Ga People: Ghana`S Tribe That Has Maintained Its African Traditions And Culture In The Midst Of Western Influence In The Capital City, Accra.
The Ga people belong to the Ga-Dangbe group of Kwa people who inhabit the Greater Accra region of present day Ghana. The Kwa people of Africa include the Ga-Dangbe, Ewe, Akwapim, Fanti, Kwahu, and Akim and Ashanti. According to some legends Ga people migrated from Nigeria, others that they were part of Israel that migrated southward through present day Uganda, then along the Congo River, westward through Cameroons, Nigeria, Benin, Togo and finally to Greater Accra. Accra: the ancient city of the Ga people, is the capital of the Ghana. It is also the center of commerce and learning in the country, and it controls the intellectual life of the country as a whole
Ga people live along the shoreline of the Gulf of Guinea. This Ga settlement areas is bounded on the East by the Tshemu (Chemu) lagoon near Tema, on the West by the Sakumofio River, the North by Akuapem Mountains and the South by the Gulf of Guinea. According to Reindorf (1895) the coastal towns established by the Ga-Adangbe speaking emigrants who arrived from Aneho, Benin, Boni and Boma to the Gold Coast in the early sixteenth century, stretches from Lanma (Mt. Cook Loaf) to Fla i.e. the Volta Basin along the shorelines of the coast of the Gulf of Guinea. Among which are Ngleshi (James Town), Kinka (Ussher Town), Osu (Christiansburg), La (Labadi), Teshie, Nungua (Little Ningo), and Tema.
Given that Africans have roamed the continent for thousands of years and that such migrations might have been northward, southward, eastward or westward, the origin of any group of people in Africa may be very uncertain. Any African might have relatively originated from anywhere in Africa. The cited origin might as well be what could be remembered about the recent past and not the ultimate origin. For example, the Wolof name for a king is Fari which is very similar to the word Faro of ancient Egypt and may point to the Egyptian heritage of the Wolof in West Africa. The Egyptian word for the highest god and righteous father was Ra and the Setwana word for father is also Ra.
It is therefore not surprising that among the Ga people, those at Teshi claim to have migrated from a town called Boma on the shores of the Congo River, those at Labadi from Boney Island off the coast of Nigeria and those from Gamashi from Benin City in Eastern Nigeria.
ORIGIN OF THE GA-SPEAKING PEOPLE
The origin of the Ga-speaking ethnic groups from the early Sixteenth Century in the then Gold Coast has been a subject of controversy, since various scholars have given different versions of their migration stories. Most of these narrations are based on oral traditions, myths, legends, folklores, music, religious songs and many other sources; including archaeological findings.
Reindorf (1895, p.18) in tracing the origin of the Ga indicates that F. Romer, a Dutch resident of the Christiansborg in about the middle of the Eighteenth Century states, “that the Gold Coast was once part of the western division of the territory of the Emperor of Benin.” To buttress this point, Romer further argues that, “the insignia of the kings of the Akras were like those used in Benin, and most of their religious ceremonies, e.g. killing the sacrificial animals with sharp stones instead of knives, in order not to avoid defiling them, were also used in Akra.”
Corroborating Romer’s assertion, Henderson-Quartey (2001), citing from the work of Bruce-Myers (1927, pp.70-72) quoted him as saying, “the Gas came all the way from the central part of the Continent…and they are kinsmen to the Benins, who by their own choice, kept back in the course of the migration.” This gives credence to the assumption that the Ga ethnic groups were once part of the people of Benin from the mid-western part of Nigeria. Existing traditional accounts of the origin of the Ga according to Reindorf, indicates that the ancestors of the tribes of Akras, Late, Obutu and Mowure are said to have emigrated from the sea, arriving at the coast tribe after tribe.” These tribes he believe arrived together with the Adangbes either from Tetetutu or from Samè, located beyond the Volta in the east, and situated between two rivers.
Field (1937, p.142) associating with Reindorf noted that the Ga speaking emigrants began to arrive and settle among the lagoon-worshipping Kpéshi aborigines probably at the end of the sixteenth century. She argued that these were emigrant refugee families of the Ga Boni, Ga Wo, Ga Mashie and the Obutu fleeing in separate parties from Tetetutu and other Benin parts, probably travelling along the beach, and eventually settled along the coastlines of the Gulf of Guinea, in the Greater Accra region. Henderson-Quartey on his part noted that the Ga Mashi, Ga Wo, and the Ga Boni in association with some Guan groups having formed part of the emigrants that re-grouped at Tetetutu, crossed over from the east of the Volta into the Accra Plains.
On the contrary, Amartey (1991, pp.13-14) narrating from oral traditions or folkloric sources gave a different version of the migration story of the Ga in Gamashie Ashikwei (Origin of the Ga). According to him, historically, the Ga of Ghana were believed to have once lived along the eastern part of the banks of the River Nile during the reign of Thothmes II, the then Pharaoh of Egypt, circa 1700 –1250 BCE. This was at the time when the Israelites had settled on the land of Goshen, from the eastern part of the River Nile to its estuary. He postulates that the Ga were part of the Nubians that left Egypt after being freed from slavery by the then Pharaoh Amenhotep II.
Unlike other scholars and historians, Amartey tracing the itinerary of the Nubians indicted that this group separated into the Ethiopian and Ga ethnic groups after they had left Egypt, with each group following different direction. The Ga-speaking ethnic groups which consists of the Wo Kpele, Wo Krowor, Wo Doku and Wo Sagba were supposed to have travelled the south-western route by following the Ghazal and Jebe creeks, and the River Ubangi which eventually led them to Boma; a town in Congo (presently D. R. Congo).
There they sojourn for some time, before moving on to the Boni Island in the Niger Delta Basin. He further posits that while in Nigeria, these groups once again separated, with one part moving west to the land of the ancient Benins, while the rest moved north-west to Ife in the Yoruba land. He then traced their movements from Nigeria through Dahomey (now Republic of Benin) and to Togo where they settled at Aneho, before eventually moving on to their present locations in the then Gold Coast.
Even though these narratives of the origin of the Ga-speaking people depended mainly on the generics of oral traditions, legends, etc: it is obvious that names of certain places such as Tetetutu, Benin, Boni, Boma, Samè or Seme, Aneho and others have featured prominently in the migration stories of most scholars of Ga history. These assertions has been corroborated by people of other ethnic groups such as the Adangbe, Ada, Krobo and Ewe speakers who were fellow emigrants of the Ga groups in their journeys from Benin in Nigeria through Aneho in Togo, and finally to their present locations in modern Ghana.
Commenting on the above assertions, Field (1937, p.72) intimates that, “when the Ga-speaking emigrants arrived in the Gold Coast, neither they nor the aborigines had any military organization and since they were all farmers, the newcomers settled peaceably among them wherever there was a vacant territory. However, because much of the land was of thick bush inhabited by wild and dangerous animals, hunters who opened up tracts of these forests were recognized as owners of such places.”
Consequently, these extended family groups comprising of both emigrants and aborigines either through intermarriages or through assimilation, formed settlements that lived by farming and to some extent hunting. In order to protect themselves from slave raiding that has become rife, these settlements which were threatened with extinction, had to combine forces to establish towns for mutual protection; and the setting up of military organizations to fight off these invaders.
Stride and Ifeka (1971, p.203) while corroborating these assertions of Field, further noted that it was at the end of the Fifteenth Century that the social organizations of the Ga towns began to change. This in their view began with the establishment of a more centralized administration system, and military companies (Asafoi) under captains (Asafoiatsemei) that played prominent and important roles in the maintenance of law and order, as well as governance of these towns.
Ga is the derivation of Gaga (soldier ants) which according to Reindorf (1895, p.24) is the names of the big black ants which bites severely and are dangerous to the white ants. However, he noted that the natives called themselves Loeiabii (children of Loei). Of course, Loei is a Ga name for another species of dark brown ants, which meanders about in great swarms; invading houses, killing and devouring everything in their way. These marauding ants known to the Akans as ‘nkrang”, and whose aggressive nature were attributed to the powerful wandering Ga emigrant tribes; easily subdued other tribes as well as the Guans who were the aborigines of the land. This was the name ascribed to the Ga-speaking tribes due to their prowess and bravery in warfare, and the Portuguese due to their difficulty in pronunciation later on corrupted it to Akra (Accra).
THE CULTURE OF GA LANGUAGE
Ga language according to Henderson-Quartey (2001, p.38) conveys oral traditions through which the history of its speakers are revealed, and the means by which the members of the society share their collective experience and knowledge through common bond.
The Ga language as compared with other spoken words in etymology according to Greenberg (UNESCO, Vol.1, p.304), is classified among the Kwa group of languages found on the African Continent. These classifications consists of the Kru languages, Western Kwa, made up of Ewe-Fon, Akan-Guan sometimes called Volta-Camoe, Ga-Adangme, Yoruba-Igala, Nupe, Edo, Idoma, Ibio, and Ijo groups. Commenting further on the evolution of the Ga language, Henderson-Quartey postulates that though it is closest to the Adangme and share a great deal of similarities not only in root-words but also in language structure; it has under gone some form of changes by borrowing words from the Yoruba, Guans, Akans, Portuguese, and English languages to enhance the Ga vocabulary.
For examples, words such as Okyeame (linguist), Asafo (company or troop), Akwashon (corrupted form of eku eson – council of seven), bitim, odono, atumpam (types of drums), pleko (iron nail), nklakla (light soup), ampeshi (boiled plantain), etc. Besides, in Ga religious expressions, mpai (libation), otutu (a mound of shrine) etc, are also of Akan origin. While asapatre (Shoe), goa (Guava), dashi (Bribe), gudiimin (Good Evening), moonimooni (Good Morning), feesi (First) are corrupted forms of Portuguese and English words respectively. Of course, the Guans also on the other hand, had contributed extensively to the lexicological development of the modern Ga language through the formal principles of inflexion of Ga words; and grammatical features such as the usage of verb forms for the present progressive and the future tenses, which are not found in the Adangme verb forms.
GA STATE AND SOCIETY
The Ga Mashie community of the Ashiedu Keteke (Odododiodio) District of the Greater Accra region is believed to have been established by the Wo Sagba group of the Ga-speaking emigrants that begin to arrived and settled among the lagoon-worshipping Kpéshi aborigines in the hinterlands and along the coast, probably at the end of the Seventeenth Century. Henderson-Quartey (2001) indicates that it has been widely accepted that the Guans preceded the Ga in settling along the coast of Accra, the duration of which Ga historians have not been able to determine. According to him, the Ga refers to the Guans as Shits? m?i (landowners) and on this basis, acknowledged seniority to them for being first to settle in the territory.
He further noted that the Ga assimilation of the indigenous religion of the Shiatsemei (landowners), clearly showed there was some form of Guan culture in existence before the arrival of the Ga-speaking people. Field on her part, states that these group of Ga emigrants mainly fishermen, consist of seven families led by Nii Tete and Nii Moi: Wulomei of the Nai and Onyeni deities respectively. She further posits that the Nai We people who were worshippers of the Nai deity established their settlement at Tu?mat?, the present site of the Ussher Fort. While the Onyeni deity-worshipping group led by Nii Moi, settled behind the cliffs of the James Fort, which was later on built by an English trading company in 1672.
Having corroborated the assertions of Field about the earliest Ga-speaking emigrants of the Ga Mashie community along the coast of Accra, Henderson-Quartey further indicated that apart from the Ga coastal community, the Ga Mashie inland community could be about four times that of its present littoral area with most of the surrounding hills having big towns on them. These settlements, according to him were bound on the west by the Densu River and stretched eastward from the hills of Weija and Kplagon to the Laloi River in the Shai Plains could boast of some stone buildings with extensive iron works. While Ozanne (1962) also noted that archaeological findings from the middens or organized refuse dumps stretching from the Nsaki River and across the village of Amanfro in the present Ga-West district have revealed large quantities of pottery and iron slag from foundries as evidence of the advancement of this community.
In view of this, Europeans have described both the coastal and inland towns of the Ga Mashie community as the Kingdom of Akkra. Meanwhile, Astley (1968, pp.615-616) in describing the Ga towns said “It stands six leagues inland, and it is called Great Akkra to distinguish it from Little Akkra situated on the coast, half way between Kormantin and Rio Volta. Little Akkra is middlemost of the maritime villages in this kingdom; the other two are Soko (Tsoko/Chokor) to the West and Orsoko (Osukoo, i.e. Osu Forest) to the East.”
Though the early Ga settlement were initially under the leadership and directions of Wolomei and gbaloi (prophets), these settlements were patterned on Akan military organization as the territorial expansion needed strong defence against invading forces from the Fantes (efa te wu fo) on the West, and the Akyem and Akwamu to the North. As a result, government became more centralized and military companies (asafoi) under captains (Asafoiatsemei) played crucial roles in the administration of these towns. Nonetheless, the Nai Wulom) remained the senior Wulom) with supreme authority over the Ga Mashie community: though he could not associate himself with temporal affairs of the community, being a holy man charged with spiritual duties and the welfare of his people.
THE GROWTH OF MODERN ACCRA
The Ga Mashie community as it is known today comprise of the seven Akutséii (quarters) made up of Asere, Sempi, Abola, Gbese, Akumadzei, Otublohum (Otubronu i.e. Otu’s area) and Ngleshi Alata (Jamestown). These are divisions of the community jointly established by the Ga-speaking emigrants, Fante, Obutu, Akwamu and Kpéshi aborigines.
Oral traditions had it that after the destruction of the Ayawaso Township by the Akwamu, and the death of the then Ga Mantse Okaikoi in 1660, remnants of the Ga decided to come down from their hilly abode and join their friends and relations along the coast. Among the early migrants from the Asere and Abora groups to the coast were Saku Olenge, Akotia Owosika, Oshamra, Ayikwei Osiahene, Osu Kwatei (who established the Kpakpatse We dynasty), Anyama Seni, Amantiele Akele and others.
The main reason for this new migration according to Kilson (1974, pp.5-6) was the presence of the Portuguese and three other European powers that had by then established trading posts there, and were extending protection to the coastal towns and villages. In his discourse of the establishment of two out of the seven Ga Mashie Akutséii (quarters), Reindorf avers that Ayikai Osiahene with his people settled near James Fort and founded Akangmadshe and Mereku, i.e. Bereku quarters. Meanwhile, Adote Nii Ashare and Tete Kpéshi who with their retinue made their abode beyond the Korle lagoon returned and settled by the same Fort; and their descendants also established the Sempi quarters.
This arrangement according to Henderson-Quartey brought these towns within the vicinity of the three forts, and under the protection of the Danes (Osu), Dutch (Kinka) and the English (Ngleshi-Alata) from the Akwamu marauders. Besides, this led to the effective control of the local population and the maintenance of law and order within these trading enclaves to safeguard the traffic of goods between the hinterlands and the coast for the benefit of their respective companies.
In this way, to quote Bruce-Myers (1927, p.168), “the humble fishing villages which the Portuguese saw from their ships in the 1490s developed into the capital of the independent Republic of Ghana.” Thus, this community which until the beginning of the twentieth century was limited to the confines of the Ga traditional settlements along the coast; between the Christiansborg Castle, Ussher and James Forts, and the Korle lagoon, has grown in leaps and bounds despite its chequered history.
The Political Structure of the Ga People
The political structure of the Ga people comprises six main independent sub-states known as the traditional areas of Gamashi, Osu, La, Teshi, Nungua and Tema. Each traditional area has several villages in the hinterland under it and the names of the traditional areas are the same as the names of the capital towns from which the names of the traditional areas derive. The Mantsemei or Kings of the capital towns are of equal status and independent. In each village or town are clans “differentiated from one another by name,
by the names of the members and by their particular religious alliances and rites” (OsabuKle,2000,p.88).
Each village has its own Mantse or chief who is under the Mantse of the traditional area who is the same as the Mantse of the capital town. Each clan is assigned a role to play in the life of the community. The differentiation of clans by name and membership suggests that the towns and villages were founded by previously independent groups who considered it safer and convenient to lead civilized life. The clans which
represent relations of the same patrilineal or matrilineal origin are subdivided into families and the families are further divided into ‘houses” – people of a common and nearest ancestral origin. A person may belong to two traditional areas, two clans, two families and two houses at the same time, one by virtue of his father and the other by virtue of his mother.
Each house and each family is headed by a wise elder who is usually, but not necessarily the oldest able member. Female elders head the female members and male elders head the male members, but the male elders additionally take on the additional responsibility of heading the houses and families as a whole. When an elder is feeble by age another is appointed consensually to act as head through a practice known as
shuonotamo (sitting on the lap of the elderly and wise).
Unlike the heads of houses and families which are age related, the selection of the clan head is based upon merit. When there is need for a clan head, the heads of the various houses and families of that clan meet to prepare a list of eligible candidates selected by merit according to how they have been observed from childhood. The list is presented to an electoral college comprising the heads of the various clans, the heads of
professional groups notably the head of farming, Okwaafoiatse, and the head of fishing, Woleiatse, the Wulomo or chief priest and clan captains, asafoiatsemei and asafoianyemei. It is this same electoral college or council who assist the Mantse in ruling the town or village. The electoral college selects the clan head by consensus from the list in secrecy to avoid competition and petty jealousies. At a predetermined date the
selected clan head is presented ceremonially to the people of the town or village where he swears oath of allegiance to the ruling college and to the Mantse. The selected candidate is obligated to take office since refusal is considered a taboo and a disgrace punishable with banishment from the village or town.
The selection of a Mantse is very similar to the selection of the clan head. Several houses, normally three to four, constitute the royal clan. The houses of the royal clan provide Mantsemei by rotation. When the mantle of succession falls upon a particular royal house, it is the responsibility of that house to provide a list of candidates selected by merit to the clan head who, in turn, forwards the list of names to the electoral college. The electoral college selects the Mantse from the list by consensus and appoints a date for
ceremonial presentation of the Mantse to the people of the town or village where he swears and oath of allegiance to the electoral college and the electoral college, in turn, swears an oath of allegiance one by one to him.
Just as clans came together to constitute towns, villages and traditional areas to enable them lead a more secure civilized life, the independent traditional areas also came together to constitute the Ga State as a whole. At some point in time, the Gamashi Mantse was selected to be the first among equals to preside over the meetings of the Ga State Council. The members of the Ga State Council are the Mantsemei of the capital towns of the traditional areas. The speaker of the Ga State Council is the Nai wulomo.
The Culture of the Ga People
Culture comprises the knowledge base, beliefs, values, and attitudes and orientations of people towards social objects. Through a process of cultural education from childhood culture contributes to define people and to make people think and behave in the manner they do.
The Ga people did not develop the technique of writing on paper to store knowledge. Instead they developed a technique for writing in the wax of the mind called yitsontao. The technique involved repetitive imparting of knowledge followed by testing at each repetition to ensure that the knowledge is eventually inscribed permanently in the yitsontao. Symbols in the form of images and if necessary punishments are sometimes used to aid the process.
The Ga people believe in the existence of spirits some of which may be good and others bad. They believe in the existence of a supreme spirit that created the world, but this supreme being has both masculine and feminine properties. Accordingly, the name of this supreme being is Ataa-Naa Nyonmo (God who is both He, Ataa and She, Naa) who is also referred to as Ofe – the one above all – or Maawu. While nyonmo means god, Ataa-Naa Nyonmo, Ofe, and Maawu are used exclusively only for the creator and sustainer of the world – the Most High God. Maawu has an adversary or enemy called abomsam who is the head of the evil spirits. Because Maawu is far away, he works through a system of intermediary nyonmoi arranged in a hierarchical order or levels. The first level and closest to Maawu are DzemaWodzi (singular Dzemawong) and the second level are Wodzi.
