Culture

a) The Origin of the Indigenous People

The indigenous people of the Municipality are a section of the Ga-speaking people of Ghana who essentially occupy the stretch from Nyanyano in the west of the Accra Metropolis to Kpone in the East of Tema along the coast of Ghana.  On the south of this area is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean and on the north by Akwapim Stool Lands.

Through oral tradition we are informed that the Ga-speaking people made up of the people of Ga Mashie, Osu, La, Teshie, Nungua and Tema migrated originally from Israel and passed through many lands including Nigeria and Togo before finally settling in Ghana. They also came in various groups and arrived on the shores of this land at different times.

A brief history, kingship structure, rites of passage and major festival of the Teshie and Nungua people who constitute the indigenes in the Ledzokuku Krowor Municipality is shown below.

The Teshie People

The first settlers of Teshie migrated from Kpeshie in Togo led by Numo Trebi and his family. They established themselves at Teshie and long after that, other settlers came to join them. However the Numo Trebi family was later joined by Numo Nmati family from La, Numo Martey family from Prampram, some strangers from Fanti Land (mainly fishermen) and later by other strangers from Ga Mashie in central Accra.

Some time after the various settlers had organised themselves into one town, they chose as their first Mantse (or King) Nii Kamoa. At present Teshie town consists of seven quarters, namely Leshie (which provides the Mantse for the town), Krobo which enstools the Mankralo of Teshie, Kle Musum headed by the Ayiku Osabu Wulomo, Agbawe whose head is the Shikitele, Gbugbla whose head is the Atofotse, Bajoku whose head is the Shippi and Akoble whose head is the Asafoatse.

The Nungua People

History has it that the people of Nungua came from Tetetu from Benin with the first party of Gas (which included some groups in Ga Mashie at Accra Central). Tradition has it that generations ago, their high priest, Bokete Lawe, suffered grievous mutilation at the hands of an enemy through the failure of his own people to stand by him. In a dramatic denunciation, he told them that they were good- for- nothing and always would be, and their town should never get any bigger. Having cursed them he strode disgustedly into the sea, the waters parted to receive him and he was never seen again. The area, many generations after,  now seems to have overcome its curse since it is one of the vibrant and prosperous sections of the Ga State boasting of appreciable socioeconomic development.

b) Festivals

Homowo Festival

Homowo(hooting at hunger) is one of the colourful festivals celebrated by the people of the Ga state which includes Teshie and Nungua. It is celebrated from August to September and characterized by rituals such as the sprinking of ‘Kpokpoi’ (the festival fish) to the gods and ancestors for spiritural protection, procession of twins through the principal streets, traditional drumming and dancing and general merry making. A month before the celebration, there is a ban on noisemaking. A climax of the festival is that from 12 noon from 6:00pm any woman, no matter the status, should accept a hug from a man on the festival street.

The Kpledzo Festival

Apart from Homowo, the people of Nungua also celebrate the Kpledzo festival which is an annual feast festival of the people of Nungua and takes place on the first Sunday in June. The first activity is the spiritual and physical cleansing of the town in response to the expected visitation of the spirits of the ancestors who would be invited to the town during the festival. In line with the spiritual cleansing, the wulomo (chief priest), among other tasks, sacrifices a young goat publicly and the pieces of the meat placed in a special earthenware  pot called lalaka, and pieces are distributed to all the gods of the town.

A week after, the ceremony of afoabele (sprinkling of corn) begins where ceremoniously purified corn is sprinkled by the wulomo throughout the town. This is followed by an interval of four weeks where the festival proper begins. Early in the morning of that day the fetish grove is cleared of weeds and swept clean and a large open space is cleared for dancing by the initiated males thrugh the supervision of the priests. The uniniciated youths and children go to clear Klowe’s Road or as some choose to call it Bokete Lawe’s Road –to the sea. The activity is then followed by long polyglot songs which begins in archaic Ga and tails of into a mixture of extinct dialects and obscure proverbs about forgotten gods. From this day there is a ban on noise making by the general public until the festival ends.

