The culture of where I come from
How much of where I come from do I actually know? Not much honestly apart from what I learned from school.
I am from the Akan tribe; one of largest and most dominant ethnic groups in Ghana. The Akan tribe comprises several ethnicities including the Ashanti/Asante, Fante, Akuapem, Akyem, Agona, Kwahu, Bono etc. The Akan language popularly known as Twi/Fante consists of other dialects depending on location.
Akans adopt the matrilineal system meaning we trace our family roots and inherit property from our maternal (mother’s) side. Although my father hails from the Asante tribe, I identify as Fante because that’s my mother’s tribe.
The only confusing part of this is that, people tend to assume that I am Asante because of my surname. Although children born in Akan families take on their father’s name, they identify with their mother’s side.
Another confusing aspect of this system is when an Ashanti man marries a woman from the Ewe tribe for instance. Ewes follow the patrilineal system (i.e. they inherit from their father’s side). Thus for the man, he is used to the fact that his kids would identify with their mother’s tribe while it’s the other way round on the woman’s side. So what tribe do the children belong to? This makes identity and property inheritance quite complicated.
But thanks to the modern civilization with the implantation of wills and all, the conflict of inheritance can be addressed.
With Akan marriages, the man is expected to pay a bride price to the woman’s family. It starts with a ‘knocking ceremony’ where the man and his family goes to see the woman’s family and makes his intentions known of wanting to marry the woman. The woman’s family then gives the man a list to purchase certain items to seal the marriage. Traditionally, the list includes schnapps, pieces of cloth among other things.
Again, due to modernity and religious affiliations, schnapps may not be included. Some families also take advantage and sometimes demand exorbitant items when they realize the man is from a well-to-do family.
During our infamous ‘Dumsor’ period, some families were known to demand for generators as part of the bride price so as to cope with the power challenges at the time.
A ceremony is then organized for the traditional marriage where the bride price is presented to the woman’s family, rings are exchanged and prayers and well-wishes are said for the couple.
When it comes to funerals, it is said that Ashantis ‘love their dead’. Their funerals are always a big deal. When you visit the Ashanti region, almost every town square is filled with people in black, black and red or black and white under canopies mourning someone.
When someone passes away, sympathizers go to the deceased home to render their condolences to the bereaved family. There is a ‘one-week celebration’ which is like a mini funeral. Then the family sets a date for the funeral. Some families organize a ‘wake’ on the eve of the funeral (usually Friday nights) where family members and sympathizers spend the night mourning with the corpse.
The following day, the burial service is held at the deceased’s church and then the family takes the coffin to the cemetery for burial. They then move to the funeral grounds where people come to greet the bereaved family and also give them money and items for consolation.
On Sunday, there is a thanksgiving service and then the family sits down again for people to offer their condolences as well as have lunch together.
Akans have a beautiful and colorful culture when it comes to traditional music, dance, festivals and fabrics. We have a king who rules over the entire Ashanti kingdom and Ashantis are proud to call themselves the ‘grandchild of the Asante king who sits on gold.’
Wow…I’m surprised all this info came to mind. I thought I didn’t know that much.
Where do you come from and what’s unique about your background? Kindly share and thanks for reading.
© Josephine Amoako 2019