DzemaWodzi and Wodzi are assigned various names. Included among the names of DzemaWodzi are Osabu (the sky god), Gbobu, Odame, Dantu, La-Kpa, and the lagoon gods of Sakumo, Korle, Osu-Klotey, Kpeeshi (the war god of the Ga people), and Sango. While individuals may own and worship their own Wodzi, DzemaWodzi can only be owned and worshiped by groups or societies. DzemaWodzi and Wodzi may possess individuals turning them into mediums or Wulomoi (priests) and Woyei (priestesses)
through whom they communicate with humans. While DzemaWodzi and Wodzi can be appeased with the blood of cattle, sheep, goats or fowls, Maawu can be appeased with only praises and libation. Because murder is a taboo, it is a taboo to offer human sacrifice or blood to the DzemaWodzi and Wodzi of the Ga people. For the same reason, the Ga people do not have any institution of brafo, the organization of executioners.
Apart from DzemaWodzi and Wodzi, there are also spirits called Bofoi who may be messengers of Maawu or Abomsam- the enemy (Satan) of Maawu. The messengers of Maawu are called Nyonmo-Bofoi and the messengers of Abomsam are called mumoi fodzi – evil spirits.
All natural bodies and living things such as the sky, stars, planets, moons, sea, rivers, lakes, lagoons, trees, forests, bushes, plants, animals, fishes, birds, insects and humans have spiritual components. In particular, the spirits of the sky, stars, moons, sea, rivers, lakes, lagoons and forests are DzemaWodzi (Field, 1961, pp.4-6). Death does not destroy the spirits of living things which are always in communication with the bodies they leave behind. The human body is believed to comprise three entities, the Gbomotso (body), Susuma (the spirit of man associated with dreams), and Kla (the sustainer of life). All people born on the same day have the same Kla and the same Kla name or day name.
When the Susuma wanders about in dreams, the Kla stays behind to maintain life (ibid, p.93). If both the Kla and the Susuma leave the body together, the death occurs. If either the Kla or the Susuma leave the body permanently, the person dies. When humans die, their Susumai (plural of Susuma) live on to become ancestral spirits always willing to help their descendants while the Kla may enter into reincarnation (ibid, p.94).
The spirits of animals and plants can be tapped and used to create Wodzi or for healing purposes. The various stools of Mantsemei are also DzemaWodzi. Humans can communicate with spirits through the pouring of libation. Moreover, the DzemaWodzi and Wodzi of the various traditional areas are not the same although some may bear the same name and function. Typically, the shrines or places of worship are not the same even if the names of DzemaWodzi and Wodzi coincide.
There is also a conception of trinity which is quite different from the Christain conception of trinity. The sky, Nwei, is considered a male and the earth, Shikpong is considered female. The marriage between Nwei and Shikpong resulted in the birth of the sea, Nsho. This trinity of Nwei, Shikpong, and Nsho sustain life, Wala. The sacred day of Shikpong is Thursday on which farming is prohibited. The sacred day of the Nsho is
Tuesday on which fishing is prohibited. Thus, the Ga people have two Sabbath days in a week.
The Ga people also have a value system of taboos that guide their behaviour. Thus, all acts of incest, homosexualism, rape, murder, disrespect for the elderly and other immoral acts are considered punishable taboos – by death (in the case of murder), by banishment from society, or by heavy fines.
Homowo derives from two Ga words ‘homo” meaning hunger and ‘wo’ meaning to hoot at. Homowo therefore means hooting at hunger. According to legend, during the process of migration, the Ga nation experienced famine and severe hunger. However, they mustered up courage to till the land, planted corn and called upon Ataa-Naa Nyonmo, the DzemaWodzi, Wodzi, and Sisadzi, the ancestral spirits through libation to bless the farms to yield in abundance. In response to their prayers deluge of rains, followed, the crops
grew and yielded in abundance. Being experts in fishing they also caught fish in abundance which included giant red snappers called tsile and giant tunas called odaa.
Their sheep and goats also multiplied as they fed on abundance of green pasture. They celebrated this abundance of food and victory over hunger with a specially prepared diet from unfermented corn powder called kpokpoe which has now been corrupted to kpekple, and palm nut soup of fish. They hooted at and ridiculed hunger as they ate the kpokpoe with the palm nut soup prepared from fish only (notably tsile and odaa), poured libation and offered some of the diet symbolically to the DzemaWodzi and ancestral
spirits, Sisadzi. Homowo which is celebrated annually between August and September is to commemorate that day when hunger was defeated, hooted at, and ridiculed. Given the political structure of the Ga people, it is to be expected that this hooting at and ridiculing of hunger might take different forms.
The independence of the traditional areas and the possibility of an individual belonging to more than one traditional demands that the celebrations be organized in succession such to enable interested parties to attend any of them. The dates for the celebrations in the traditional areas are decided upon by consensus a council of Wulomei representing the various traditional areas. The first to begin is Nungua because the
Nungua people are supposed to be the first of the Ga people to arrive in Ghana folowed by the people of Gamashi. Teshi is the last to celebrate being the youngest of the Ga towns which broke away from La and was established in 1710.
The preparation for the festival begins with the planting of crops before the rainy season that begins in May. In June, a ritual called gbemlilaa (locking the way) bans drumming and music to enable people attend to crops with seriousness. This is followed by nshobulemo or ritual to calm the sea. Another ritual called okomfemaa bans fishing in the lagoons until the Homowo festival is over. The Homowo is preceded by yam festivals in the villages of the hinterland. This is the village version of celebrating victory over hunger, but falls short of hooting and ridiculing hunger which is reserved for the capital towns. When the date for the Homowo festival of a traditional area is near, the people of that traditional in the villages are expected to return to their homes in the respective capital towns. The villagers begin to arrive a week before the celebration beginning on Thursday, the sacred day of the earth when farm going is prohibited. The first arrivals on Thursday are called Soobii
The villagers arrive with pomp and jubilating songs bringing their harvested crops especially maize and palm nuts along. They arrivals parade the streets all day and retire only during the night. Friday of the arrival week is dedicated to remembrance of those who died during the year. In the early morning hours of Tuesday, the sacred day of the sea when sea going is prohibited, kpokpoe and palm nut soup are prepared for the feasting.
The Mantse of the traditional area, clan heads, family heads and head of families pour libation to Maawu, Sisadzi, DzemaWodzi, and Wodzi and sprinkle white kpokpoe mixed with palm soup to the DzemaWodzi, Wodzi and Sisadzi to thank them invite their blessings, and to signify the beginning of the feast. The next day, Wednesday, is the day of ngoowala when young visit the elderly to wish them log life and the elderly, in turn,
shower the young with gifts of all sorts including money.
There are some variations in the celebrations in the capital towns after the kpokpoe feast. At Teshi, Tema and Labadi, for example, the feast is followed by the Kpashimo dance and parade. At Nungua, it is followed by Obene dance during the night and Kpele dance during the day. The most popular celebration after the kpokpoe feast is the Kpashimo of Teshi which attracts foreigners.
It begins on Sunday after the feast and ends on the next week Saturday with Sesebumo. Most people from the traditional areas of the Ga State, foreigners, and other Ghanaians domiciled in the Ga State converge at Teshi to watch the last celebration of the Homowo season, Sesebumo.
The Kpashimo of Teshi begins on Sunday with sesefaa (the carrying of a wooden dish containing water and sacred leaves) and ends on Saturday with Sesebumo (the overturning of the wooden dish and its contents) to cleanse the people, make their wishes come true, and bless them. During sesefaa, the kpa groups from the seven quarters of Teshi are led first to the palace of the Mantse. The Mantse pours libation and provides
some amount of money as a customary gift of appreciation. The kpa groups proceed to the palaces of the divisional chiefs, heads of clans, heads of families, asafoiatsemei, asafoianyemei and Wulomei of the town by turn who also pour libation and provide gifts of appreciation. This opens the way for kpashimo.
Kpashimo is of two types. The more gentle type is in the form of traditional songs and dancing and it is called Amlakui-Akpa meaning the Kpa dance of the nobility. The sese carrying group engages always in this type. The other type is very democratic and aims at exposing the wrongs committed by the nobility and commoners alike during the past year with the view of making them change their behaviour for the better. The kpa groups from the seven quarters of the town engage in this type. After sesefaa, the kpa groups break into their separate groups ad begin to expose the wrongdoings of the nobility beginning with those of the Mantse. The wrongdoings of the head of State of Ghana and his Ministers may also be exposed. They then proceed to expose the wrongdoings of individuals. Any person whose wrongdoings are exposed is expected by tradition to provide some gift usually money to express his or her appreciation. This goes on from Sunday to Friday while the sese carrying group continues to engage in AmlakuiAkpa and people desiring special blessing shower the sese with gifts of money. Paper notes are handed over to the sese group leader while coins are put into the sese. The sese group parades through the principal streets of the town once a day.
Saturday is the day of Sesebumo to bring an end to Kpashimo and the Homowo festival as a whole where all attention is focused on the sese group. In the morning, the sese group goes to the Mantse, and elders as it did on Sunday to greet them. The pour libation to invoke blessings from Ataa-Naa Nyonmo (the same as Ofe or Maawu), DzemaWodzi, Wodzi and ancestral spirits. They repeatedly sing the song:
Sese yaabu dza neke afi.
Mee loo abaaye ?
(Sese shall not overturn again till next year.
What fish shall we feed on? )
After greeting the nobility, the sese group rests till the afternoon. In the afternoon,the sese group leads the kpa groups of the seven divisions of the town who are also followed by the towns people and visiting spectators through the principal streets of the town all singing “Sese yaabu dza neke afi. Mee loo abaaye?”. The procession ends at Sangonaa near the Sango lagoon. At Sangonaa, the song and kpashimo get louder, more vigorous and intense till finally the carrier of the sese overturns it and its contents. This overturning of the sese marks the end of the Homowo of the Ga people and the lifting of the ban on drumming.
One of many liturgies of the Ga-Dangmes “Oshe-Boo” is as follows:
Aaa-wooooooo, Aaa-wooooooo, Aaa-wooooooo !
Aa-gba-ei, Bleku-stoo, Nsu-nsu, Enam-enam, Manye-aa-manye-a, Adeban-kpotooo, Aaawo, Aaa-wooooooo,!
Aaa-wooooooo, Aaa-wooooooo, Aaa-wooooooo!
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 Paa Joe, Paa Willy and Seth Kane Kwei 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. 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.
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 and Kudjoe Affutu. Most of the figural coffins are used for funerals, only a few are exported for international art exhibitions.
Traditional Ga vocal music can be with or without instrumental accompaniment. Best known are the songs from the kple religion. The songs are sung by women and regularly accompanied by a double bell for the time line or for the basic beat. The subject of those songs is the history of the Ga. The texts of the songs are most of the time in proverbs, which makes them difficult to understand for outsiders. Children learn to sing those songs by imitating their mothers. Usually women gather together in the evening to sing the songs.
According to Nketia, among the vocal music of the Ga, there are two main groups of musical types:
(a) Those based on some kind of pentatonic foundation, which include the cult music of
kple and kpa (performed in Labadi) and the ceremonial music of ofi (bleble),
performed during the homowo festival for the chief and elders
(b) Musical types based on a heptatonic foundation. They include the music of the court,
recreational music, the music of traditional popular bands, warrior associations, and so
on (Nketia 1965: 276).
The songs of the Ga are often sung by a group, alternately by a cantor or a number of cantors and chorus (Nketia 1958: 82). The language of Ga songs may be Ga, Akan (Twi/Fante) or a mixture of the two. The use of Twi words, phrases and sentences in the course of songs, which are mainly in Ga, is also fashionable in modern popular music (Nketia 1958: 82).
Besides this vocal music, much traditional instrumental music can be found among the Ga. The emphasis in Ga instrumental music is on drums and idiophones. Sometimes a horn is used in the music for the chief (probably originally an Akan tradition), but there does not appear to be any traditional stringed or wind instruments (Nketia 1958: 76). Of the idiophones used in Ga society, gongs (nono) are the most common. These are used both as ‘time keepers’ and accompanying instruments. In the first case each gong plays an unchanging rhythm pattern, maintaining a steady tempo throughout the entire performance. If the gong player
falters, he throws everybody off. The bell as a time keeper is seen in traditional drum ensembles like gome and oge. The second method of using gongs emphasises their function as accompanying instruments. One or both of the gongs may play a number of rhythm patterns in much the same way as drums may be used, while maintaining a steady tempo. This treatment of gongs is commonly found in the music of Kple (Nketia 1958: 76).
The main musical instruments of Ghanaians and other West Africans are drums. In Ga society, hourglass drums and closed cylindrical drums are used in traditional musical types performed for chiefs. Apart from these, all the drums of the Ga are single headed open drums. They include heavy drums (obonu), and talking drums (atumpan) found at the courts of chiefs as well as medium (e.g. kpanlogo) and small drums used in cult music and music for entertainment (Nketia 1958: 78).
According to Nketia (Nketia 1958: 80), three forms of drumming can be distinguished in Ga music:
- signal mode
- speech mode
- dance mode
In signal mode of drumming, a short rhythm pattern or a restricted number of such patterns are played by a single drummer. These rhythms are not intended for dancing. The rhythms are played over and over again for about a minute, after which the drummer has to wait until some considerable time has elapsed. The drums used in this manner are called tsoisin and are found only at the courts of Ga chiefs.
In the second mode of drumming, attempts are made to imitate speech by reproducing the rhythm an intonation of verbal texts. To be able to interpret the rhythms, one has to learn it as a ‘restricted’ language. Many people are able to only interpret a few rhythm patterns, usually those used in the dancing arena as a joke or for congratulating people. Any drum capable of pitch variation such as oblente and the master drum of asafo can be used. The drums most commonly employed for this mode, are the atumpan drums. The language that is used for these rhythms is Akan, there is no established tradition of drum language based on Ga.
The third mode of drumming is the dance mode of drumming. This is by far the most frequently used. In this mode of drumming, single drums and idiophones may be used for playing the required dance rhythms, as for example in adowa, bawa and dzigboo music and dancing, or the music performed at story telling sessions at wake keeping. The usual ensemble for performing dance music consists of three drums that vary in pitch, the tuning of the drums is not absolute. Supporting rhythms are played on the drums with low pitch, the
master drummer plays on the high pitched drum. The drummers are accompanied by a bell, or a rattle and a bell.
The instrumental music of the Ga is a composite of Ga and Akan derived forms each of which is associated with a particular institution or a social organisation. The Akan forms are commonly linked with the traditional political organisation, and later cults, while the indigenous forms are associated with worship, festivals and other aspects of Ga social life. There is, however, a common meeting ground of Akan and Ga forms in the music of recreation (Nketia 1958: 79-81).(http://musicology.nl/WM/scripties/rentink.pdf)
Kpanlongo is the most recent of all Ga recreational musical types, an offshoot of Gome, Oge, Kolomashie, and Konkoma. Referred to as “the dance of the youth,” Kpanlongo started during the wake of Ghana’s Independence as a musical type for entertainment in Accra. Kpanlongo is presently performed at life-cycle events, festivals, and political rallies.
- Slit Bell – Nono
- Double Bell – Nononta
- Pod Bell – Dodompo
- Lead Drum – Atswereshi
- Support Drums – Atswereshi x 2
- Frame Drums – Tamlali x 1 or 2
- Bass Drum – Gome
The Kpanlogo dance was invented by Otoo Lincoln. He was told an Ansee folk story by his Grandfather. Kpanlogo, Mma Mma and Algodzan were the names of three triplets girls. Their father was the cheif and said, how ever could guess their names could marry them. So a man went to their home pretending to be a mad man asking for water, he met the girls and learnt their names as they called to each other. To remember them he kept singing to himself ‘Kp. Mma. Al.’ And of course he married the girls. Otoo heard the story in 1956 when he was 15. He used to tell it dancing and singing to his brothers and sisters, a friend used to drum along as they liked the music and dance and we created our own version of highlife around 1962. The feeling of the music originated from music played by his father from Oge , Liberian music a sort of slow kpanlogo. I mixed this Oge with high life and rock and roll to produce the feeling in Kpanlogo.
In 1962 the Arts Council, banned its playing as one of the beats made the body move in an indecent way. They called Otoo in for a meeting. Otoo said that it ………………… By 1965 Kpanlogo had become so popular that 50+ groups performed it to the head of state Nkrumah.
Kpanlogo was seen as a dance from the youth, arising from the streets of Accra soon after Ghana’s independence, and symbolised the youth and independence of a young nation and so was taken on and played at funerals, state occasions and became an anthem for the ruling party at the time. Up to now its popularity remains hi. There are countless Kpanlogo performing groups, playing for pleasure and at all social and state occasion.
Kpanlogo drumming, was created by Otoo Lincoln, who composed well-known tunes like‘Kpanlogo Alogodzan’, ‘ABC Kpanlogo’ &‘Ayinle Momobiye ‘.
Otoo was born in the Korle Wokon district of Accra in 1941 and learned Ga drumming from his family. He obtained the name‘kpanlogo’ when he used the new beat he was creating to perform an old Ga folktale his grandfather told him about, which involved three Ga princesses called Kpanlogo, Alogodzan & Mma-Mma. Otoo Lincoln and a group of boys from the Bukom area of Accra (Frank Lane, Okule Foes and other members of the Black Eagles dance club) created the youthful Ga kpanlogo drum-dance during the early 1960s by combining older Ga fishermen-styles of music, such as the kolomashie. gome, and oge with highlife or even rock ‘n’ roll dance movements. Because of kpanlogo’s supposedly ‘indecent’ movements, it was banned for a while before it was again in vogue in 1965. Except for a small copyright payment to Otoo in the 1990s, Otoo has never received the financial rewards for having created what has become Ghana’s most internationally-acclaimeddrumming style.
The renowned Master Drummer Mustapha Tettey Addy after leaving University in 1965 spent many years traveling and researching traditional music in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Fume Fume was one of the fruits of this research. It is based on the fetish dances of Ivory Coast.
THE GA PEOPLE BY IRENE ODOTEI
The Ga of today are the people whose territory is bordered to the north by the Akuapem hills, to the south by the sea, to the west by the Awutu and by the east by the Adanme. They call themselves Gamei to distinguish them from other groups such as the Akan, the Ewe or the Dagomba, and speak the language called Ga. They have a common annual festival called Homowo, which is a celebration of the beginning of their new year.
There six Ga towns, viz. Ga Mashi (Central Accra), the capital, Osu (Chritiansborg), La (Labadi), Teshi, Nungua and Tema. Each of these towns is divided into Akutsei or quarters, and each Akutso is sub-divided into Wei or patrilineal houses. Ga Mashi has seven Akutsei, each with its own Mantse or Chief, whereas the Akutsei of the other Ga towns do not have separate Mantsemei. The Mantsemei of the seven Akutsei of Ga Manshi together with the Mantsemei of the other towns (Osu, La, Teshi, Nungua and Tema) are under a paramount ruler, Ga Mantse, who comes from the Abola quarter (Akutso) of Ga Mashi. The Ga maintain some distinction among themselves by using the names of their towns to describe one another, e.g., the Nungua people are known as Nunguamei as distinct from Lamei or Teshimei. There is a close link between the Ga and their eastern neighbours, the Adanme, comprising Kpone, Prampram, Ningo, Ada, Osudoku, Shai, Yilo and Manya Krobo. The languages spoken by these two groups, Ga and Adanme, are more closely related to each other than any other language. It appears that the two languages originated from one stock. Reindorf acknowledged that Adangbe is “the mother dialect of the Ga”. By comparing lexical and grammatical cognate forms (i.e. forms adjudged to be inherited from the common ancestor), M.E. Kropp has been able to establish that, “modern Ga is the product of a large number of innovations in the hypothetical proto Ga-Adangbe language while Adangbe as a whole has been relatively conservative, that is, modern Adangbe includes few modifications of the phonological and grammatical systems of the proto language.”
Apart from the linguistic similarity, other cultural ties, such the importance of priests in the socio-political structure, circumcision, and the specific order of child-naming, characterize the Ga and the Adangbe as being people from a common stock.