The following Thursday comes with the rite of Awitsemo (summoning of the gods) in the open space near the grove. The following Saturday comes with the ‘lifting up’ of the Kple drums in preparation of for the kple dance which is essentially a series of dances to the end of the festival  by the woyei (fetish priestesses) where they manifest the gods they serve to the amusement of onlookers. A day during the festival is also spent by the towns people and their visitors from the villages in great rejoicing because they have been fortunate to observe another Kpledzo Festival.  The youth adorn themselves with green leaves (chiefly of the Nyanya Vine) and there are clowning processions in ridiculous fancy dresses through the streets of the town.

c) Rites of Passage

Apart from festivals, the Gas have important rites of passage which are shown below.

Naming of children

After the child is born, it is ‘kept like an egg’ indoors for seven days. It is then held to have survived seven dangers, and is worthy to be called a person. Very early in the morning of the eighth day (about four o’clock), two women from the father’s family are sent to bring the child from the mother’s home and brought to its father’s house. The ceremony is carried out in the father’s house to ensure the seal of respectable paternity that would be beneficial to the child.
The friends and relatives then assemble in the yard outside the house to begin what is known as kpodziemo ( outdooring ceremony). An elderly person from the father’s family chosen for his (or her, if the child is a girl) good character offers a traditional prayer and takes the child up in his/her arms and lifts it up three times. He then calls the child by name and makes a special speech concerning what the child should expect in this world and for it to be able to discern between good and evil and also to thread the good path always in life. After this, the child is laid naked on the floor (or on a special stone in some families). Then the godfather (or mother) flinks water from a calabash three times on the ceiling so that it trickles down on the child like rain. Then the child as it lies on the ground is blessed .  He/ she then strikes the baby gently with the foot and admonishes it to take after his/her good character and cautioning the child to avoid his/her bad points.

A second representative of the father’s family and one of the mother’s come forward and the leader recites the dzomo or blessings on the child. This is followed by the drinking of corn wine and rum by all gathered and the child is now considered a member of the family and assumes its own name.

It is interesting to note that under Ga culture, the naming of the child is done chronologically and is also unique to each area ie Teshie and Nungua (as in other Ga States). All the various areas therefore have their own set of names and the advantage hear is that the mere mention of a person’s name assigns that person to the family, clan and even the chronological level of the person with respect to his siblings.

Puberty Rites

The puberty rite commonly practiced in the area is known as otofo. Behind this rite is the idea that it is blasphemous and dangerous for a woman to conceive a child before the rites have been performed. Under the otofo custom,  girls at the stage of puberty are nofminally imprisoned from a period varing from six weeks to six months. During this time they eat no fermented food but food out of the earth such as root vegetables and groundnuts. These foods are supplied plentifully to fatten the girls and they are supposed to be visited only by their tutors who are old women who teach them not only the secrets of wifely behavior but the special songs and dances which they would perform publicly when they are released. The tutors also act as confessors where each girl is encouraged to make a clean breast of any moral issue concerning them.

At the end of this time begins the dipo ceremony itself which exhibits the girls as fit for marriage. They are first exhibited to and blessed by the God and bath in herbal water as part of the process. Their nakedness is then alleviated by enormous masses of heavy waist beads, neck, arm and leg beads and a string of the black and white beads. This is followed by a variety of celebrations which include a day’s parade of the town while they dance gracefully to the admiration of onlookers distributing corn wine and a special food called kunme. This is followed by another ceremony of being taught how to grind corn by oldwomen in a clay decorated with sea shells followed by another ceremony at the beach of selecting little nodules of gravel.

Another aspect of the ceremony is also observed when the girl being initiated drives away the bad luck of her future marriage by spitting on the forehead of a goat. Each girl then receives a huge bowl of presents topped with the otofo hat which she would wear on the last day of the ceremony. She is then made to go through a trial to test her chastity where she is placed on a rock by the beach. Absence of waves braking  on the rock while she is on the rock is an indication that she has led a chaste life before the ceremony. A second trial is held on the last day of the ceremony where the girls stand in a row and each of them is given a period to dance the special dance for the occasion-a dance with graceful swayings and swingings of the arm. If her conscience is clear, she continues to dance gracefully in perfect time to the music without missing her step until she stops and the other girl is called to continue.

