History and Culture

January 26, 2024
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History of Ghana

The Big Six.
(From left to right: Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Emmanuel Obetsebi-Lamptey, Ebenezer Ako-Adjei, William Ofori-Atta, Joseph Boakye Danquah, Edward Akuffo-Addo)
Dr. Kwame Nrumah’s Independence address to the republic on 6th March 1957.

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 coas.

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.

Kpanlogo Dance of the Ga People, Greater Accra Region
Agbadza dance of the Ewe People, Volta Region
Aboakyer Festival in Winneba, Central Region
Homowo Festival of the Ga People, Greater Accra Region

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)

Takai Dance of the Dagomba People, Northern Region

Ethnic Groups

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)

Religion

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.

Ghanaian Cuisine

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.

Kontomire and Apem with Avocado and Koobi
Jollof Rice

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.

Fufu and Light Soup
Apepransa and Crab

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.

In traditional Ghanaian Folklore, Kwaku Ananse is described as a cunning spider. (Photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash)
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