The origin of the Ga-Adangbe people is shrouded in myth and many hypotheses have been advanced in an attempt to explain their roots. The most widespread of these hypotheses, first popularized by Reindorf and later accepted by Ward and Field, maintains that the Ga originated from Benin. In addition to this premise, Reindorf records two traditional accounts of origin. One claims that the Ga originated from the sea, and the other, that they emigrated together with the Adangbe, from Tetetutu or Sameh in the east. It is said that they came from between two large rivers, and that after crossing the Volta, they dispersed over the country.
N.A. Azu accepted the Sameh origin of the Ga and the Adanme. He described Sameh as “an island situated on the south-west of River Ogum adjoining Ladah and Dahomey.” He claimed that the Ga and Adanme left Sameh because “they were too much oppressed by the then mighty King Akpo of Dahomey”. Another writer who tackled the problem of Ga origin was Quartey Papafio. He located they roots further north and asserted that the Ga came to the Gold Coast through Benin, some by land but majority by canoe. He further claimed that there was “a tradition to show that, subsequently, the Phoenicians and Carthaginians treated with or visited the Gold Coast previous to visits of the Portuguese and also that when the Ga people arrived on the Gold Coast, there red-skinned people among them. These were no doubt Phoenicians and Cutheans and others who came to the west coast with their idols and fetish priests accompanied by their attaches, who afterwards became the Takyis of the present dynasty among the Akras of the Gold Coast.” J.M. Bruce Myers also postulated that “in a series of migrations the Gas came all the way from the central part of the continent where they had been in contact with ancient civilizations, the traces of which are to be found scattered through their literature.”
E.A. Ammah asserts in an unpublished history that “the Ga people are in type of the Hamitic race and in culture of the Semitic.” He further stated that “the original home of the Ga people is either in Egypt in Africa or Mesopotamia in Asia.”
The author’s collection of oral tradition reveals that certain elements amongst the Ga, especially the educated, have come to accept the various hypotheses advanced by these writers and moreover often narrate them as oral tradition. One such ‘tradition’ maintains that the Ga originated from ‘Mizraim’ (Egypt) and arrived at their present location in two groups. The first to arrive were the Naiwebii who came by sea (Nai is said to be a corruption of the Nile) while the other half, Sakumowebii, arrived by land.
It is significant that other sections of the Ga-Adanme have not accepted the hypotheses of the above mentioned writers. For example, the present Nai Wulomo does not support the hypothesis postulating an Egyptian origin for his ancestors. He claims that the first Nai Wulomo and his followers together with the Nungowas originated from the sea. The people of Labadi, together with part of the Teshi people, claim to have originated from Bonny in Nigeria. The Osu people an origin from Osudoku, a branch of the Adanme, and the Tema people claim to have migrated from Ayigbe kpesi. Among the Adanme, the Le of Kpone believe they originated from the sea. The founder of Ningo, Dzanma, was said to hace originated from the Lagoon Dzangi, the principal deity of Ningo. Dzanma had the characteristics of a primitive man: he was covered with hair and fed on raw fish from the Lagoon Dzangi. It was whilst in such a state that he was discovered by a hunter Oklu Doso, who decided to stay with him, and together they formed the nucleus around which later arrivals, such as the Kabiawe, grouped. Among the inland Adanme, the Tetili of Kasunya near Asutsuare claim to have descended from the sky along a rope and landed on baobab tree.
“Kpa n dze Hi we “The rope which descended from the sky
Titi yobo lii akpa Teti Yobo people’s rope
Salo n 1 ema” Landed on a baobab tree.”
The Okpe of the Yylo Krobo also claims to have descended from the sky, but the landed on a spot called Okpesi and were led by a black monkey to Okpe Yo (Krobo Mountain). The other groups of the Adanme, however, say that they migrated from Sameh. Their stay in Sameh is commemorated in their Klama song:
“Onyue, moo huu ihe ne maya”. “Onyue protect me till I reach Sameh”.
The hypotheses as to the origins of the Ga put forward by Reindorf, Quartey-Papafio, Bruce Myers and E.A. Ammah are based on two facors: their own interpretation of oral tradition, and cultural and linguistic similarities. Reindorf interpreted the tradition that the Ga came from the sea to mean that they came from Benin. This is based on the claim that in his time, traders and artisans who went to seek their fortunes at the Bight of Benin were said to have gone into the sea, i.e. ‘etee nson’. Investigations, however, revealed that the term ‘etee nson’ was not only limited to the people who went to the Bight of Binin, but also, to those who travelled along the eastern coast as far as the Congo. The equivalent of the term ‘etee nson’ can be found in a limited sense in the English expression ‘gone abroad or gone to sea’. Reindorf’s hypothesis appears to have also been influenced by the view of F.L. Romer, a Danish writer of the eighteenth century. He suggested that there was once an empire of Benin, vaster thatn the empire of China, which stretched from the River Niger to the River Gambia, and was said to have incorporated the Ga.
Romer’s hypothesis as to the existence of this Benin empire is not tenable. In the first place, to support his assertion he only mentioned a few cultural similarities such as circumcision and the special way of killing sacrificial animals with a stone instead of a knife to avoid defiling then. Romer also claims that in his time there certain families in Accra who could trace their ancestry from Benin Viceroys. Romer ignores the fact that political and cultural boundaries do not necessarily have to coincide. It is almost as if evidence of Muslim practices along the coast of modern Ghana were taken to mean that the area used to form part of the ancient Caliphate of Arabia!
Romer’s claim to have discovered the existence of Ga families who could trace their ancestry from Benin Viceroys could very likely be the result of trade contact between Accra and Benin. For example, using circumstantial evidence, Fage and Wilks have postulated that there were trade contacts between the coast of Ghana and the coast of Benin prior to the arrival of the Portuguese in 1471 and that the participation of the Europeans in the trade only diversified and accelerated this process.
Quartey-Papafio, who claimed a North African origin for the Ga, stated that there was ‘sufficient evidence’ to prove his hypothesis but then neglected to provide any such evidence. His claim that there is a tradition to show that when that Ga first arrived on the Gold Coast, there were red-skinned people among them is almost certainly based on a misunderstanding. The author did not come across this so-called tradition in her fieldwork. (It probably reflected a preoccupation with skin calour during the early colonial period.
Bruce Myers presumes there to be certain cultural similarities between the Ga and the Jews: “the dress of their chief priest in a white loose cloth, his cap, the Nmatsu necklace, the wearing of Afili, pronouncement of the blessing, all these things recall the ancient people of God, the Jews of old, and distinguish the Gas from other tribes in this part the continent excepting their kinsmen, the Benins, who by their own choice kept back in the cource of migration and up to the present are keeping inviolate these age long observances of one unstained religion.” He also stated that the Ga word ‘Gigine’ comes from a corrupted Hebrew word, without giving the Hebrew rendering of the word.
E.A. Ammah follows this method of searching for cultural and linguistic similarities, he also remarks that the Ga claim of migration from an area between two rivers could be interpreted as migration from Mesopotamia because Mesopotamia means ‘between two rivers’. He furthermore attempts to trace Ga ancestry from Ham, one of the sons of Noah who peopled the earth after the flood.
The hypotheses of all these writers – Reindorf, Quartey-Papafio, Bruce-Myers, and E.A. Ammah – appear to be based on a concern to link tha Ga with ancient well-known civiliasations, example, Benin, Pharaoic Egypt, the Carthaginians, Phoenicians and the Jews. The protagonists of a North African or Semitic origin of the Ga ignore the fact that the physical characteristics of the Ga are typically Negroid. Moreover, the Ga language has no affinity with the Semitic language family: it belongs to the Kwa group of languages (including Ewe, Fon, Akan, Yoruba, Edo,Nupe and Ijo), which is one of the sub-groups of the Niger-Congo ‘family’.
The mere comparison of a few isolated Ga words with Hebrew words cannot be taken as conclusive evidence of linguistic affinity. Cultural similarities do not necessarily provide evidence of any previous connection. They could quite conceivably arise from independent cultural evolution in separate areas.
It is inaccurate, therefore, to portray the Ga-Adanme as an example of the wholesale migration of a people from a foreign country to their present territory. The Ga of today are a complex mixture of people and cultures which have gradually fused into a society with distinct characteristics. Two cradles can be suggested where such interaction took place. The first cradle is on the banks of the Lower Volta (Benin). Here, both the Ga and Adanme lived together.the second cradle is in the Accra plains where the Ga, after leaving the Adanme in the east, absorbed other peoples’ ideas. These include Guan and Akan. The assimilation of these foreign elements account for the linguistic and institutional differences between the Adanme and Ga today. It was also the Accra plains that the western group developed the name, Ga, to distinguish themselves from the Adanme.
According to oral tradition and certain Klama songs recorded by the author, the various groups of Ga-Adanme began to disperse in the region of the Lower Volta Basin. Unfortunately, no dates are available for this period of Ga-Adanme history. However, according to Ozanne’s report of an excavation made in Ladoku, (an abandoned settlement of the Las), distinctive pottery indicated the presence of a small village or group of farmsteads dating back to 1200-1400. One can therefore conclude that at least some Ga-Adanme settlements were in existence by 1200.
It has been suggested that the Ga Mashie and Nunguas left the Volta Basin together. Reindorf records: “when the Akras and Nunguas were marching together in one body, it happened one night that the former hastily started and left their dough behind them, from which they were given their surname ‘Masi’ i.e. sleepers”.
Whether, this tradition is true or not, a special customary relationship does exist between Ga Mashi and Nungua in modern times. Before Ga Mashi Wulomo (priest) or Mantse is installed, he has to undergo the custom Butrumwoo, which is a form of purification ceremony. It is only a representative of the Amanfa section of Nungua who has the right to perform the ceremony.
It would appear that the Ga Mashis, Nunguas and Temas settled in the Accra plains prior to the arrivals of the Las and Osus. Furthermore, the Nunguas, Ga Mashis and Temas founded a number of settlements before they reached their present sites. Unfortunately, oral tradition is not explicit as to the sequence of these sites. The Kple song which deals with the early settlements of the Ga Mashis does not help in solving the problem. It simply says:
1. W dz he dzek We came from afar
2. W dz wuoyi We came from the south (sea)
Ni kooyi dzi w n And the north (forest) is ours.
3. W dz ma ko We came from a certain town
W yadam ma ko We became citizens of another town.
Ga ay Living in Ga.
4. Wdz Ga mli We came from within Ga.
W yanina Gam i We met Ga people
Ga ay Living in Ga.
This song suggest that the Ga Mashi were a people who lived in scattered communities stretching from the coast to further inland, accommodating groups which moved from one community to the other. Reindorf mentions some of these settlements. They are: Akpadegong, Pletekwagong, Muko, Anonmole, Fanofa, Dokutse and Kushibiete (Legon) founded by the Ga Mashis. Similarly the Nunguas founded Wodoku, Kpatsakole, Lashibi, Koko-Nyaga, Wokple, Wodode, Woshagba, Wo-Akwamu, and Wobobo; and the Temas founded Otiribi, Tebilano, Podoku, Atsenbidoku, Alagba, Lakanmabi (Ashaman) and Takimabi (Awudun).
Unfortunately, there is no archaeological data which exists on these old settlements. The only site to have been dated is Ayawaso, remembered in tradition as the last inland Ga Mashi settlement to be founded. Ozanne dates the founding of Ayawaso to the end of the sixteenth century because the site shows early seventeenth century imports lying very close to its base.
By the beginning of the seventeenth century, Ga Mashi, Nungua and Tema had territories which stretched from inland to the coast. Ga Mashi shared a boundary with Awutu in the west and Nungua in the east. Nungua also shared the eastern boundary with Tema.
The seventeenth century was also the period when the last of the Ga towns, Labadi, Osu and Teshi, were founded on the coast. Of these groups, the first to leave the Adanme were the Las. Their town, which was situated on the hill, Ladoku, was an important industrial and trading centre. La was famous for the weaving of a coarse cotton cloth considered in those days to be excellent attire and worn by men of high rank. This is remembered in the lines:
Ke iya La O: Ma wo tso bo ! If I would no longer go to La, I were better clad in the back of a tree
Okoni gbe La no, Death has killed the La.
Ke iya La-O, Ma wo tso bo. Death has killed the La., I were better clad in the back of a tree.
Of their Adanme neighbours, the closest to the Las were the Shais. These two neighbors apparently became aware of the need to maintain moral discipline in their society and therefore made a mutual agreement that whoever seduced another man’s wife should be beheaded. A La man was reported to have commited this offence and was beheaded in accordance with the law. When a Shai man committed the same offence, however, his people refused to hand him over for the prescribed punishment. This resulted in a war between the Las and The Sais in which the Las were eventually defeated.
The dating of the La settlement at Ladoku needs clarification. Ozanne observed: “a small village or group of farmsteads of about 1200-1400 were replaced probably before 1500 by a very large town over a mile wide. Pottery types from this phase do not seem to have lasted till 1600. The site may have been abandoned for 40 years or so and the next phase of settlement was 1640.” Basing his argument on Reindorf’s recording of traditional accounts, Ozanne dates the La occupation of Ladoku to the middle of the seventeenth century. This implies that it was the La who occupied Ladoku after the flourishing town had been abandoned at the end of the sixteenth century.
In contrast to this hypothesis, the author’s collection of oral tradition and historical songs reveal that it was the La’s occupation which turned the site into the flourishing town of the sixteenth century. By the middle of the seventeenth century, when Ladoku was again occupied, the Las were already established in the Accra plains near the Ga Mashi and there is no evidence to suggest that they returned to the Adanme area. This means that the La must have left Ladoku before 1600.
During the flight from Ladoku, after their defeat by the Shais, the Las left some of their fetishes and other paraphernalia behind. These were later turned into playtings by monkeys which abound in the area.
“La-lene-bi-n-m kue pen ye w! “Ye children of Labadi! Monkeys dance to deride you”
The Las realized en route that they had left behind the gong-gong of La kpa, their principal deity. Fortunately for them, it was said that when they reached the river Nsaki, a monkey appeared who started dancing according to the beat of the La kpa music. They therefore followed the monkey and copied the rhythmic movements until they were able to do the kpa dance without the gong-gong.
Tee Nsaki naa I reached the bank of Nsaki
Yana kua dzo I saw a monkey dancing
Na ko eko da I haven’t seen such a sight before.
The absence of the gong-gong in the modern kpa dance is observed in the song:
Ogbe midzi et miifo y Laa Ogbe’s three drums are sounding (crying) in La.
O o b mli A gong-gong is missing.
The La lived at Adzagote with the Ga Mashie and Nunguas as their neighbours, but later decided to move to the coast in order to participate in the lucrative trade enjoyed by the people who resided there. The practice among the Ga-Adanme in those early days of migration was that before they moved to any new settlement, the hunters would go on a scounting expedition to make sure that the new could provide them with an adequate water supply and good farming ground. The La’s main interest was focused on the rich salt producing lagoon, the Kpeshi, which was then controlled by the Nunguas. This possession could only be won through conquest, since the Nunguas were unlikely to give away such a vital interest without fighting for it. War finally broke out between the Las and the Nunguas, and there two interpretations as to its predominant cause. One version ascribes the cause of the war to a La hunter, Sowa, who went on a scouting expedition in search of water and salt for his people. After Sowa had drunk water offered to him by some Nungua salt makers, he inconsiderately broke all the water containers. The other version portrays the La occupation of the coast as a peaceful settlement. They were offered land by the Nunguas, but their peaceful co-existence with their benefactors was disturbed by the kidnapping and sacrificing of the La Princess Odole to the Nungua fetish Ogmu. Whatever the true cause of the war, the main result was that it ended with the acquisition of the Kpeshi lagoon by the Las.
The migration of the La from their inland settlement, Adzagote, to the coast must have taken place sometime between 1600 and 1629. De Marees, for example, does mention Labadi as a coastal town in 1600, but an anonymous Dutch map of 1629 places Labadi as a coastal settlement situated between Ga Mashi and Nungua.
The next Ga coastal town to be founded was Osu. The first settlers of Osu originated from Osudoku, a group of the Adanme. According to tradition, their migration westwards was a means by which to avoid a dispute or more seriously a civil war over the loss of a single bead. This bead was part of some precious beads borrowed by a woman, Namole, to decorate her daughter, who was undergoing the Otofo rites. Namole’s family offered to replace the bead or else pay for it with seven human beings, in accordance with the prevailing law. The owners refused this and Namole along with her brother Noete Doku and their followers left Adanme. The bead was eventually found in the gizzard of a fowl on the very day that the followers left. Upon reaching the coast, the Osu immigrants settled in the area between La and Ga Mashi on land granted to them sometime before 1629.
The people of Teshi, (the last Ga town to be founded) were originally part of La. The founding of the town was a result of a quarrel between Mantse Odai Atsem and Mankralo Numo Okang Nmashi. The breach was so serious that Odai Atsem sought the assistance of the King of Accra. This led to the latter advising Okang Nmashi to leave La. On their journey eastwards Okang Nmashi and his followers found an old man, Trebi of Lashibi living with his family on the beach belonging to Nungua. Trebi had moved to the beach to help cure the fish of some Fante fishermen who had come on annual fishing expedition. Okang Nmashi decided to settle on the coast with Trebi and his family; but before he could do that, he had to seek permission from the Nunguas. An acknowledgement of Nungua ownership of the land was maintained by the annual presentation of a sheep by the Teshis to the Nunguas. Teshi continued to maintain some customary ties with La long after moving to their present site. Indeed, until recently, Teshi used to send a cow every year to La for sacrifice to the Lakpa, principal deity of the Las.
The settlement of the Ga in the Accra plains led to changes in their socio-political organization. According to tradition, prior to the arrival of the Ga, there were people who hadalready established scattered settlements on the Accra plains. The Ga founded their own settlements amongst these pre-existing communities, of which the best remembered in traditional accounts are the worshipers of Nai, whose Wulomo (priest) is acknowledged today as the most senior of all the Wulomei of the Ga towns. According to Reindorf: “The aboriginal race all along the sea coast and inland at some points 15, 20, 30 and 40 miles were nearly all of the Guan Kyerepong, Le and Ahanta tribes speaking different dialects of the Ahanta, Obutu, Kyerepong, Late (LE) and Kpesi languages.”
Of these Guan speakers, the groups with whom the Ga had the most intimate contact were the Kpsi, the Le, and the Obutu. The Ga were able to absorb the people of Kpesi and of Le but were not so successful with the Obutus.
The main influence which the Guan communities exerted over the Ga was religious. This is observed in the Kple cult, which can be found in all the Ga towns. According to Field, the Kple songs are in “the forgotten Obutu dialects and are often mere gibberish to both singers and hearers.” Field’s statement is not completely true. Kple is not a mere adoption of a Guan cult by the Ga. She, herself suggested that the “Kple gods could probably be sub-divided again, for they doubtlessly represent intermingled cults, but there is little to be gained by attempting this almost impossible task.”
By comparing Kple music with the Adanme Klama music, Nketsia finds that “they have sufficient similarity in style to suggest that Kple is not as foreign to Ga tradition as the evidence of the multilingual basis of its texts suggests at first sight.” He sees the possibility of Kple being a “Ga cult which at some period absorbed Guan elements both in respect of gods and the use of language and laterAkan as stylistic element.”
The author’s collection of Kple songs indicates that they are not ‘mere gibberish’. They were sung in comprehensible Ga with only a few intermingled lines of archaic and foreign words. The similarity between Kple and Klama suggests that the Ga had already developed the basis of the Kple cult before they left the Adanme in the east. However, whilst in the Accra plains, their cult was influenced by that of the Guan. On the basis one could assume that although the various Ga groups moved into the Accra plains in waves of independent migrations, there was a unifying element amongst them in the sense of a cult Akin to modern Kple. Another unifying factor was of course the linguistic identity.
In spite of these similarities, the Ga organized themselves into independent groups which were comprised of major and minor lineages. Within the groups, each lineage has its own god, and there was furthermore a senior god for the whole group. The priests of the supreme gods were the leaders of the groups. For example, the Las were under the leadership of the Lakpa Wulomo (priest).
