HISTORY OF GHANA
Ghana’s history before the 15th century is concentrated primarily on oral traditions. However, it is believed that people may have inhabited present-day Ghana from about 1500 BC. European contact with Ghana began in 1470. In 1482, the Portuguese built a trading settlement around the coast. Shortly thereafter, for three centuries, the Portuguese, English, Dutch, Danes, and Germans all controlled different parts of the coast.
In 1821, the British took control of all of the trading posts located in the Gold Coast. From 1826 to 1900, the British then fought battles against the native Ashantis, and in 1902, the British defeated them and claimed the northern part of modern day Ghana.
In 1957, after a plebiscite in 1956, the United Nations determined that Ghana’s territory would become independent and merged with another British territory, British Togoland, when the entire Gold Coast became independent. On March 6, 1957, Ghana became independent after the British gave up control of the Gold Coast and the Ashanti, the Northern Territories Protectorate, and British Togoland. Ghana was then chosen as the new name for the newly independent colony in place of the Gold Coast.
Following its independence, Ghana was demarcated into ten (10) different regions for effective administration of the country. Kwame Nkrumah was the first Prime Minister and President of modern Ghana, and he was pivotal in the struggle for the total liberation of the African continent. He was a fierce advocate for the unification of the African continent and worked assiduously towards the realization of his vision of offering his country and the continent at large, freedom and justice and quality education for all. His government was however, overthrown in 1966.
Ghana’s political governance was subsequently, characterized by series of insurrections from 1966 to 1979. In 1981, Ghana’s Constitution was suspended, and political parties were banned in the country. This led to severe economic depression and the migration of many Ghanaians later to other countries.
In 1992, political stability was restored. There was a return to democracy and Ghana adopted a new Constitution for its democratic governance. The economy was revived and Ghana remains the leading example of a democracy in Africa with extra 6 regions created in 2018, making 16 regions in Ghana.
THE GHANAIAN CULTURE
Ghana has a population of about 30.8 million people. The Ashanti constitute the biggest ethnic community representing 5.43 million Ghanaians. Other ethnic groups of Ghana with a significant population are Ga-Dangme, Ewe and Akan.
A variety of indigenous languages like Asante, Ewe, Fante, Bono, Frafra, Dagaare, etc., are spoken in Ghana. English is, however, the official language and the lingua franca of the nation.
For more information on the 2021 census of Ghana visit the 2021 Population and Housing Census – Ghana Statistical Service (statsghana.gov.gh)
Christians account for 71.2% of Ghana’s population. Muslims also have a significant presence in the nation and represent 17.2% of the population. A small percentage of Ghanaians practice indigenous religions. However, many of those affiliated with the dominant faiths continue to hold on to some elements of their ancestral religions.
A standard meal in Ghana features a staple carbohydrate dish served with often spicy sauces, soups, or stews. Tomatoes are extensively added to the soups and stews, which thus have a red or orange color. Staples of the diet include cassava and plantain in northern Ghana and millet and sorghum in southern Ghana.
Sweet potatoes, maize, and beans are also used in various dishes. Rice and wheat have been introduced in the country in recent times and are growing in importance as staples of the diet. Beef, lamb, goat, pork, chicken, grass-cutter, smoked turkey, dried snails, fried fish, seafood, etc., are usually added to the soups and stews of Ghanaian cuisine. A variety of spices like thyme, ginger, peppers, garlic, bay leaf, nutmeg, etc., are also added. In recent times, Ghana’s version of a popular West African rice dish, Jollof, has become a much sought after delicacy for tourists as the debate rages on about whether Ghana Jollof is indeed, the best.
Bread of different types like “tea bread”, “brown bread”, wheat bread, “butter bread”, oat bread, rye bread, etc., are consumed for breakfast. Most widely consumed Ghanaian alcoholic beverages include drinks made from fermented maize, palm wine, a local beer made from fermented millet called pito, etc. Popular non-alcoholic beverages include, cocoa drinks, “ahey”, a drink popular amongst the Ga people, drinkable yogurt and soy milk.
Ghana has a rich tradition of storytelling.
Large audiences still enjoy Ghanaian folktales and epics glorifying past chiefs in the country. Kwaku Ananse, a spider, is a popular figure in Ghanaian folklore. There is a small body of written literary works in the country’s indigenous languages. Literature in English is however, well developed. Efua Sutherland, Ama Ata Aiddo, and Ayi Kwei Armah are Ghanaian literary luminaries of international renown.
Sports is a major tool for national unity and social cohesion in Ghana. The country is a dominant sporting force on the continent and boasts enviable exploits particularly, in football and boxing. With four trophies won in the African Cup of Nations and Gold Medals in the Under-19 and Under-20 World Cups, Ghana is among the elite club of football powerhouses in Africa.
The nation has produced football greats like Abedi Ayew “Pele”, Tony Yeboah, Samuel Osei-Kuffour, Nii Odartey Lamptey, Asamoah Gyan and André Dede Ayew, among others, all of international repute.
In boxing, the nation has produced legends like Azumah Nelson, David Kotei, Alfred “Cobra” Kotei, Ike “Bazooka” Quartey, among others who dazzled the world at the peak of their careers.
Track and Field
In track and field, the nation has churned out phenomenal talents that have competed at the highest level, including Olympians Mike Ahey, Alice Anum, Hannah Afriyie and Ohene Karikari.
Ghana also, has interesting mental and physical indigenous games such as arm wrestling, ampe, pilolo, alikoto, antoe-kyire, oware, etc which however, face the threat of becoming extinct due to a lack of institutionalization and formalization.
The Arts & Crafts
Ghana has a rich tradition of graphic arts, artifacts and crafts. Ghanaian artisans excel at wood carving and continue to earn high recognition for their craft. In Ghana, Stools representing abstract designs or animals are carved out of large logs and these stools become objects of veneration after the deaths of their owners. Sculpting is another craft form of Ghana whereby iron and bronze casting techniques are used to produce ceremonial swords, gold weights, and other products. Ghanaian artisans also produce textiles and pottery.
The Kente cloth is historically, the most unique embodiment of Ghana’s rich fashion and traditional identity. Woven from the traditional loom, the skillful creation of the colorful intricate patterns of the kente cloth sets it apart as a cloth fit for royalty. The Kente cloth originated from Bonwire in the Ashanti Region of Ghana and has gained acceptance and recognition globally.
Music & Dance
Ghana’s social life is accentuated by music and dance, whether the occasion be mournful, solemn or joyous. Ghanaian music and dance performances were traditionally, held in the context of religious or political rites. They were also, major fixtures for marriage ceremonies, initiation ceremonies, and other social situations. Today, while music and dance continue to serve these purposes, they also symbolize the country’s culture. Such performances are part of cultural festivals, and public occasions and have become a key selling point for local tourism. The Ghana Dance Ensemble of the University of Ghana is a cultural institution of global repute. Today, Ghanaian youth, especially those in urban areas, also favor contemporary music and dance styles. Highlife and Hiplife are the most popular modern music and dance forms in the country. These types of music and dance forms are usually played in urban nightclubs. Ghana is truly the home of African culture. Welcome Home.