Death

One of the foremost believes about the indigenes is that of reincarnation. The dead can be born again only in their own families, a grand father as a grandson or a dead first child as a second child. Childlessness is therefore considered an appalling curse as it blocks the whole line of reincarnation. The believe that the ancestors always have a watchful eye over the living also ensures that people perform rites concerning the dead diligently to avoid the wrath of the ancestors.

Under Ga custom, immediately a death occurs in a household, the first thing that is done, other than wailing and crying, is to call on the old women of the dead man’s father’s family and of his mother’s family to wash and shave the corpse. While this is being done no one within the immediate vicinity is expected to cry since it is believed that that this will hasten the decaying process. The fingernails and toe nails are also cut short before the bathing to remove the risk of mourners getting scratched. Before European interference in Ga culture, people were buried in their houses but in recent times coffins are commonly used and the dead sent to cemeteries for burial. In recent times however there are innovations on unique designs of coffins which give an idea about of the occupation of the dead person. In other words, a fisherman may have his coffin designed in the form of a canoe or a dead driver’s coffin may be in the form of a truck. Theses are options that are not rigidly enforced but depend on the preference of the family.

Visitors to the funeral also give the dead money to pay for their passage to the other side and also to pay for the cure of the sickness of which he/she died.

It is also believed that stinginess during funerals is an insult to the dead and therefore the mourning, wailing and ceremonial dances give place imperceptibly to cheerful drinking and merry-making ostensibly to hearten the bereaved. As a sign of veneration for the dead, visitors contribute money to his/her funeral expenses. These are usually of little significance when compared to the crippling weight of the actual funeral expenditure but it is generally believed however that a lifetime of dept is preferable to an offended dead relative.

Marriage

In the past it was very common for parents to arrange marriages for their children but the practice is virtually nonexistent in recent times. Currently, a young man who is interested in marrying a young lady first informs his parents of his intentions. The parents, especially the mother conducts a search on the woman’s family to ascertain whether she is of good character and also from a good family. When the parents of the man are satisfied, they perform what is known as a ‘knocking’ ceremony at the girl’s father’s house. The ceremony involves the presentation of drinks and its essence is to introduce themselves to the girl’s family and express their intentions. At this point they are informed whether the lady is betrothed to another man or not and If all is clear, the man’s family are informed of the traditions of the woman’s family concerning marriage including the bride price.  After this ceremony, the mans’s family leaves to prepare for the marriage ceremony.

The woman’s family also finds time to investigate the background of the man and his family to ascertain whether the marriage between the two families is feasible. Care is taken at this point because the marriage is actually a union of two families and not only among their children. After a while a date for the marriage is set when all goes well among both parties.

On the morning of the ceremony, the man himself is not part of the ceremony but an elderly women from the his family leads other women in a procession to the woman’s house with the dowry which usually include drinks, cloth, money and other items. Some of the items are gifts while others are symbolic expenses paid to the parents (especially the mother) as refund for the investments made by them on their daughter. The entire ceremony is a very humorous one with both families selecting an okyeame (linguist) who communicate information across the families.

An important aspect of the ceremony is when the woman’s family assesses the dowry and satisfy themselves that everything has been presented according to specification. When it is found to be acceptable, the woman, who hitherto has been kept hidden in a room is called and introduced to the man’s family. Praises are then showered on her by the visitors and at this moment the father presents her to the leader of the man’s family in a gesture of handing the girl over to her new family. The ceremony the ends with refreshment of all gathered and the presentation of souvenirs to the man’s family and other visitors.   The man then comes to the house at a later period, usually the same day to take his wife to her new home.
Key findings on culture
•    The Municipality has impressive culture reflected in festivals, puberty rites etc that can be developed along the lines of tourism to enhance the local economy.

•    Funerals are sometimes very costly thereby placing immense pressure on the bereaved family.

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