Reindorf remarked that: “the Accra King was at the same time the priest of the national high fetish, but gradually, to avoid the violation of the sacredness of the priest in appearing often in public and especially when the seat of government was removed from Ayawaso to the coast, the two pawers were separated.” Reindorf is incorrect in dating this separation of powers to the period after 1680 when the seat of government had been removed from Ayawaso. The man who was referred to as King of Accra in the seventeenth century was not high priest of the Ga.
In reality, each Ga group evolved its internal system of secular authority at different times. Although in the seventeenth century, the Ga acknowledged the King of Accra as their sovereign, they maintained the priestly leadership within the individual groups. Furthermore, the King of Accra was in fact from Ga Mashi, and Ga Mashi had already instituted secular power at the end of the sixteenth century. This change was probably a response to European trading activities in Accra during the second half of the sixteenth century. Although the Portuguese started trading on the Gold Coast in 1471, their interests were limited to the west coast as far east as Asebu. In 1505, Pacheco Pereira remarked that the Portuguese had so far not established any trade contact with the inhabitants of the Accra coast.Portuguese interest seems to have been invigorated by the English trading expedition to Accra in the middle of the sixteenth century. Between 13th May and 2nd June 1557, the English trader Towrson (who already led two trading expeditions to the Gold Coast) was able to obtain 50 1b. of gold from Accra and Winneba. A few years after these expeditions, the Portuguese established a trading fort in Accra. However, their stay in Accra was short-lived, for, owing to ‘some mischief’ they did to the inhabitants, the Ga attacked the fort and razed it to the ground in 1576. In response to this, the Portuguese sent a punitive expedition under Martin Afonso, who “absolutely conquered the district.” After this, the fort was not rebuilt, but the Ga still traded with all the Europeans who anchored in their waters.
A combination of the Portuguese military expedition and the rising economic importance of Accra must have instilled in Ga Mashi the need for a more effective form of government than that which their priests provided. Reindorf records a struggle for political supremacy among the Ga Mashi which coincides with this period. He does not give any date, but his list of the early Ga dynasty and his connection of the political struggle with the founding of Ayawaso suggests that the rift occurred towards the end of the 16th century.
On this struggle for supremacy, Reindorf states: “Wyete the King of Accra, arrived although late yet very grand, having plenty of gold ornaments on his person; hence it was proposed by the Akras, that he should be king for all the immigrants. Upon refusal to accept that offer, the Akras took hold of one of his arms, his people holding the other arm which very unfortunately was plucked off; he therefore retired in the sea.” Another group, whom Reindorf calls Aseres claimed the ruling power on account of their commercial strength, but this so infuriated Ayi Kushi (the leader of one of the groups known as Tunmawe) that he retired into the sea, leaving his son Ayete who founded Ayawaso.
The struggle for power In Ga Mashi can be seen as struggle between their factions; firstly the supports of wealth, backing Wyete on account of his gold; secondly, the believers in military and commercial strength symbolized by the Aseres, and thirdly, those who wanted to maintain the status quo symbolized by Ayi Kushi. It seems that Ayite (Ayi Kushi’s son, who founded Ayawaso)favoured in both wealth and military strength. His capital Ayawaso, was probably chosen because of its strategic advantage. Situated at the crossroads of an important trading route to the gold-bearing regions of the interior, it was near enough for effective trade with the Europeans yet far enough away to foil any undue interference in Ga affairs. Moreover, the defence potentialities of basing the capital on a hill were not overlooked. Ayete’s success in the founding of Ayawaso in commemorated in the Kple song:
Tele o inpin k ba “I carried might with me
Tele Awoyo k ba I carried power with me
Ayite ma ko yabla Ayite, I settled in a certain town.
Ayite was able to build a strong central government based on the sanction of military power, and in doing so he realized that such power could be used as a prerequisite for large-scale political re-organisation. As a result of this newly developed strong government, the Ga Mashi were able to spread their political power in all directions. This inevitably brought them into conflict with their neighbours. Brun remarked in 1614 that the people of Accra lived in “great enmity with their neighbours” and he gave a detailed description of a war between the Ga and the Atty which culminated in the massascre of the Ga army. By 1634, the territories of the King of Accra comprised Ayawaso (Greater Accra), Small Bereku, Little Accra (the coast), Labadi and Ningo. The King of Accra’s land expanded only gradually, but he did gain suzerainty over the Akwamu and also added Labadi to his kingdom. Eventually, his kingdom stretched as far as Adanme. Romer remarked in the eighteenth century that “both the Adanme and the mountain Negroes ancestors had been enslaved by the accras, they had placed by the sea shore to fish and on the mountain to cultivate the fertile land.
Apart from the farmers and the fishermen, the kingdom of Accra was also comprised of salt-makers who depended on the rich salt-producing lagoon on the coast, and traders who transacted business between the coast and the interior. These traders carried European manufactured goods, salt and fish to the interior and sold them in exchange for gold and slaves. The kingdom of Accra therefore comprised and economically mixed population of farmers, fishermen, salt-makers, traders and blacksmiths.
The dynastic history and administration of the kingdom of Accra during the Ayawaso period is testimony to the secular nature of the political superstructure at this time. Ayi Ayite founded Ayawaso, was succeeded by Niiko Nalai. He in turn was succeeded by Mampong Okai. Traditioinal accounts refer to him as Owura Mampong Okai because he was known to ride in a carriage. This is not surprising when one considers that it was during his reign that the Datch were permitted to build a trading lodge at Accra. In soliciting his permission, the Dutch would have been compelled to shower many presents on him.
Mampong Okai married Dode Akaibi as his wife was a political move, an attempt to absorb the obutu, who were on the western frontiers of the Ga kingdom. An heir conceived with the Obutu princess would be a symbol of that fusion. There is no direct evidence to show how far Mampong Okai succeeded with this scheme, although, Reindorf does state that the King of Obutu became one of the hammock carriers of the King of Accra. It is not clear whether this happened in Mampong Okai’s reign. Mampong Okai was himself murdered on 17th January, 1642.
According to traditional accounts, Dode Akaibi acted as regent for her son Okai Kwei and was remembered by the Ga for being a tyrant. Many lives were lost in an attempt to carry out orders such as the capture of a live ‘tiger’ or lion. She also ordered the massacre of all the old men in the country. Unable to tolerate this tyranny any longer, the Ga stoned her and then buried her alive in a well, which she had previously ordered them to dig with their own hands. Unusually, contemporary written records do not mention the regency of Dode Akaibi. The Dutch referred to a certain ‘Commander’ or ‘Governor’ who had control of Accra after the murder of King Mampong Okai. There two possible explanations for this omission. Either, the ‘Commander’ acted as a liaison between Dode Akaibi and the Europeans, to such an extent that the latter were not aware of Dode Akaibi as the figure who wielded effective power in the kingdom, or the, ‘commander’ took over power after Dode Akaibi had been buried alive.
The interregnum of Mampong Okai and that of his son Okai Kwei was not peaceful. Hendrick Caarloff reported in 1646 that trade was in confusion because ‘the kingdom of Accra is ruled by a ‘Governor’ against whom have placed themselves the three sons of the deceased king, who tried by all means possible to place the country in ruin, in order thereby to deprive the ‘Governor’ of the tolls and to bring them under themselves; over which they cause the inhabitants who hold with the Governor great molestation and also openly cause the traders to be plundered in their gold or goods. Although the community against this have set up a king, nevertheless, he cannot place the kingdom under his authority because the rivals have too many adherents therefore it is all the worse and all the three parties stand continually in arms against the others”. This appears to be the description of the struggle for a lucrative secular authority rather than that of priestly power. Surely, the resort to brute force would not have been the most effective means of determining who should be high priest of the land.
Despite the turbulence of the regency period, Okai Kwei was able to gain political control of the kingdom of Accra. Okai Kwei, nicknamed ‘Afadi’  (the prosperous) by the Ga, was apparently an astute statesman. This was fully displayed in his relationship with the Europeans and his African neighbours. His final fall from power in 1680 and the consequent collapse of the kingdom were not due to any administrative weakness, but instead to the inherent wickedness of the king, which the Ga found objectionable. Okai Kwei had all the trappings of a secular monarch, including many wives, courtiers and musicians at his court.
Although the Ga system of government was monarchical, power was not concentrated absolutely in the hands of one man. In an agreement signed by King Mampong Okai with the Dutch West India Company in 1642, reference was made to a certain Teij, who was regarded as the King’s lieutenant. The King also had two viadors. De Marees described a viador as the Ki9ng’s treasurer who “keepeth his gold and other riches, receiveth and payeth all and doth all other business of the king. He is next to the king, and he commonly hath more golden rings about his neck, arms and feet than the king himself.” Another government official was described as the Puij Macardor, or Captain of the traders. He resided in Ayawaso and had full power to set taxes and prices for selling. He was also empowered to prevent quarrels, differences and controversies which might arise in trade transactions. The traders were said to have feared him more than the king himself, because not only did he punish offenders according to his pleasure, but in cases of dissension, was prepared to block all the trade paths until he had been suitably pacified.
The viadors and Puyj Marcador of the kingdom of Accra could conceivably be described as Ministers of Finance and trade in modern terminology.
Assisting the king in oter matters of state was the council of elders, referred to in contemporary European documents as Caboceers, Caboceros or Cappeceers. There was a council of elders in each Ga town. Similarly, the young men, referred to as Mansebos by the Europeans, had organizations through which they made their influence felt in their respective towns. It was from this group of young men that the king was able to recruit his army. Dapper commented that the King of Accra was able to fill fifteen tio sixteen thousand men iin times of war. Romerr remarked that at the outbreak of war with the Akwamu in 1677, the King of Accra had “many thousand archers, assagay or spear-men and sword-men, and each of his eighty generals carried a gun with ten charges of gun powder and bullets.”
Supported by this administration and army, the King of Accra was able to maintain law and order in his territories despite the fact that the accommodated an ethnically mixed population of Ga, Adanme, Guan and Akan. On the king’s power, Dapper remarked: “the King of Accra hath, (and not without cause) the repute of a potent prince… He hath a more absolute sovereignty over his subjects that any of his neighbours so that he is an unlimited monarch.”
Although Dapper’s remark as to the unlimited nature of the king’s power is perhaps exaggerated, there is no doubt that in the first half of the seventeenth century, the King of Accra was able to establish some of political ascendancy and authoritative control in the Accra plains. This was completely different scenario from the previous century, when the different Ga groups had existed as diverse and independent units.
It was during this period, when a degree of political unity amongst the Ga had been achieved and more importantly when the kingdom of Accra was in the process of territorial expansion that the King of Accra permitted European companies to establish trading forts in his kingdom.
THE KINGDOM OF ACCRA AND THE EUROPEANS 1600-1680
The Dutch, the English, the Swedes and the Danes were all permitted to build forts and lodges in the Kingdom of Accra during the 17th century. Of these, it was the Dutch who were the first to gain a foothold along the coast. In 1612, the Dutch West India Company sent a robe, a rapier and a hat to be presented to the King of Accra “for the honour and service of the fatherland. In 1614, the Dutch gave military assistance to the Ga in their war against Atty.
On 14th October 1624, it was reported to the states General that the West India Company of the Gold Coast had made an alliance and agreement with the King of Accra which stated that he would trade with no one but those from the Company.
This was the first of four agreements made between the Dutch West India Company and the kingdom of Accra. From a reading of these agreements one can glean that the predominant concern of the Dutch was to gain and maintain monopoly of trade on the Accra littoral.
The second agreement was signed with the king on October 1633. According to this agreement, the king and his elders were, upon their demand, given two marks gold in cash, (64 pounds) a red mantle and most importantly, a promise of 3 ounces 8 angels in gold every month. However, these gifts would only be provided if the king kept his words not to allow anyone but the Dutch to trade in Small Bereku, Accra, Labadi and Ningo.
The Dutch were not satisfied with this agreement, and therefore the Director General to the Gold Coast, Van Yperen, advised the Company to establish a fort with a garrison of men at Accra. Van Yperen demands of the king of Accra evidently did not meet with the spontaneous success that the Dutch had envisaged, as the directors of the Company later complained to the newly appointed Director General Van Amersfoot that, “Op dato” Van Yperen had not been able to obtain permission to build a fort, even though a good offer of a present of 1.5 marks gold had been made.
It was until 1642 that the third agreement was signed, a fact that show that the Dutch had been unsuccessfully angling for the favour of the King of Accra for at least thirty years! The agreement signed with Mampong Okai, King of Accra on 30th August 1642 was a remarkacable improvement on the first two. It gave Ruychaver, on behalf of the Dutch West India Company, the right to build “a lodge or house, even a fort as it shall please him, for the sum of 8 large bendas of gold.” In addition, the Company was also to pay a monthly ‘gifts’ of 2 ounces of gold.
The difficulties encountered by the Dutch before they were finally able to convince the king and sign the third agreement shed light on Accra commercial policy towards the Europeans during the first four decades of the seventeenth century. Out of all the people inhabiting the Gold Coast, the Ga provided a singular example of hostility towards the erection of forts on their shores. On the western coast, e.g. Sabu, Fetu and Agona, the chiefs were more than willing and sometimes even invited the Europeans to come and build in their territory. In 1611, Sabu went so far as to send ambassadors Carvalho and Marinho to Holland to request the assistance of the Dutch against the Portuguese. This resulted in the building of the first Dutch fort, at Sabu in 1612. Why then, should the Ga be so overtly hostile to the West India Company’s attempt to erect a lodge?
It appears that from the outset of the King of Accra was suspicious of Dutch intentions. If trade could be transacted efficiently and comfortably from the ships, then there was no need to build forts which would imply daily and hence more intimate contact. This suspicion was further compounded by past experiences with the Portuguese. The earlier Portuguese punitive expedition against the Ga would have made them extremely reluctant to allow any European to build forts on their shores, especially because some of those who had witnessed the expedition and had lost friends and relatives In the attacks were probably still alive in 1630. The fact that King Mampong Okai stated in the treaty that the Dutch should build the forts whether his people at the beach wanted it or not, implies that he expected opposition. Such opposition did indeed manifest itself when, within four months of signing the agreement, King Mampong Okai was murdered.
After the demise of King Mampong Okai, the Dutch felt it necessary to consolidate their position by signing another agreement with his successor Okai Kwei, in 1649. This in effect became the fourth agreement between the West India Company and the kingdom of Accra. The agreement conferred enormous power upon the Company. The first clause was the confirmation of the 1642 agreement. The second clause stated that when the Ga traders sailed to the western coast with ‘beads and accory’ to trade, they should use the proceeds from the gold to buy European manufactured goods. They were not, however, to trade with other foreign nations but only with the factories of the Dutch Company e.g. Elmina, Mouree or Adja. This is a very important clause so far as it reveals the extent of Dutch ambition. The Dutch were not content merely to control trade on the Accra seaboard, but wanted to control the Ga traders’ activities outside Accra as well.
The possibility of Ga traders flouting the terms of the agreement was provided for in the fourth article. This stated that if the Dutch factor or whoever else might have authority at Accra, caught a Ga person trading with anyother European Nation, he had the power to seize not only the purchased goods but also to confiscate on half of them for profit of the Company and the other half for the king and his Caboceers. Obviously therefore, the success of the actual implementation of these causes, depended on the strength of the Dutch garrison in Accra.
The fifth and last article incorporated a promise by the King to punish “with all rigour” wanton subjects who would injure any of the Company’s servants. The clause made the implementation of the fourth article easier for the Dutch. It meant that any Ga trader put up a fight whilst hi “illicit” goods were being seized by the Dutch and the latter received any injury in the struggle, the Ga trader would be punished “with all rigour) by his own king.
These agreements appeared highly advantageous to the Dutch, but the real test of their effectiveness lay in the ability and willingness of contracting parties to adhere to the terms. The renewal and confirmation of the agreements show that the Dutch had difficulty in ensuring that the King of Accra would continue to grant them monopoly rights to trade in the kingdom. Later agreements between the King of Accra and other European Companies show the Dutch fear and skepticism was not groundless.
The first threat to the Dutch monopoly came from the English. In 1646, it was reported by the Dutch, that since the departure of their ships, the people of Accra had requested that the English factor, Thymen Mulgrave employ a yacht to trade on their coast. Mulgrave accepted the invitation, but sine his only yacht had been dispatched to Benin, the matter was postponed. However, he told the Ga that first they must drive the Dutch away from Accra. This occurred during the regency established after King Mampong Okai’s death.
When the caboceers were reminded of the 1642 agreement and the Dutch threatened to remove the company’s goods, set fire to the lodge and evacuate the port, as they had done at Cormatyn, this “caused such a fight among them that they promised not to bring in the English.” As a result threats, donation of presents and the influence of Hendrick Caarloff (the acting factor of Accra) the Dutch seemed to have temporarily warded off the English danger. On July 3rd 1647, it was reported that the King had forbidden his subjects to trade with any Englishmen in Accra. Furthermore, in a leter dated 26th September 1647, it was alleged that in spite of the entreaties of Middleton (the English factor at Cormantyn) to build a lodge at Accra, the king declared that he will never break the alliance with the Dutch West India Company.
In 1650 however, this promise was broken. In the face of direct Dutch opposition and protest, a party of English, estranged from their English Guinea Company, was permitted by the King of Accra to build a lodge at Osu. Even though the English abandoned the lodge when the estranged party was reconciled to the Company, this was believed to be only a temporary retreat and not a complete abandonment. Consequently, they saw no reason why they could not, in 1657, resume their trading activities in Accra. The only factor which seemed to have checked their enthusiasm was the Dutch threat to take retaliatory measures by building a lodge at Winneba, the port of Agona, where the English also had a lodge.
The English resumed negotiations for the establishment of the lodge at Accra in 1659. This time they sent “a certain black” to the court of the king of Accra to negotiate for them. This development caused such panic that Sol, the Dutch factor, did not wait the monthly canoe to dispatch the news to the Director General, Valckenburgh at Elmina. Instead instructions were immediately sent to Sol to have the area where the English intended to build continually occupied by slaves and soldier or two and not to abandon it for any reason, “except for extreme violence” in which case he was to tender an enclosed written protest to the English. Such was the degree of consternation that in 1659 the Dutch sent their representative, Harman Jansen, to the King of Accra in Ayawaso, to check the veracity of the news and to protest against it.
The relationship between the kingdom of Accra and the English trading company appears to have been fragile. This was due to the lack of continuity of policy resulting from the constant reorganization of the company. In 1661, the Guinea Company was succeeded by the Company of Royal Adventurers into Africa. According to Davies: “the whole venture was more reminiscent of an aristocratic treasure hunt than an organized business.” Even after the reorganization in 1663, the company’s finances were chaotic. The commercial rivalry between the English and the Dutch further weakened the English company, before open war broke between the English and the Dutch in 1665. De Ruyter had deprived the English of all their settlements on the Gold Coast.
English commercial activities on the Gold Coast received fresh impetus when a new company, the Royal African Company succeeded the Royal Adventurers into Africa in 1672. In this same year, the Royal African Company was permitted by the King of Accra to build James Fort, near the village of Soko. The new fort would be situated west of the Dutch fort Creveceour and more importantly within its artillery range.
Other threats to the Dutch monopoly in Accra came from the Swedish and Danish African Companies. The shareholders of these two companies were mostly Dutchmen who were dissatisfied with the Dutch West India Company. Hendrick Caarloff, who had previously served as fiscal in the Dutch Company, can be seen as the principal actor amongst these distinguished Dutchmen. In 1652, Caarloff exploited the friendship which had existed himself and the Ga whilst he was in the service of the Dutch West India Company, to obtain permission for the Swedish African Company to build a lodge in Osu. When Caarloff left the service of the Swedish African Company, he seized the lodge at Osu for the Danish African Company. The Danes subsequently lost it to the Dutch in 1659, only to finally regain possession of it in 1661. According to the Danish version of the incident, they only achieved this victory when aided by the King of Accra, who ordered the Dutch to evacuate the lodge. Alternatively the Dutch maintained that Jost Cramer, the Danish representative, sent to the fort a certain Joan Jacob Ragot, who with the assistance of several hundred natives, drove away the employees of the Dutch West India Company, and stole their merchandise. What is significant is that in both versions of the event described, the Ga decided to help the Danish Company, although the accounts conflict on whether this aid came from the King or the common people. The Danes for their part evidently felt they had every right to the lodge since it was built by the Swedes, who had subsequently lost it to them through legitimate conquest.
