8]

The Ga-Adangme are organized into clans based on patrilineal descent; the clans are subdivided into localized patrilineages, the basic units of the Ga-Dangme historical, political, cutural Tribal group.[8]


Linguistically, the Ga-Adangbe speak a kwa language and are a patrilineal people. Adangme is exclusively closer to the original Ga–Dangme languages than the Ga Language.

Due to the Geopolitical significance the after mass of idiotism of the Land the Ga-Adangbe occupy, some of the ethnic group has mixed with numerous immigrants who have occupied the land.. Thus aspects of different cultures can be seen within Ga-Adangbe culture.[10][11]


The Journey of the Ga Adangbe people began in Isreal (in Egypt) through Benin, Togo and finally settled in the Gold Coast now known as Ghana ..into ileife

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 Adangbe 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.

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.[12][13]

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,[14] Dipo has evolved into a pre-marital sexual purification[15] 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.[14]

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.[16] 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.[17]

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]

Major General C C Bruce, Army Commander, Ga Dsasetse

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.


External links[edit]

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