If this conquest theory is pressed to its logical conclusion, one wonders why on 18th August 1661 the Danes signed an agreement with King Okai Kwei of Accra to obtain the same piece of land which the claimed to have already acquired by conquest. From the terms of the agreement on can deduce that the Danes were moved by the fear that they would be ousted from their newly acquired possession: conquest alone was no guarantee of long term occupancy.
The Danish agreement with the King of Accra deferred merely from the previous Dutch treaties and was a more realistic and workable document. More important than the fact that the Danes paid a lump sum of fifty bendas of gold for the land, was the absence of any attempt to establish a monopoly on the coast. Instead, the Danes were given land “to build a fort at the first opportunity”. The king understook to offer all assistance in the building of this fort and to help defend the Danes against any attacks from either Europeans or Blacks. This was exactly what the Danash Company needed at a time when it was just beginning to establish itself in the competitive Gold Coast trade with comparatively inadequate means of protection: it allowed them to lean on the king’s power to consolidate their own position. To show how seriously the king meant to take his pledged word and moreover to seal the agreement made with the Danish Company, he drunk the fetish named Aquandoe in the presence of Ahen (the son of Henequa, deceased King of Fetu). Ahen has been specifically sent to Accra by Jan Classen, a powerful merchant and Dey of Fetu to witness this oath.
In addition to the presence of the English, Swedes, Dutch and Danes who had trading forts on the Accra coast, the area also accommodated other European traders such as the Portuguese and French.
The Portuguese, whose earlier economic control of the Gold Coast had been destroyed by the Dutch seizure of their forts in 1642, later renewed their commercial interests in Accra. In 1679, they were able to gain control of the Danish fort Christianborg at Osu, when a Portuguese man named Julian de Campo Barrreto bought the Danish Fort from the Commandant Pieter Bolt for thirty six pounds weight of gold. The fort was renamed St Francis Xavier by the Portuguese. However, in response to protests from the Danish Company, the King of Portugal ordered the fort to be returned to the Danes. After the Portuguese had handed over the fort in 1683, they continued to trade from their ships on the Accra littoral.
Evidence of French trading activities in Accra is provided by Barbot, agent of the Fench African Company. Barbot transacted business in Accra and even paid visit to Ga capital Ayawaso in the company of Ofori, one of the Ga Princes who succeeded King Okai Kwei in 1677.
All these European traders were attracted to the Ga coast for one paramount reason: its reputation as a lucrative gold trading centre. Seventeenth-century European records abound with comments extolling the pre-eminence of the gold trade in Accra. De Marees observed at the beginning of the seventeenth century that the Accra traders “come with great store of money bringing the gold as it is found in the hills.” Van der Broecke also observed that “to this place of Accra comes down indeed the most and best gold of this whole coast.” Brun commented on parties of traders from Accra with “about sixty or seventy pound weight of the best gold. In February 1634, the Dutch West India Company reported that, “the same port of Accra has in the last seven months, yielded a considerably larger quantity of gold than previously which has caused to keep that place well assorted with every kind of merchandise.”
In 1646, Ruychaver stated: in the lodge of Accra it has been very distinguished for the circumstances of the time and 238 marks, 101/2 angels traded there. If the port could be properly supplied with merchandise it could undoubtedly bring in 60-70 marks monthly and various new Acanists from a certain village Aquema have sometimes appeared there, who have spent in a month 20-30, yea, 40 marks of extremely fine gold. It was also found that some Acory, but not very fine, was to be obtained at a reasonable price, of which a trial would be made; so that out of the place if goods are not lacking something good is to be expected.”
In December 1646, the Dutch West India Company reported that the Accra monthly canoe had arrived with and extract of the sales, consisting of 99 marks 4 ounces 12 engels. Unfortunately, the figures for the other European traders are not available and so do not allow a full appreciation of the volume of trade in Accra. However, Dapper claimed that “little Accra has been many years the chiefest place of trade upon the Gold Coast, next Mauree and Kormantyn, where foreign merchants carry iron and linen, which they exchange in barter for gold, with much greater gain than on the other places of the Gold Coast.” He further stated that Accra “produced a third part of the gold that was to be had on all the Gold Coast.”
The Royal African Company also remarked that “Accra is always a good place of good gold and sometimes plenty of slaves. This is the easternmost place of trade of good gold.” Accra,s supply of slaves during this period was estimated by Dapper to be a relatively small three hundred per year. Hence, although Accra certainly supplied slaves in the seventeenth century, gold was by far the more important and profitable trade at this time. European records consistently cite gold as the main attraction which tempted traders to the Accra coast and ensuring commercial rivalry between the different companies.
From the Dutch perspective, the presence of up to five other European trade nations in Accra meant that in spite of their previous treaties, they were not able to maintain the monopoly of trade in the kingdom. The Dutch saw the violation of these treaties as evidence of the treachery of the Ga. In 1650, when the Swedes had failed in their first attempt to establish a lodge at Osu, Arent Cock, the Dutch Director-General, was convinced that upon the imminent arrival of a new ship, the Swedes would inevitably succeed in their next attempt because “the infidelity of the nation is great enough to invite them to do it.”
A closer examination of the Ga-European relationship shows that there more complex reasons for the violation of the treaties. There seem to have been differences of interpretation as to the terms and ultimate meaning of the agreements.
As far as the Dutch were concerned, they had bought “the whole of the Accra beach with ports and habours thereof, together with the trade and traffic falling there.” Consequently, the King of Accra had no right whatsoever to allow any other European company to build or trade there. To the Dutch this was tantamount to a complete transfer of ownership. Conversely, the behavior of the King of Accra suggests that according to his interpretation, he had conceded to the Dutch only what N.A. Ollenu calls ‘occupational right.’ This meant that absolute ownership still rested with him alone. He could therefore quite legitimately invite other foreign nations to build on free land in his dominions. In 1659, he made it clear to the Dutch that although he had no intention of driving them away, if on the other hand they decided to leave of their own accord, others would certainly be allowed to occupy the vacated land.
K.Y. Daarku views these conflicting interpretations of the treaties as the result of fundamentally different attitudes towards land tenure that pertained in Europe and on the Gold Coast. In Europe land was owned by and individual or a company and could be expeditiously alienated. Conversely, on the Gold Coast, and indeed in many parts of Africa, land tenure was communistic. And individual could not therefore undertake a complete alienation of land to strangers: as Ollenu puts it, “land is owned by a vast family of whom many are dead, a few are living and a countless host are still unborn. This reason for the different interpretations of the treaties can only really be applied to the initial stages of Dutch contact with the Ga. The very fact that the Dutch had to pay a stipulated monthly sum of 2 ounces of gold to the King of Accra must have meant that they were aware that they were not the absolute owners of the land. Instead, they deliberately chose to call these payments gifts, implying that the donor had no right of refusal in granting them.
The attitude of the Dutch documented in other part of the Gold Coast illustrates that they were aware that the territories did not actually transfer land ownership to the Europeans. For example, in 1639 the French protested against the Dutch activities in Komenda on the pretext that they had already made an agreement with the King and therefore the Dutch were intruding on their rights. The Dutch, however, dismissed this protest on the basis that the area belonged to the King of Komennda and not the King of France and therefore he had the right to give permission to whomsoever he pleased. This principle, so expediently upheld by the Dutch, did not prevent them from claiming on the strength of the 1642 agreement with the King of Accra that the latter had lost his sovereignty over the Accra beach. This time, it was the turn of later arrivals like the Danes to point out to the Dutch that Accra belonged to the King of Accra and not to the Dutch West India Company.
This example illustrates the extent to which Europeans upheld the local King’s sovereignty and ownership of land only if they were not the first to acquire a trading post in a particular state.
The second reason behind the violation of the treaties was the King of Accra’s anxiety to make as much profit as possible from the European presence on the coast. De Marees remarked that the Ga are “a crafty and subtle people and the subtlest of all that coast for both traffique and otherwise.” This idea was fully displayed in an interview in 1659 which the King granted at his court at Ayawaso to Haran Jansen, a representative of the Dutch West India Company. the main reason motivating the Dutch to seek this audience with the king were:
1. To protest against an alleged English attempt to build a fort in Accra.
2. To protest against the presence of a lodge and the prevalence of trade in a section of Accra known as Osu, since this was a contravention of the 1642 and 1649 agreements and hence they wanted to persuade the king to have the lodge demolished.
3. To persuade the King to allow the inland traders Akanists (Akans) to come and trade directly with the Dutch on the coast.
4. To persuade the King to give the Give the Dutch temporary respite from the monthly payments, as trade returns were very low at the time.
The replies to the questions put to him by the Dutch representative suggest that the King was fully aware of the implications of the agreements, but that he was more concerned about filling his treasury than about pleasing the Dutch.
Jansen:- whether a request had been made by the English nation or by anyone on their behalf, or whether the King himself had made the request to them, that nation should establish a lodge and carry on trade here?
King:- the English had made no request for that purpose nor likewise by him.
Jansen:- Whether he understands that this can or may be done.
King:- Will not give a reply to this question.
Jansen:- If nevertheless the English or others made attempts to do so would not the King prevent it?
King:- Says yes he will prevent it.
Jansen:- Whether the King is still bearing in mind the agreement entered into?
King:- Replies yes.
Jansen:- Whether in pursuance of the same he will precisely observe that agreement and keep it in full vigour.
King:- Replies that at the same time as the agreement was made it had been decided by the contracting parties and the councilors that the Honourable Director will fix prices so as to trade as was traded at the other factories to windward.
Jansen:- Why does the king allow trade at Osu contrary to the agreement?
King:- Says that he ould not have the fort or lodge at Osu removed.
Jansen:- Whether then he understands that the agreement allows the trade?
King:- Replies yes.
Jansen:- As by that agreement it can be considered otherwise, whether he, the king, would resolve to renounce the trade at Osu or not?
King;- Declare certainly not, for that factory if producing greater profits.
Jansen:- What other reasons move him?
King:- Says he won’t do it.
Jansen:- Whether the King would not resolve to forbid his subjects in order to comply with the agreement to the trade with any other nation which they are doing daily, except with the Hollanders?
King:-Declares the he will by no means forbid them such.
Jansen:- Why does he keep the path closed to the Accanits so that they are prevented from being able to trade with our nation here?
King:- Says the reason is that no dashes are given, but if more presents are given him he will see to it.
Jansen:- As at present, no trade whatever is done here in the lodge Crevecoeur and it advisable to stop that trade for a time; whether the King understands, that their Honourable High Mightinesses and their Chartered Directors retain their right of ownership to the purchased land, ports and harbours.
King:- Says that on their departure others will indeed come in the place , but he is not driving them away.
Jansen:- Whether the King understands that if the Honourable General decides for the service of the Honourable Company to renew the trade again, this may be done at any time.
King:- Declares, yea, provided the usual customs are paid.
Jansen:- Whether in the absence of our nation, the king would allow any foreign nations to build and carry on trade here on the Honourable Company’s lands?
King:- But if it be advisable in order to watch for trade, to continue to stay here in the Lodge Crevecoeur during the lack of trade (they being the cause of it) would he understand – (it is stated with all courtesy) – that the payment of the monthly customs would be suspended until such a time as all the traders (as hitherto) were allowed access to the factory?
King:- Declares that he is not willing to forgo one cacra of his usual monthly customs.
The King of Accra was shrewd enough to realize that he could obtain better prices. There is evidence to show that European goods in Accra were more expensive than on the Western Coast. On 1st February 1643 Ruychaver, the Dutch Director-General, reported that he had fixed the price of linen at Elmina at 120 and at Accra at 110 per benda. He intended to put it one at 112 and 100 respectively if there was a good demand for it. In 1646, the Dutch Director-General admitted that for some year there had been a difference of 30 and 40 benda on linen, 10-12 1b. copper per benda and 1-2 engels on iron rods. The Ga traders at first tried to avoid the high prices in Accra by travelling to sell their goods on the Western Coast in order to secure a good bargain. Indeed, it was this disparity in price which, according to the Ga, prompted them to invite the English representative Thymen Mulgrave to send a yacht to Accra in 1646. The situation seems to have temporarily rectified, for, on 18th March 1647, Director-General Van del Wel reported on the remarkable improvement in the receipt of gold “which greatly the cause that we give things somewhat cheap at Accra.”
It is clear that the prices were not stabilized. They fluctuated according to demand and the competitive nature of the trade in a particular area. It was this factor which the King of Accra naturally exploited by permitting as many European traders as possible to transact business along his coast.
The policy for allowing more than one European nation to trade in Accra had other advantages apart from that of the control of prices. In addition to the lump sum and the gifts which were presented to the King upon the signing of the treaties, he collected monthly rent of one benda from each European company which had a lodge or fort on his land. The King of Accra also collected customs duties from each European ship that anchored in Accra waters. The Danes for example, had to pay half a benda for each ship that anchored at Osu. They also had to pay a tax on each item they unloaded, eg. One bar of iron, one anker on liquor and ten pieces says type of cloth. The amount of money the King received would therefore be directly proportional to the number of European trading in his territories.
Commercial rivalry between the European traders meant that the maintenance of the Dutch monopoly over the lucrative Accra trade became impossible, especially since, by seeking a monopoly of trade, the Dutch were trying to reverse a situation which had always prevailed on the Accra littoral. According to Dapper, trade in Accra “was free to all, till the Hollanders West India Company had engrossed it to themselves.” It would seem obvious that the other European traders would not be prepared to sit and watch while the Dutch enjoyed a monopoly of the profitable Accra trade on the strength of simple agreements and presents alone.
The establishment of forts on the Accra coast enticed the Ga people from the inland and from villages further afield to come and settle under the forts. These settler were still, however, under the command of the King of Accra, and he resented any attempt by the Europeans to exercise authority over them. For example, in August 1646, a Ga subject who apparently was a friend of some Caboceers was rebuked by the Dutch sub-factor, Reynier Carstens, for bringing in three fourth (3/4) of an ounce of false gold for sale in Crevecoeur. When the King heard of the reprimanding of his subject, he closed the trade path leading to the Dutch fort. Consequently, the Dutch had to pay more than one mark of gold before the paths were re-opened.
This power of the King to obstruct the flow of trade to the forts was dreaded by the Europeans. They tried therefore not to incur his displeasure and, to ensure this, solicited his favour by presenting him with gifts. These gifts con be divided into two categories. The first were voluntary donations made by the Europeans at their own convenience. For example, in 1680, the Danish African Company presented to the King of Accra a red velvet cloth with gold embroidery, a hat with the Danish King’s coast of arms, an umbrella, a muskets, gun powder and brandy. The second were customary presents, which though they were not stipulated in the agreements had become well established through long practice. For example the Danes had to pay 4 bendas to the King as a welcoming gift on his annual visits to the coast. They also had to pay one barrel of gun powder, (about 10-12 lb) and load of about 16-20 lb. when the King was engaged in war. After the war they were expected to congratulate him and help him to mourn the soldiers he had lost in the battle.
The donation of these gifts was limited to the person of the King alone. The King’s sons, wives and councilors were likewise presented with gifts each time they visited the forts. The most influential men in the kingdom also expected to receive presents from the Europeans. In 1642, when the treaty was signed with the Dutch West India Company, Teij, the King’s lieutenant, received 1 oz. 14 engels gold, the king’s children received 1oz 2 engels, the Caboceers of Grater Accra 3oz … engels worth of goods whilst those in Little Accra received 5 oz. 8 engels. The Mansebos also r eceived 6.5ankers of liquors. In 1680, the Caboceers of Grater Accra received from the Danish Company one anker French brandy and six bars of iron, whilst those in Osu received half an anker French brandy and six bars of iron. Likewise, the Mansebos received one anker corn brandy and four and four bars of iron. The oldest of the king’s brothers also received half piece of says, 4 bars of iron, ½ a piece of says, ½ anker of French brandy and small pieces of coloured Indian silk. The Paij-Marcador or Minister of trade also received ½ a piece of says, ½ anker of French brandy and 2 bars of iron.
Each group of Europeans had special friends amongst the Ga. Cornellison, the Danish factor at Osu from 1661-7, described Kwei Blanco, the oldest of the king’s brothers as his ‘special friend’. Likewise the Dutch had the support of St Jago, one of the principal men in Accra. The Dutch claimed that he brought down one third of the gold that came from the coast and that he had never been seen trading with other foreigners. St Jago went to visit the Dutch Director-General at Elmina and presented him with a fine sheep, for which he received 6 ‘pees’ in return. It was this same man who informed Sol, the Dutch factor, about the English intention to build a fort in Accra in 1659. The English similarly used the services of a ‘certain black’ to negotiate with the King in 1659, when they wanted to re-establish themselves in Accra.
The individual character and attitude of the Europeans in the service of the trade companies in Accra helped to determine the nature of the Ga-European relationship. When Hendrick Caarloff was acting factor for the Dutch in Accra, the relationship between the people and the company was very cordial. Thus, when the Dutch needed lime, they found ready help from the Ga, who negotiated for them to get oyster shells from Prampram, 5-6 miles from Accra. It is not surprising to find later examples of Caarloff capitalizing on his friendship with the Ga after he had left the service of the Dutch West India Company to obtain permission for first the Swedes and later the Danes to build trading lodges at Osu.
Another European servant who was able to win the friendship and confidence of the Ga was Christian Cornellisson, who worked for the Danish Company in Accra from 1661-7. His seven years’ experience in the service of the Swedish Company proved very useful to the Danes. It was said that he was so loved by the Ga that they protected him from poisoning and other such dangers. Numerous babies were even named after him. When he finally left the Gold Coast, he was evidently missed by the Ga, for, on his departure from Accra, the king ordered all his wives and his entire court to escort him to the boat. In 1680, thirteen years after leaving the Gold Coast, we still find Cornellisson sending presents to Okai Kwei, King of Accra and his elders.
The love and friendship exuded by Caarloff and Cornellisson contrast with the more usual sense of resentment, perhaps best personified by the Dutch factor Col. He was reported to be ni constant dispute with the Ga, treating them improperly in word and deed and driving them out of the lodge with bare weapons. It was not surprising that trade returns for this period were very low – 15 marks, six and three quarter engels as compared with the average of 70-80 marks which the Dutch usually obtained when trade was running smoothly.
The overall picture of the relationship between the kingdom of Accra and the Europeans is that it was essentially commercial, each party trying to make the maximum profit from the situation regardless of agreement or convention. For example, in instructions given in 1680 to the newly appointed governor-general of the Danish forts were directives stating that he should never pay anything to the king if the latter had no right to it; if he did have a right to it, the governor-general should try his best to reduce the amount involved by half or less. He should, however, do this diplomatically, so as not to incur the wrath of the King.
When one further analyses the Ga-European relationship as it existed during the 17th century, it becomes apparent that the king of Accra was the supreme player. Despite the complex connections of mutual responsibility and dependence which characterized the relationship, it was ultimately the King who controlled the flow of trade and goods which supplied the European forts. In essence, the prosperity and survival of the individual trading companies depended on the King’s goodwill.
It has been seen that the prosperity of the Accra kingdom depended on a sound economic policy in relation to the Europeans. Ironically, it was the very pursuit of such policy which caused friction between the Ga and neighbouring states during the seventeenth century.
THE KINGDOM OF ACCRA AND ITS NEIGHBOURS 1600-1680
In the middle of the eighteenth century, Johannes Rask observed that Ga women were often to be seen attempting to sift gold from the river with wooden bowls. The maximum amount they collected was twelve shillings worth for a whole day work, but more often than not the obtained nothing. This gold collected by the Ga women was obviously not the whole amount traded in Accra during the seventeenth century: since Accra had no gold mines, the commercial quantities of gold traded in the kingdom during the seventeenth century came from the gold producing hinterland. It was predominantly this which caused friction between the Ga and their neighbours. In essence, the role of the Ga was that of middleman, and consequently the prosperity of the kingdom of Accra lay in its ability to channel the flow of trade from the primary areas of production to the European trading forts on the Accra coast.
At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Ga acted as oarsmen and interpreters for the inland gold producers who came to trade with the Europeans on the coast.Brun has left a detailed description of the relationship that existed the Ga and the inland traders. In 1614, he observed: “when the Ga go out to sea, they have canoes, skillfully constructed from a hollowed tree, in which twenty or more men are able to sit. They wear no clothing other than a small Quaquahy, with which they cover their loins and genitals, the rest of the body being quite naked. But the Akan traders, who may bring to this place out of Acania say 60 or 70 lbs weight of the best gold, have also an outer garment a cloth worn over the shoulders, and they arrive in a stately manner, wuth say 150 or more slaves. For the Akan have no horses, but the goods for which they sell their gold are very heavy, iron, copper, brass basins, beads, mattocks and other large knives. These things, the slaves have to carry home on their backs like donkeys. They know no other language than Akan and so they use an Accra as interpreter, who may thus cleverly deceive the visitors. They use weight of two kinds; when they are purchasing they use the heavier weights; and sell with the lesser. When, however, they come on board ship, they generally become sick for they are not strong by nature and are not used to seas storms. For this reason, they have to go back to dry land quickly, and the Accras are entrusted with the transaction which they carry out as required from them. When they bring the trade goods to land, the Akan are not so content with them, so they go back to the ship and fetch a little spirits, which is gratefully and copiously drunk, so that they fall silent and rest content.”
The policy of allowing the Akan access to the coast to trade directly with the Europeans was abandoned as a result of the rise of the Accra kingdom. In 1647, the Dutch Director-General, Van der Wel, complained that the people of Greater Accra would not agree to their request to allow the Accanists and other inland traders to travel through the beach to trade. Dapper also remarked: “the King of Accra suffers none out of Aquemboe (Akwamu) and Aquimmera to come through his country to trade with our people, but reserves that freedom to his own subjects only, who carry the wares brought from our people to Abonce and exchange them there with great profit.
The King of Accra realized that his people would gain greater profit from the European presence if they had the monopoly of the trade on the coast and in its immediate hinterland. Through the monopolistic policy Accra exploited its position as both a coastal and an inland state. The kingdom of Accra stretched about twenty miles inland with its capital Ayawaso centrally situated eleven miles into the interior.
Accra’s external trade was so organized that traders from the neighbouring states were not even allowed to carry on commerce in the capital Ayawaso. A barrier of at least twenty miles was set between the producers of the gold and the ultimate purchasers on the coast. A special market was established northwest of Accra: a Dutch map of 1629 refers to it as the A.B.C. market of Accra. The market was situated about 21 miles from the coast and was doubtless the same one referred to by Dapper as Abonse, which he located as being two hours journey from Greater Accra.
Abonse was the market where the European goods such as cloth, basins, knives, gun and rum were exchanged for gold and slaves. In addition to the imported commodities, produce such as salt, fish and cattle were sold by the Ga in exchange for crops from the fertile inland regions. Dapper made a special reference to the cattle trade which was the principal occupation of the people of Labadi. According to his account, the trade of the inhabitants “consists chiefly in cows, whereof they breed some up themselves and others they fetch overland from Ley, a place eight or ten miles lower, which they sometimes sell again to the Akraman blacks and those of the upper most places.”
Abonse was a well organized market with its own minister assigned to regulate prices and levy taxes on transactions. It had specific market days, which according to Dapper were held three times a week, “with great resort of people out of all the neighbouring territories.”
Special market days must have been in existence in Accra even before the arrival of the Europeans on the coast. Towrson observed in 1657 that at Accra they would have no traffic with the Negroes, but three or four days in the week and all the rest of the week they would not come at us.” Pieter De Marees, who visited the coast in 1601, remarked that the Ga “come not often to buy wares, but observe certain days in the week to that purpose and then they come with great store of money, bringing the gold as it is found in the hills.” It is more than likely the Abonse market of the seventeenth century existed in the sixteenth century or at least was the successor to an earlier one which had existed on the northern frontiers of Accra.
Among the neighbouring states who traded at the Abonse market were the Akyem on the north-western frontier, known by the Europeans as the Great Akany. Dapper remarked that the Akyem “rarely come to the coast to trade to trade with the whites but conduct their trade in gold, cloth and other wares with their neighbours to the north. The mainly go the Abonse near Akora (Sic) because they exchange most of their gold for European goods.”
On the northern frontier was Aboera, which can be identified with modern Aburi. Dapper claimed that “very much gold is found here which the inhabitants bring to the market at Abonse.”
Further north was Tafoe, whose territory was excessively rich in gold and most of this gold is brought to Abonse. Some is occasionally brought to the sea side village of Moure.” On the north-eastern frontier was Akaradi, which was said to possess “very much gold which the Akanier brought to the markets. The inhabitants take it to the market at Abonse.” Further north-east was Kwahu, where “gold is also dug and taken to the market of Greater Accra for sale.
Accra’s policy to prevent these inland traders from negotiating directly with the Europeans on the coast contrasts with the policy of the state on the Western part of the Gold Coast during the seventeenth century (Axim, Sbu, Fetu, Commenda and Fante). There, the Akan traders from the interior were allowed by the kings to come and trade with Europeans on the coast so long as they paid their tolls. These inland traders went so far as to establish pockets of trading colonies in the coastal states. In Cape Coast in 1680, a man referred to as “Captain of the Akanists” was one of the most influential people in the kingdom of Fetu. Dapper also remarked that the Akanists “bring two-third of the gold which the whites buy on the Gold Coast each year. Normally, they come to little Kommando, Kormantin and especially to Moure to trade. Many of them live with their wives and children at Mouree and help new traders who come to the coast and have to pay customs duties on their goods. They are deceitful and cunning in trade. Their slaves carry the goods which they buy to various markets in the interior. They are able to travel anywhere with great freedom, though, Ati, Sabu and other surrounding territories, enjoy great freedom and are welcomed by everyone.”
The success of Accra’s monopolistic policy depended on the effective protection of her frontiers. Whilst there is no direct evidence to suggest that Accra had a special force to protect its people from intrusion and smuggling, there is evidence indicating that Accra had toll collectors on the major trade routes. One can therefore surmise that these toll collectors would have been backed by some sort coercive power so as to avoid the possibility of being overpowered by larg groups of foreign traders.
The success of Accra’s trading policy also depended, to some extent, on the absence of alternative markets and trade routes within the immediate vicinity of the kingdom. The eastern frontier created no problems, because the kingdom stretched right Adanme land to the Vlta. However, the western and northern frontiers did present difficulties and brought Accra into conflict with Agona, Latebi and Akwamu.
West of Accra was the kingdom of Agona, a stretch of coast which had likewise attracted European traders in the second half of the sixteenth century. For example, in 1557, the English merchant Towrson traded for gold in Bireku and Winneba. Agona’s trade with the Europeans suffered a lapse at the beginning of the seventeenth century, for example, in 1601, De Marees remarked that the Frenchmen ‘used to’ anchor at Bireku and the Breku used to buy great store of iron but since the ships had stopped trading there, the inhabitants travelled to Accra to trade. Although Agona may have ceased to attract the Europeans traders, she certainly carried on trade with her neighbours. De Marees observed that at Winneba the inhabitants use great traffique along the coast by selling their cattle; and because that there are many proper women; drivers of Negroes come from other places of the county thither to buy women and to fetch slaves to serve their turnes
Withal.” Dapper also remarked that the Agona had “but small trade for European wares and is therefore, little frequented. The best dealing is for slaves of Breku with the akerache (Accra) merchants which come thither, who exchange them for serges, viz a piece of serge for a slave or else two ounces of gold.”
To remedy to this paucity of European trade in Agona, the king allowed the English to build a trading lodge at Winneba. In 1656, the Dutch also claimed they had been invited by the King of Agona to build at Winneba. It is clear that by the mid-seventeeth century, Agona started to attract the European traders. Barbot observed in the second half of the seventeeth century that Accra and Agona “are well seated for trade, when they are not at war with their neighbours, for when they are, there is little gold and few slaves to be had.” He further commented: “the Accra blacks come down to this coast to trade, when they hear the ships riding , that had a well sorted cargo, of such goods as they have occasion for, viz.: says, old sheets, cosvelt linen, bugles, iron and brandy.”
It appears that the kingdom of Accra became jealous of this revival of European trade in Agona. Accra’s policy towards Agona was hostile but the latter seemed to tolerate this hostility, probably, for fear of being completely subjugated. By 1634, Accra had already incorporated the Agona town of little Bereku, Which was famous for the manufacture of arms, into the kingdom of Accra. In 1655 however, war finally broke between the Ga and the Agona as a result of Accra’s aggression. It was reported by the Dutch upper factor Isaac Shutt that “through some crss (accras) there,great disturbances had arisen, who going about Obu (Obutu?) came and plundered the corn of the agunas, about which being many times warned, they would not, however, cease so that the Agunas have massacred twelve of them and wounded three.”
Ga raids on Agona had another underlying factor, which was more immediately important than commercial jealousy. Accra suffered from intermittent shortage of food. Dapper remarked that provision in Accra was very “scarce, especially fruits and bread-corn, so that whatever whites put into this place to trade must of necessity provide themselves well with all necessary provisions.” In 1640, the Dutch Director-General, Arent Jacobsen Van Amersfort, noted: “there is a bad harvest again at Accra from which it is feared much would perish. The port of Accra had produced nothing for months. It appears that the traders are so impoverished through the famine and not six marks gold a month has been received.” Oral tradition likewise talks of a great famine which the Ga so severely that when it finally ended it became an occasion for a national celebration, Homowo, during which the ghosts of the ancestors were invited to share in the feast.”
In contrast to the scarcity to food in Accra, Agona was endowed with abundant supplies. De Marees observed that “the country people (Agona) thereabout are good husband men, and sow much millie, presse good store of palm wine and bring great number of young cattle up.” the Ga therefore capitalized on this abundance by raiding Agona corn whenever there was food shortage in Accra.
In 1655, Agona used these on their corns as a justification for finally settling the Ga menace on its eastern frontiers. They were probably incited to open war by a promise to help the Ga’s traditional enemies, the Akwamu, and indeed evidence records that the Akwamu did become allies of the Agona in this war. In 1637, it was reported by the Dutch Director-General, Valckenburgh, that trade had been especially bad at Accra “though the war of the Agunase (Agonas) who has laid waste the whole country of Accra and laid it in ashes.”
Valckenburgh’s report somewhat exaggerated the state of affairs that existed in Accra in 1657. It is more than likely that the Agona only succeeded in burning some of the Ga towns, rather than laying waste to the whole of Accra. If the Agona’s defeat of Accra had been so decisive, the war would doubtless have ended at this stage and peace would have been established. Valckenburgh mistakenly interpreted the long duration of the war as due to the fact that “the blacks have a custom that they must win or lose twice in succession ere they make peace.” Evidently, Valckenburgh misunderstood the local custom, whereby it was only when the warring parties were equally matched and the battle was indecisive, that they needed to secure to consecutive victories to be acknowledged undisputed victors.
In essence, the long duration of the Ga-Agona war can be attributed to the fact that other states were invited to join as allies. For example, in response to the Agona-Akwamu alliance the Ga won the support of the Akyem. In the course of the war valckenburgh reported: “The King of Agona in alliance with Akwamu a district situated behind Accra, is waging war against Accra, against whom the Acrase who have those of Akyem or Great Acanis to their assistance were stirring in the interior in the hindrance of the trade at the aforenamed place, which has indeed fallen badly to our (Dutch) share that we have given them over to God to pacify the war of which there is little probability. However, our diary can testify to the trouble we have already for a long time taken therein in the hopes that the king of Agona being of Minse descent would let himself be persuaded by means of the aforesaid Minse. Accra shows itself disposed but it is idle and beyond our power to place obstacles in the way of the war, for furtherance of peace….it is best that the contending partiesshow themselves to be tired and they will then arrange themselves.”
By February 1659, Agona had expressed her willingness for a peace settlement. On 4th February in this same year, Valckenburgh recorded in his diary that he called up the Caboceers of Elmina and informed them that the King of Agona “would now be glad to accept their mediation, rejected by him to pacify him with Aquim and Accra” and that the peace settlement should take place before Valckenburgh’s departure from the Gold Coast. The Caboceers in turn informed Valckenburgh that a similar request had been put to them on behalf of the King of Agona, and “as he was descended from among them they would therefore also gladly concern themselves in the matter but not without being paid for their trouble because of that and they would likewise send a message to the Agona king about this.” The Caboceers, therefore, requested Valckenburgh, “to have the Accra King sounded about it” by the Dutch factor in Accra. It appears that this peace between Accra and Agona was short-lived, for in 1677 the latter once more allied with Akwamu against Accra.
The problem of Accra’s northern frontiers is further highlighted in her relationship with both Latebi and Akwamu. Latebi, which appears on 1629 map as situated northeast Accra, is now modern Late in Akuapem. An oral tradition recorded by Meyerowitz relates that the Late people were immigrants from Binin who founded the early settlements of La Doku Labadi. As a result of a quarrel between the La, the Nungua and the Ga Mashi, a chief of the La known as Fianko Adeyite led a majority of his people and settled some thirty or forty miles inland.Kwamena Poh also relates that the Late Kubease people claim to have emigrated from Benin whilst the Late Ahenease people trace the migration of their ancestors from the coast between Tema and Labadi.
The author’s collection of oral tradition from Labadi indicates that the Late people originally formed part of Labadi. Whilst in Labadi, their leader Late was unusually fond of cuasing the death of pregnant women. The Lakpa priest was so enraged at this obstruction to the population growth of the Las that he exiled Late together with his followers into the hills to join the Guan. This incident is commemorated in the Kple song:
“Otwi be in bo le.”
The exiled Late and his followers were called Labadi by the Ga, i.e. Late’s children. From these records of oral tradition it is probable that the Late are a mixture of Ga but with Guan as the predominant element.
The position of Latebi or Late on the 1629 map coincides with the old settlement of the Late Ahenease. According to Late Ahenease tradition, (recorded by Kwamena-Poh), they settled “at the eastern foot of the Akuapem hills, a place they called Mantim, in a number of small settlements in the area where Ayikuma and other nearby Shai towns are today. These were thirty in all.”
The strategic position of Latebi on the eastern foot of the Akuapem hills made it an ideal place for market centre. According to Dapper, Latebi had “a great fair or market wither all sorts of wares are brought; much exceeded by that of Abonse.” In essence, Latebi provided the inland traders with an alternative market to Abonse. More importantly, it also meant that prices in Abonse market could be modified by prices in Latebi.
The kingdom of Accra was determined to control or destroy the Latebi market, so as to ensure that their monopoly over the inland trade was absolute. On 27th October 1646, the Dutch Director-General Van de Wel received a report from the fiscal Hendrick Caarloff detailing how the of Small and Greater Accra had marched together to make war on the people of Latebi. There had been a severe battle on the 22nd October which had resulted in the defeat of Latebi. One thousand heads were brought in by the Ga, and they promised that their victory would be very favourable for trade. Although the Latebi were defeated in this war, it seems that the Ga were not able to gain the complete control over trade which they had desired. Moreover, the issue of Latebi became a question of some contention between Accra and her northern neighbour Akwamu.
The history of the Akwamu prior to their settlement in the Ga hinterland has not documented. However, Ivor Wilks, basing his evidence on the Akwamu oral tradition, suggests: “the Akwamu royal clan, Abrade, claims to have originated from Twifo. Earliest documentary sources for Akwamu history, however, belong to the seventeenth century, when the Akwamu state was already constituted in something like its present form, though at that time, it was alternatively known as Oquie, i.e. Okwi.”
The Akwamu are remembered in Ga oral tradition as strangers who were given land, Nyansoase, on which to settle. Romer wrote in the middle of the eighteenth century that the Akwamu “came to the King of Accra, asking for his friendship, which they got, and were allowed to settle a little inland four miles from the sea. Within half a century, they became a great people.”
The story suggesting that the Akwamu were offered land by the Ga, differs from that which Rask recorded at the beginning of the eighteenth century. According to him, it was the Akanists (Akyem) who “out of kindness” granted a part of their country to the Akwamu for settlement.
Regardless of whoever granted Akwamu the land on which they settled, there is no doubt that a close relationship existed between the Akwamu at Nyansoase and the Ga. The relationship was at first that of vassal and suzerain, and indeed Tilleman remarked at the end of the seventeenth century that the Akwamu had had to pay tribute to the King of Accra until at least 1677. Likewise, Reindorf, basing his account on oral tradition remarked that, “in every yearly grand feast of the Accra king, the chiefs of Obutu and Akwamu were his hammock carriers, or, at any rate, the chiefs over these carriers.”
Romer records the story of the Akwamu prince being sent to the King of Accra to ‘learn something’ but does not give any date for the presence of this Akwamu prince in the King of Accra’a court. He does, however, state that whilst the prince, later nicknamed Akotia, was in the court of the Accra King that the Portuguese arrived in Accra. Akwamu oral tradition credits Akotia with the founding of Nyansoase, which means that Nyanaoase must have been founded in the second half of the sixteenth century. This idea is supported by archaeological evidence, for, according to Ozanne’s report on excavations in Nyanaoase, the site was settled at the end of the sixteenth century.Ivor Wilks postulates that the Akwamus were encouraged by the Ga to settle on their northern frontier in order to exchange and consolidate trade in the Accra kingdom. He suggests: “to Akotia, aware of the vaue of the Accra gold trade, and with a firsthand acquaintance with the pattern of the Akan-Portuguese commerce in the Accra area, resettlement at Nyanaoase under Accra patronage was obvious way of insinuating the Akwamu into the venture. To the Accras, permitting the Akwamu to settle at Nyanaoase as tribute paying clients, not only was there an immediate gain in revenue, but also the chance to utilize the newcomers in strengthening the northern frontier.”
If strengthening of her northern frontiers was Accra’s motive for encouraging the Akwamu immigrants to settle in Nyanaoase, then the Ga must have been disappointed. By 1646, the Akwamu no longer behaved as tribute paying vassals of Accra. Conversely, they had managed to establish control over a substantial part of the northern frontier of Accra. Describing the Akwamu (Oquy) in 1656, the Dutch fiscal Caarloff stated: “the kingdom lies three or four miles north of Greater Accra, is bounded in the west by the Fantyn (Fante) district and running further to the East of Accra as far as Aquimena, and includes Latebi which this king of Oquy claims to be his, and extends northwards up to the district of Acany; and although this Oquy king has received some gold from the Accras (Ga) in order that the Latebes might freely pass to the Cras without his opposition…there is no great love between the Oqys and the Accras…”
It is significant that it was the Ga who had to pay gold to the King of Akwamu in order that the Latebi should have unhindered passage to Accra.this is surprising when one considers that it was Accra which had defeated Latebi.
The payment of gold by Accra to Akwamu does not necessarily mean, as suggested by Ivor Wilks, that by 1646 Latebi had been drawn into the Akwamu power complex. Kwamena-Poh, basing his argument on Romer, Reindorf, Biiorn and further archaeological evidence, has established that it was only after the Ga had been defeated in 1681 that the Akwamu started ruling the Latebi. Kwamena-Poh’s hypothesis means that either the Ga were able to re-establish control over Latebi after a temporary lapse in 1646 or else the Akwamu threat from 1646 onwards was limited to a desire to control the trade route from Latebi to Accra rather than a complete ownership of Latebi. In fact Kwamena-Poh describes the Akwamu menace in 1646 as “a mere economic blockade of Accra.”
The Accra-Akwamu conflict shows that by 1646, the Akwamu had begun to move away from the position of vassals towards that of being a major threat to Accra on her northern frontier. Further Akwamu-Ga hostility was displayed in 1656-9, when the former allied with Agona in war against the latter. However, the hostility between the kingdom of Accra and Akwamu only erupted into open warfare in 1677
Reindorf suggests an earlier date for this war. According to his sources, Okai Kwei committed suicide in the war against Akwamu on 20th June 1660, when he realized the treachery of the generals in the field of battle. This date, however, is untenable. It was the same Okai Kwei who signed an agreement with the Danish African Company in 1661, and he was certainly still alive the Danish representative Cornellisson left Acrra in 1667. Moreover, thirteen years after cornellisson’ departure from Accra he sent a letter and presents to Okai Kwei. The period is long enough for Cornellisson to have heard of Okai Kwei’s death if he had died immediately after the Danish representative’s departure from Accra in 1667.
Conversely, Barbot, a French trader who in February 1679 visited his friend “King Fouri” at Little Accra, dates the defeat of the kingdom of Accra to 1680-1681. Finally, Eric Tilleman, a Danish trader who was in Accra in the 1690s and was sent on a mission to the Akwamu capital in 1698, dates the Ga-Akwamu war to the year 1677. From these sources one can deduce that the Ga-Akwamu war must have started in 1677 and ended in 1680.
Accorsing to Reindorf, the Ga-Akwamu war was caused by Okai Kwei’s error in following the advice of his councilors and circumcising the Akwamu prince Odei whilst he was staying at his court in Great Accra. The circumcision was performed so as to enable prince Odei to participate in the ceremonies associated with the king’s court and with the worship of the Ga gods. The councilors who advised Okai Kwei on the circumcision obviously wanted to incite trouble between Okai Kwei and the Akwamu, because they would have been aware that circumcised people were not allowed on the throne of Akwamu. As soon as Pince Odei had been circumcised, the Ga chiefs, led by the warlord Nikoilai, informed the Akwamu of the circumcision and pledged to help them to get rid of the ‘perfidious’ Okai Kwei. Prince Odei was consequently recalled to Akwamu, where his people noticed the circumcision and bypassed him in the succession to the throne and instead made Ansa Sasraku King of Akwamu. Both Odei and Ansa Sasraku persisted in demanding from Okai Kwei the restoration of his foreskin, which obviously proved to be an impossible feat. As a result of his failure, Okai Kwei convened a meeting of his generals and chiefs, who advised him to send a general “to plunder the Akwamu.” Hence, war inevitably started the Ga and Akwamu.
Reindorf’s account was partly based upon Romer’s 18th century rendition of the same incident. Romer states that due to the loss of his foreskin, the circumcised Prince was nicknamed Akotia (the midget, the short) by his subjects. He also states that the Akwamu Prince was sent to the Accra King’s court when the Akwamu were given the land on which they settled. He further more makes it quite clear that the Ga King who circumcised the Aakwamu Prince was not the one who later fought against the Akwamu.
It has already been stated that Nyanaoase was settled by the Akwamu at the close of the sixteenth century. Romer’s account therefore, makes the circumcision of the Akwamu Prince a late sixteenth century or early seventeenth century episode. Romer’s narration also implies that OkaiKwei, who succeeded to the Ga throne after his father had been murdered in 1642, was not responsible of Akotia’s circumcision, as stated by Reindorf.
The dating of this circumcision episode based upon Romer’s narration is marginally more acceptable than that of Reindorf’s. The plausibility of Romer’s account is based on the notion that certain conditions must be necessary before any state will send its heir apparent to another state to learn their customs. Either the host state is suzerain over the kingdom of the heir-apparent and therefore can perhaps demand him as security against rebellion in the vassal state, or else there must be cordiality and trust between the two states.
However, it has already been stated that by 1646 the Akwamu had moved from being vassal of Ga to being threat to the kingdom of Accra on its northern frontier. The Ga even had to pay gold to the Akwamu to allow the Late traders access to Accra. In this same year, it was stated categorically by Hendrick Caarloff that “there is no great love between the Oqis (Akwamu) and the Accras because some years ago, the Accras had killed this king’s father. If this truly was the case, why would the Akwamu send their heir-apparent to the court of such a king to study? One should also bear in mind the fact that the Akwamu allied with the Agona to fight the Ga from 1655-59. In short, Akwamu-Ga relations from the 1640s onwards were anything but cordial. Ti is very doubtfull whether the Ga would have tolerated the presence of an Akwamu heir-apparent in their court in the second half of the seventeenth century, as it would have been tantamount to the Ga exposing their weaknesses and the intricacies of government to their enemy. Moreover, it is possible that it was the very circumcision of Prince Odei that the Akwamu referred to as an act murder in 1646. It was stated that Akotia was never able to gain complete control over his subjects due to the loss of his foreskin. He was even compelled to promise at an assembly that he would regain his foreskin from the King of Accra. He consequently sent messages to the King of Accra to bring his foreskin together with a fetish priest to restore it to its original place. This loss would have tormented Akotia to his grave. Both the Ga and Akan have a belief that sorrow can cause death.
Dele gbeE Me. Grief kills.
Awerehow kum sumsum. Grief kills the soul.
Although Akotia was unable to settle this problem with the Ga before his death, his successors must have continued to nurse his grievance. This antagonism towards the Ga would have been compounded by Accra’s rigorous economic policy, which forbade the Akwamu access to the coast. In short, the circumcision, if it did occur all, was a remote rather than an immediate cause of the Ga-Akwamu war of 1677-80.
The chronological confusion in the presentation of Reindorf’s account is probably due to the fact that he collected his oral tradition more than a hundred years after Romer, and so the information he received had undergone the modifications and omissions typical of such evidence. In Reindorf’s time, Okai Kwei had probably become so unpopular that any inauspicious events in Ga history would be attributed to him even if the events had occurred long before his reign. The existence of this kind of false accusation among the local people is summed up in the Akan proverb:
“Ade se prako” Evil befits the pig.
In reality, the pretext for the Ga-Akwamu war of 1677-80 was provided by the Ga generals. According to oral tradition, Okai Kwei’s son murdered the son of Nikoilai, the great Ga general. Instead of Okai Kwei apologizing for the murder, he treated Nikoilai as if the deed were triviality. Nikoilai in revenge plotted with the other Ga generals to get rid of Okai Kwei. He managed to amass this support because of Okai Kwei’s wickedness. He is remembered in Ga tradition as a cruel king, son of cruel mother Dede Akaibi, i.e. “kaa fEE loofiE”, “the crab does not beget a bird.” He encouraged his son to perform hostile and barbarous acts on his subjects. For example, they were said to have murdered the sons of the Ga chiefs and seduced other men’s wives.
Nokoilai and his fellow conspirators sought the aid of Akwamu in order to get rid of the tyrant Okai Kwei. They promised that if Akwamu declared war against the Accra king, they would not fire their guns against the Akwamu army. However, the Akwamu saw this offer in a very different light, regarding it as an opportunity for a complete defeat of the kingdom of Accra. Thus, whilst the Ga saw the conspiracy on 1677 as a coup d’état with Akwamu aid against a despotic king, the Akwamu saw it as an open war to be waged against the kingdom of Accra. The Akwamu therefore begun to look for allies in case the Ga generals should change their minds during the battle. The hired the Agona and the Acron for this purpose. More importantly, they also purchased the neutrality of the Akyem, supposed allies of the Ga.
Okai Kwei, although aware of the Akwamu preparations for war, did not take any effective counter-measures. Instead, he treated the Akwamu threat with contempt, firstly because his soldiers were well armed and secondly, more importantly, his army outnumbered the Akwamu and their allies by ten to one. Okai Kwei was obviously not aware of the conspiracy of his generals, he is said to have cursed the Ga and committed suicide. With his death, the Ga naively thought that the war would be over. It was only when they realized that the Akwamu were bent upon their complete annihilation that they started to take the war seriously. However, instead of uniting together to face the Akwamu onslaught, they broke into disputing parties over who should succeed Okai Kwei.
According to Romer, there were a number of pretenders to the throne, each of which was backed by armed supporters. This disputed succession was probably the reason why Ofori, whom Barbot referred to as King of Accra in 1679, chose to have his residence in Small Accra under the Dutch fort Crevecoeur, instead of at the capital Ayawaso. At least on the coast he would have felt secured from his warring rivals and the endemic menace posed by the Akwamu.
The three European companies residing in Accra inevitably became involved in the war. The very fact that King Ofori chose to live under the Dutch fort shows that he had considerable faith in their support. In 1679 the English ship ‘Isabella’ was sent from Cape Coast to help in the “realizing of Ofori, king of Accra.” The Danes likewise thwarted an Akwamu attempt to capture Osu. The English and the Dutch either changed sides during the war or diplomatically supported both Akwamu and the Ga. Tilleman commented that the English and Dutch, unlike the Danes, complied with every whim and fancy of the Akwamu. In July 1680, the English sent fusees to Ansa Sasraku, King of Akwamu, as presents. Furthermore in September they lent him one hundred muskets and four barrels of gun powder for his final attack upon the Ga.
The Akwamu finally succeeded in taking possession of the kingdom of Accra in 1680. According to Romer, the took advantage of the disputes among the Ga and fought three battles in one year which ended in the total defeat of the Ga. The king’s sister along with her two children and a few slaves escaped and fled eastwards to Little Popo. In Barbot’s account, King Ofori fled to Fetu, because he was a near relation of the Fetu King Ahen Penin Asirifi. It is likely that Ofori later left Fetu to join his subjects and kinsmen in their new settlement across the Volta.
In 1698 Tilleman made reference to a King Ofori of Little Popo, one of the new settlements founded by the fugitive Ga. Bosman likewise made reference to ‘Aforri’, a deceased King of Little Popo who he described as being very warlike in contrast to his brother who was a man of peaceful disposition and who was ruling at the time when Bosman visited Little Popo. Bosman’s description of the late King Ofori’s character corresponds with Barbot’s description of King Ofori of Accra in 1679. According to Barbot, Ofori was “a man of good mien, a great friend of Europeans but of too restless a spirit which at last occasioned his ruin.”
Oral tradition collected from Fio Agbano II, paramount ruler and descendant of the Ga who left Accra to found the new settlement in the present day Republique du Togo, suggests that, in the wake of the defeat of the Ga, two Princes, Foli Bebe and Foli Hemazro, took two thrones from Accra to their new settlements, one made of ivory and the other of “ebene incrute d’or.” The two princes were men of opposite temperament. One was calm and peace-loving and the other irascible. Foli Bebe and his followers founded Glidzi, whilst Foli Hemzro took the thrones and hid them at Zewla, six kilometers from Glidzi. The two brothers visited the king of Tado, who received them kindly and gave them permission to settle. After Foli Bebe and his brother founded their settlements, other Ga refugees came to join them. The leaders of these different groups of Ga refugees founded a number of straggling settlements amongst the Ewe inhabitants. Among the settlements founded by the Ga refugees were Glidzi, the capital and present abode of the paramount ruler, situated about three miles inland Zewla, where the stools brought in by the Ga were kept and still in hiding, and Aneho, the sea side settlement and port also known since the seventeenth century as Little Popo.
The Ga refugees did not live peacefully in their new settlements. According to Bosman, their main enemies were the Cotosians, who occupied the eastern bank of the Volta. Both Popo and Coto were hired by the Akwamu to help them in their wars against each other, and in some cases the Akwamu forces inevitably found themselves fighting on opposite side. This was particu;arly true during the period when Akwamu was ruled by two kingd, Basua and Ado, the former bacing Popo, the latter Coto. In 1700, the Popo touted the Coto and forced them to leave the country. However, the Coto were reinstated on their land when Akonor became King of Akwamu in 1702.
Popo, under the leadership of warlike King Ofori, became involved in the wars of the Dahomean coast. According to Bosman, in response to a call for help from the King of Ardra (Allada), Ofori led a punitive expedition against the “Fidalgo, or Viceroy of Offra”, vassalof Adra. Another call for aid from the Adra King involved an expedition against the Whydah. However, due to the fact that a convoy of reinforcements sent to King Ofori was attacked by the enemy, this campaign was ultimatively unsuccessful. Consequently, Ofori had to make a fast retreat from Whydah back to Popo. On his return to Popo he decided to punish his old enemies of Coto, who were said to have attacked his kingdom during his absence. It was during this war with Coto that Ofori met his death. His brother and successor duly avenged this death on the Coto.
According to the traditional sources, Foli Babe’s younger son of Assiongbon Dadje, who was also warlike and restless, left Popo and became a general in the Dahomean army. However, he became the object of jealousy in the Dahomean capital because of the many successful expeditions he had led against the enemies of Dahomey. He finally escaped a plot to assassinate him and fled back to Popo with a section of the Dahomean army. An ensuing expedition sent by the King of Dahomey to capture Assiongbon was completely routed.
The oral tradition describing these events is supported by wider documentary evidence. In 1737, the Danes reported that the kingdom of Ardra and Whydah were at war with the Popo and had pursued them as far as Keta, where the Dutch had a fort. The Dutch later reported that the Dahomean army had ruined their fort at Keta. This army was in pursuit of Ashanmo (Asjembo), a Caboceer of Little Popo who had affronted them and subsequently fled to an island in the Volta River. Ashanmo joined forces with his cousin, described as “a certain Accra man named Ofori Caboceer of the Crom Ocoy”, and together with the Crepe, they surrounded the Dahomean army and totally defeated them. On this incident the Dutch Director-General De Bordes commented: “the only consolation that we have, however, in this lamentable occurance (i.e. the destruction of the Dutch fort at Keta) is that the United Accras have fallen upon these plunders and defeated them, yes indeed of the 13,000 Dahomean men, not a single one was able to escape.” After the defeat of the Dahomean forces, ashanmo was able to gain control of the area from Little Popo to Keta and beyond, possibly to the mouth of River Volta. The Popo were said to live on the proceeds from slave-raiding expeditions against neighbouring states. They established a notorious reputation amongst the European companies for cruelty and dishonesty in their trade transactions. Bosman went so far as to describe tham as “fraudulent and thievish.”
The fugitive Ga maintained a strong relationship with those who remained in Accra after 1680. Popo and the neighbouring towns became an Asylum for the Ga whenever trouble arose with the Akwamu (especially in 1708 and 1724, when Accra was invaded by the Akwamu forces). The exiled Ga also gave active help in punishing those who offended their kinsmen in Accra. For example, in 1725 the Danish lodge at Keta was attacked, because It was believed that the Danish Governor Hern had invited the Akwamu to invade Accra. More fundamentally, the fugitive Ga also showed their willingness to subsidise the rebellion, which resulted in the collapse of Akwamu power in 1730. In return for such generosity in spirit, the Ga exiles expected reciprocal aid from Accra when necessary. For example in 1758, King Ashanmo sent an embassy to Tete, King of Accra and his Caboceer Okaidza, to ask for help against Dahomean threat.
Such were the fortunes of the Ga people who fled from Accra after the Akwamu war of 1680. Those however, who chose to remain in Accra had to adapt themselves to a very different environment. In 1680 the Ga capital Greater Accra had been destroyed, and consequently the inhabitants were obliged to go and live under the protection of the European forts, or to move to other Ga coastal towns. According to Barbot, it was only the presence of European forts that saved the Ga from complete annihilation at the hands of the Akwamu: “had they wanted for that secure retreat, few or none of them had been left alive or at best in any condition to drive the trade they now have.”
Of all the coastal towns, it was Aprag or Little Accra, which suffered the worst Akwamu devastation. Aprag, which lay under the protection of the Dutch fort, was the town where King Ofori used to have his residence. However, during the attack most of the houses were burnt down and lost. Bloome, an English factor at Accra, remarks in his memoirs of 1693 that the Ga town Soko (which lay under the protection of the English fort) was “one of the finest and largest of the Gold Coast”. This was because Soko had been enlarged by a number of families who had fled to the town from Aprag. By 1697, however, the other towns Aprag and Osu must have improved, for Tilleman observed that Aprag could produce 500 armed men and Osu 300, as compared to only 60 which could be produced by Soko.
In the aftermath of the Ga defeat in 1680, came far-reaching changes in the social and political structure of the kingdom of Accra. A certain Nii Ayi (son of Okai Kwei’s sister by a man of the royal house) emerged as king of the remnant Ga. To allay people’s fears as to his eligibility to rule he composed the kple song:
“AtseE mi Tunma Ayi Ablade “I am Tunma Ayi of royal birth,
Nhie Ablade, nsee Ablade” I am Royal on both sides.”
Nii Ayi, who had his residence in Aprag (Usshertown), was unable to wield any lasting influence over the Ga towns. Instead, each individual town, under the leadership of its petty ruler, acknowledged the supremacy of the Akwamu king. The former kingdom of Accra had become an agglomeration of separate units, which although still bound together by kinship, language and customary ties, had to acknowledge the King of Akwamu as its suzerain.
THE GA UNDER AKWAMU RULE AND EUROPEAN PROTECTION 1680-1728
The defeat of 1680 precipitated significant change on the Ga littoral. The Akwamu people, who had formerly been prevented by the King of Accra from coming to trade on the Acra coast, now had untrammeled freedom to trade to all the Ga towns. However, due to the Akwamu’s relative inexperience and the language difficulties encountered when trading with the Europeans, they were unable to capitalies on this newfound freedom. Indeed the Ga were able to continue acting as middlemen between the Akwamu traders and Europeans. Both Rask and Romer commented that the Ga made enormous profit from their position as middlemen and often cheated the Akwamu traders.
However, some of the Akwamu who came to trade or seek their fortunes in the Ga towns became permanent settlers. For Example, the ancestors of the Otublohun quarters of Ga Mashi are of Akwamu origin. The leaders of these settlers, Pieter Pasop and Amo, wielded enormous unflence as a result of their dual roles as Akwamu Governors in Accra and brokers for the powerful Dutch company.
Commercially, there was a gradual but ultimately crucial change on the Gold Coast during the period of Akwamu suzerainty. The slave trade started to gain importance. The Akwamu began to realize that it was more to capture slaves and sell them to the Europeans than to rely solely on their gold-producing neighbours, especially when it became clear that Europe was visibly increasing its demand for slaves during these years.
The most significant change which resulted from the defeat of 1680 was a loss of status on the part of the Ga. People who had previously been overlords of the Akwamu and the European trading companies now became vassals of Akwamu and protégés or subjects of the European companies. Thus the Ga now had two masters.
The Akwamu kings who ruled the Ga were Ansa Sasraku, who died shortly after 1680, his successor Basua (who shared the throne with a certain Ado until his death in 1699), Ado, who ruled until his death in 1702, and Akonor, who reigned until 1725. Akonnor was succeeded by Ansa Kwao, whose reign ended with the fall of the Akwamu empire in 1730.
The Ga, due to their position as vassals to the Akwamu, had certain obligations to fulfill. The most cumbersome was the requirement to provide men in time of war. This meant that they had to risk their lives to strengthen an empire whose authority they resented. According to Tilleman, the Ga regarded the Akwamu as nothing more than “uncouth farmers.” Consequently, the Ga displayed reluctance to help Akwamu whenever the opportunity arose. For example, in 1702 and 1707 they refused to help Akwamu to fight Akyem.
The Ga were also expected to send annual tribute to the king, consisting of a percentage of their products such as salt, corn and cattle. According to Tilleman, these payments did not amount to much in terms of monetary value, but served merely as a symbol of Ga subjection. The King of Akwamu was also entitled to a part of all buffaloes, elephants, tigers and leopards killed in his dominions.
Apart from these recognized acts of vassalage, the Ga were also subject to arbitrary extortion. Whenever the King of Akwamu felt the need for more money, he would demand it from the nearest available source. For example, in September 1719 it was reported that King Akonnor had marched to the leeward villages east of Accra with the intention of extorting subsidies from them, and had promised afterwards to descend upon Accra.
The mains function of the kings of Akwamu in their role as suzerain was that of presiding over justice amongst the Ga. Since they were primarily interested in the money to be gain in the proceedings, they concerned themselves primarily with litigation among the rich and used every opportunity to extort all they could from these litigants. The kings themselves used women as bait to incriminate wealthy, unsuspecting men. According to Romer, the kings of Akwamu held special courts in the towns to try cases of adultery. The women involved in these adultery cases were the king’s agents, especially chosen to seduce the men in the towns.
The Ga also suffered two major invasions. From 28th November 1708 to 1st April 1709, King Akonnor invaded Accra. This invasion was probably provoked by the systematic refusal of the Ga to take an active role in the invasion of Adanme, the Volta area and Kwahu in 1702, 1707 and 1708 respectively. Rask who arrived on the coast immediately after the invasion, discovered that there were only a few Ga caboceers left, due to the ravages of the Akwamu. Likewise, according to Romer, Caboceer Puij (Okpoti) of Labadi lost two thousand men, including his family, children, slaves and slave children. Okpoti himself fled two or three hundred miles into Crepe. It was only when King Akonnor granted an amnesty that he, together with his other Caboceers who escaped, felt it safe to return to Accra.
During the invasion, the Akwamu went so far as to dig up every house where they knew a caboceer had once lived. This was because Ga caboceers were usually buried in their own house alongside some of their wealth. According to Romer, Akonnor subsequently regretted this harsh treatment that he decided “to make one people of the Akwamu and the Ga. This he did by giving back to the Ga the heads of their ancestors. He also gave two Ga Caboceers, Okpoti of Labadi and Dacon of Aprag (Usshertown), Akwamu noblewomen to marry.
It would appear that King Akonnor’s regret as to the suffering he inflicted upon the Ga was only shot-lived. In 1710 it was rumoured that he had threatened to ruin Aprag (Usshertown), because they had stolen some of his subjects whilst he was absent fighting in Kwahu. Furthermore, he was said to have been nursing grievances against them from the time of the 1708 invasion. Fortunately for Aprag and Soko, Akonnor spared them from this threatened ruin.
Akonnor, however, resumed his threats in 1715. It was reported by the Dutch in March of that year that the King had resolved to “ruin and exterminate all the Ga”. This threat caused such consternation that “they publicly resolved to maintain their existence.” Learning that the Dutch had received reinforcements from Elmina and were taking precautionary measures, Akonnor declared that he had no quarrel with the Ga, but instead had come to the beach, “for a little while to amuse himself.” The Ga were, however, understandably apprehensive. When it was rumoured that the Akyem would attack the Akwamu, ‘Old James’ (an Adanme caboceer) was said to have implied to King Akonnor that the Ga would certainly take advantage of the Akwamu, if the Akyem succeeded in routing them. He therefore warned that it would be safer for Akonnor to pre-empt the Ga and destroy them first before going to fight the Akyem. Although, this rumoured war between Akyem and Akwamu was averted, it was reported in April 1716 that Akonnor had now asked the Fante to help him against the Ga, because they had been unwilling to march with him against Akyem. But the Fante refused to ally with Akwamu against the Ga, and hence Akonnor left the coast for Akwamu. However, even after Akonnor had left the coast, the Ga were said to be “still in doubt whether the Akwamu would undertake anything against them.”
Akonnor, however, had decided to extort money from the Ga instead of threatening them with war. In May 1716, Akonnor claimed two hundred bendas from the Ga as settlement for their differences. The Ga sent two bendas to Akonnor to buy a goat and wine. Since this was not enough for him, they added two bendas six pees “to open his mouth, one benda one pees, for the sheathing of his sword and for ‘potje’ for the other Akwamu Caboceers.” This was still not enough for Akonnor, who claimed twenty bendas more.
In September 1716 Akonnor was still attempting to wrest sixty-three bendas from the Ga. They promised to send fifteen bendas “in the hope that Akonnor would allow them a good reduction and let them pay the rest from time to time.” The case, however, dragged on until the following year, when Akonnor decided to visit Accra personally to demand payment. Akonnor obviously had no faith in the Ga promise to pay him as soon as the corn was ripe, because he arrived with over one thousand guns. It appears that the Ga must have temporarily satisfied Akonnor.
In 1719, having decided to make peace with the Akyem, wrath he had incurred during the Akyem-Asante war of 1717-18, Akonnor marched to the villages east of Accra with the intention of extorting subsidies from them. He threatened to come to Accra afterwards “to worry the natives living there a bit” and was said to have already forged a case of adultery between the Ga Caboceer Ama Kuma and one of his wives, for which he demanded fifteen to sixteen thousand bendas. It was again reported in December 1719 Akonnor was demanding payment not only from his own districts but from the others further afield, in order to cover the expensive peace with his powerful enemies. These troubles continued into the following year, when it was reported that “the continual palavers between the Ga and Akwamu were a great hindrance to trade.”
The next major Akwamu invasion of Accra occurred in May 21723. The Ga and the Dutch blamed the Danish Governor, David Hern, whilst the Danes blamed the Ga Caboceer, Ama Kuma. Hern seized five slaves belonging to Ama Kuma as recompense for the fact that he and some other Ga caboceers had been caught trading with interlopers in Danish waters at Labbadi. Ama Kuma found an opportunity to avenge himself on Hern during the Ga Homowo festival of 15th August 1722. Hern had been invited by the Dutch factor Svarte to witness the Homowo celebration in Aprag. On his way home from the celebration he was stopped by some Aprags. His wig, hat and stick together with his hammock and the slaves who had been carrying him were seized and his Danish flag was torn to pieces. He was then beaten and dragged to the ground. All this happened, according to Danish sources, without the Dutch factor Svarte coming to Hern’s aid, apparently because he had been bribed by Ama Kuma. Hern finally succeeded in retiring to the Dutch fort and immediately sent a message to King Akonnor, who was staying on the coast, to escort him back to Christiansborg. After this episode, Hern accompanied King Akonnor on a campaign eastwards. They visited Kpone, Prampram and Ningo, and then Akonnor continued further eastwards alone. It suspected that on this journey, Hern and Akonnor conspired against the Dutch, the English and also the Ga who had chosen to reside under their respective forts.
The suspicion was vindicated when, immediately after Akonnor’s return from the campaign in May 1723, he invaded Soko and Aprag with ten to twelve thousand soldiers, carefully sparing the Danish Ga. The Dutch factor Svarte went so far as to accuse Hern of having bribed Akonnor with a hundred bendas’ worth of merchandise.
Conversely, the Danish Company placed the blame for the invasion of 1723 upon the Ga Caboceer Ama Kuma. According to the Danish narration, Ama Kuma was unable to pay the fifteen to sixteen thousand bendas demanded by Akonnor as compensation for adultery, he sent eight people to Akyem with muskets and presents to ask for aid in attacking the Akwamu. Akonnor seized Ama Kuma’s messengers and sent him a warning that he should buy all the muskets and powder that the Dutch fort held, because the King would be coming against him “with sticks, stones and gravel to make an end of him.”
The invasion of 1723 should be seen as a result of an amalgam of different tensions – King Akonnor’s personal quarrel with the Ga and especially with Ama Kuma, David Hern’s intrigues and ultimately the instability that characterized the Gold Coast during these years. The invasion had repercussions not only in Accra but also in towns further to the east. Many Ga left Accra to join their kinsmen in Little Popo. In March 1724 the Danes complained that there was a scarcity of food in Accra, which could lead to widespread starvation. Aprag and Soko, which had once been “grainaries” for the other towns, had been completely ruined by the Akwamu. In August the Danes reported that the Ga who had previously fled to Popo and neighbouring towns had not returned, whilst those who had originally remained in Accra were now leaving to join their kinsmen further east. The Danes attributed this exodus to the “villainous nature of the Akwamu.”
The Ga also had to contend with the intrigues of the European trading companies. The primary duty which the Ga had to perform for the Europeans was that of attracting trade to the forts under which they lived. Through their capacity as interpreters, agents and hosts of the inland traders, the Ga were in a position to persuade traders from the interior to buy goods from a particular fort. Yet trade with European interlopers often proved more lucrative. The interlopers, who were not encumbered with the maintenance of forts and their staff, sold goods at a much cheaper price than the established European companies. The Ga therefore traded with interlopers whenever they had the opportunity to do so.
In a letter to London the English Council at Cape Coast wrote that the Brandenburg and Danish companies were primarily supported in their trade by English and Dutch interlopers. Tis accusation is vindicated by contemporary Danish documents. In a letter September 1725 Suhm, the Danish Governor, wrote that his predecessor David Hern had had a flourishing trade during his tenure of office, partly because he was lucky enough to have bought at a very cheap price all the goods of a French interloper.
It was the frequency with which Danish ships visited the Gold Coast that compelled the Danes to rely on interlopers to replenish their stocks. The interlopers were openly and lavishly entertained and sometimes even delivered letters to Copenhagen and Christiansborg . in 1702 the King of Akwamu sent a message to the Danish Governor asking him to buy him guns from an interloper who had anchored in Christiansborg. The Ga would obviously have found it difficult to sit by and watch the Danes buy goods cheaply from interlopers, only to have them sold at much higher prices. However, they ran the risk of their goods being confiscated by the European companies if caught trading with the interlopers themselves.
European companies tried to control the activities of Ga traders not only within Accra but also in the surrounding areas. On 1ST July 1722 the Danish Governor reported that he would attempt to make the Ga promise to desist from selling salt to any traders from the western coast. This was to encourage the Akyem traders to come and spend their gold in Accra instead of concentrating their activities on Cape Coast and Elmina, where the Danes had no forts.
Other duties demanded of the Ga by the European trading companies involved providing manual labour in case of repairs or extensions of the forts. They were also expected to provide armed men in time of need. In February 1698, the Osu Caboceers promised to “risk their life and blood” for the Danish company. In 1699, when an Akwamu trader and Caboceer Asameni set up a canoe at Labadi to trade with interlopers, the Danish Governor sent a dispatch of armed caboceers and their followers, assisted by white soldiers, to destroy the canoe. Only after this tactic had failed did the Danish Governor appeal to the King of Akwamu to send orders for Asameni to leave Labadi.
In exchange for their services to the European companies the Ga caboceers received monthly stipends and New Year gifts. These payments were distinct from the monthly two ounces of gold paid by the three European companies to the king of Akwamu. The English marked the distinction by calling that which they paid to the King of Akwamu ‘ground rents’, whereas the Dutch used the term ‘kostgeld’ and the Danes ‘Costum’ to describe the payments made to both the Ga caboceers and the King of Akwamu.
Another prerogative claimed by the European companies involved a perceived right to maintain law and order. For example, in 1702 the Danish Governor settled a dispute which involved fighting between opposing factions led by the two most important caboceers in Osu. In 1717 there was a dispute between two separate quarters in Aprag (Usshertown), during which four or five people were killed and many more were wounded. The Dutch factor in Accra was consequently instructed by the Dierctor-General, Bobertts to enquire carefully into the dispute and catch the “authors and miscreants.”
The maintenance of law and order was not, however, a simple issue. Because authority over the Ga was claimed by both the Europeans and Akwamu, there was bound to be conflict over the jurisdictional right to deal with certain cases. For example, in July 1727 King Ansa Kwao of Akwamu came to Accra in order to settle some disputes that had arisen between the Aprags and Sokos. The Dutch Director-General wanted to seize the opportunity to make the Sokos pay for a former misdemeanor for which the previous Dutch factor Jan Pranger had held them responsible. This he wanted to do before the Soko-Aprag case was settled; hence Norre questioned Ansa Kwao’s right to arbitrate in such a case and to exercise authority over “Dutch-protected people (Aprags) within the range of their guns.” He ‘absolutely’ ordered the Aprags not to settle the dispute with the Sokos until the Dutch had obtained satisfaction in Soko’s case with Pranger. He moreover, threatened that the Dutch company would never allow Ansa Kwao any presents, salutes of honour or ‘kostgeld’.
Since the Akwamu King had come to Accra solely to settle this dispute, he disregarded the Dutch threat and completed his arbitration. He sent a caboceer and two servants to the Dutch and assured them that as regards to compensation, the Aprags would behave according to the laws and customs of their towns. He would also ensure that the Sokos repaid to the Aprags all the expenses they had incurred in winning the case. The only problem was that the Director-General’s sanction was needed to assure these conditions; hence Ansa Kwao offered him a goat and four bendas and moreover; pledged that the man Larte, who was the cause of all the trouble, would be compelled to go to the Dutch factor and ask for his pardon.
The Ga, like the King of Akwamu, were inclined to accept a quick and peaceful solution to the dispute. Whilst Ansa Kwao had not threatened to declare open war on them as in1723, he was certainly in the position “to make it as fearful for them as any war had ever been for them.” If the Ga were attacked under the fort, they could get protection; but if the routes were closed to the water whole beyond the range of the fort, it would result in the total ruin of their town. The Aprags therefore entreated Norre with “clasped hands” not to be too headstrong in the dispute, since the Sokos were “poor and have little to spare from which anything could be claimed from them.”
Norre rejected the King of Akwamu’s presents, saying that he would be satisfied with nothing less than the head of Larte and threatening to leave the Ga in future as “prey to the plundering of the Akwamu.” Yet Norre’s objection to the Akwamu King’s arbitration was unjustified. The Europeans had acknowledged the suzerainty of the Akwamu over the Ga, and furthermore, the Dutch company had even stated in a treaty which they had signed with King Akonnor in 1703 that “the Accra people shall be under the dominion of the Akwamu King.” Moreover, Norre’s own subordinates in Accra, de la Planque, did not believe that Ansa Kwao was being presumptuous in seeking to settle the case between the Aprags and the Sokos. In a letter to Norre, de la Planque stated that the former could not realistically prevent the King of Akwamu from settling the dispute since the Ga were “having been subdued by them by force of arms.” He also reminded Norre that Ansa Kwao had recently exercised his right by fining the Sokos ninety bendas on account of a false palaver which they brought against the Aprags.
Other controversies amongst the Ga over the question of law and order arose because of European companies. Occasionally, the Europeans co-operated with each other to maintain law and order. For example, on 26th March 1721 Butler, the Dutch Director-General, wrote to subordinates in Accra that “the Knavish Accras must be brought to submission,” and that instead of complaining that the English were violating Netherlands territory he should co-operate with them. Another example of co-operation between the European companies occurred in 1726, when a Danish soldier, Frans Andersen, was shot by a Soko man and lost one arm. The Danish and English companies solved the problem amongst themselves, and the Sokos were made to pay for the lost arm with four male slaves.
The European companies sometimes extended their commercial rivalry into the sphere of territorial rights and rights of jurisdiction. They often could not agree on whether a man who had committed and offence in another town should be dealt with by the Europeans in the town where he originated from or by those in the town where the offence was committed. In August 1721 the Dutch Director-General Butler protested to the Danish Governor Ostrup about “the continual arrest of (Dutch) Accra natives (by the Danes), which the caboceers of the Dutch fort had complained about.” The Danes, of the other hand, felt that they had every right to seize any Ga, be he a Dutch, English or Danish protégé, who was caught trading with interlopers in Danish waters, since this was seen as a violation of Danish territory.
European rivalry was such that they plunged themselves into disputes which could have been more effectively settled by the Ga themselves. For example, in 1725 a male resident of Osu, who also had friends at Aprag, was killed by an Osu man. Aprag undertook to punish Osu for this crime, but when the criminal escaped, the people of Osu agreed to settle the case amicably with Aprag. The Europeans, however, decided to interfere in this purely Ga affair. The Dutch dispatched an assistant factor, who along with some Aprags travelled half way to Osu. They then demanded that the Danes should likewise send a company employee together with the Osus to them so that they could settle the case. The Danish Governor refused to comply with this demand. He suggested that if the Aprags had any quarrel with Osu, they should send their caboceers to Osu to settle the case. He refused to acknowledge the case was under the jurisdiction of the Dutch company.
The Europeans often created disorder by dragging the Ga into their own personal quarrels. For example, in July 1722 Davd Hern the Danish Governor felt himself to be injured by allegations made about him by James Phipps, the English Agent-General at Cape Coast. These allegations were put forward because Hern’ predecessor Niels Ostrup, the interim Danish Governor, had quarreled with Benjamin Martins, the English factor at Accra. This Ostrup-Martins quarrel had erupted into a fight with each contestant backed by his own group of armed Ga.
The role played by the European companies in fostering disharmony and disputes amongst the Ga was remarked upon by Smith in 1726. On Accra, he commented: “here are large Negro towns belonging to all the forts and though the natives are the most courteous and civil to strangers of any kind on the Gold Coast, yet the inhabitants of two of these towns, which almost join together, can never well agree, each distinguishing themselves by titles of either English men or Dutch men.”
In conjunction with the maintenance of law and order, European claims to authority also involved helping and protecting the Ga in times of crisis. Apart from isolated instances, this responsibility was not adequately discharged. For example, 1716 when King Akonnor claimed sixty-three bendas from the Ga, the latter asked for a loan of twenty to twenty-four bendas from the Dutch company and offered to give them their children as pawns. Although it was the Dutch company which had advised the Ga to settle their case with Akonnor “in the smoothest way possible”, it subsequently refused to help with this loan, accusing the Ga of ingratitude and of thinking that the whites were their financiers, under “an obligation to supply it to them.” The Dutch company therefore advised the Ga to seek for the loan from their own big traders, who are able to spend so much money on the interlopers and sometimes get fifty to sixty bendas on credit from there.”
The spurious nature of the European responsibility for protecting the Ga is exemplified by the two invasions which they endured at the hands of the Akwamu. In the 1708invasion, the Europeans shirked their responsibility as protectors of the Ga from the outset; indeed, the English openly supported the Akwamu.
Unfortunately, Dutch records are silent on this invasion. The only reference to it concerns Harring, the Dutch factor in Accra. When transferred to Kormanting fort, he asked permission to stay for some time in Accra “because of the standing war there over which he had spent much money.” There is no evidence as to whether Harring had spent this money on the Ga or Akwamu.
The Danes were ambiguous in their support during the war. Twenty-four bendas’ worth of guns which arrived with a Danish ship in 1707 were sold on credit to Osu, Labadi and Nungua. There is no evidence to suggest that the Danish Governor Lygaard sold these guns specifically for the 1708 invasion; but he must have been aware of the implications of selling them to the Ga at this time. In a letter dated 7th January 1707 he stated that the guns sold to the Akwamu were used mainly for trading in slaves but those sold to the Ga were used for defending themselves against the Akwamu. Lygaard also admitted that he had had good trade with the Akwamu during the invasion, suggesting that he armed both the Ga and the Akwamu in anticipation of their confrontation.
Frans Boye, a Danish employee who later succeeded Lygaard as Governor, went so far as to accuse him of having conspired with the Akwamu against the Ga. The Ga also accused Lygaard of being the cause of their ruin, because he had promised to help them but had failed to honour his pledge, so that many Ga were eventually trapped and massacred by the Akwamu on a cliff right under Fort Christiansborg.
In 1709 a commission of enquiry was set up by the Danish company in Christiansborg to probe the affair. Many of the Dutch employees who gave evidence at the Commission attempted to exonerate Lygaard. They claimed that he had tried to dissuade the Ga from war with the Akwamu and hence could hardly be blamed for refusing to help in a war which he had advised against.
The European display of bad faith towards the Ga during the invasion can be attributed to two facts: firstly, they were concerned with ensuring their own safety, and secondly they wanted to profit from the situation. Even if they could have given the Ga active support in the war, they might have mediated on their behalf to save them from the ravages which followed the invasion. Instead they tried to absolve themselves from blame by depicting the war as a purely ‘negroes’ affair. In a letter to the Directors of the Danish company in Copenhagen, Lygaard asserted: “the war did not concern the fort but the Negroes residing under the forts.”
In contrast to the 1708 invasion the European companies were openly involved in the invasion of 1723. Danish involvement was illustrated by Governor Davis Hern’s intrigues with Akonnor.
Dutch participation in the invasion can be attributed to personal animosity towards the Akwamu rather than to any desire to help the Ga. Dutch relations with Akonnor had been strained since November 1720, when Amo reported to the Dutch Director-General Butler at Elmina that Akonnor was very angry about his last visit to Accra, because he had been rudely treated by Overshie, the Dutch factor there. It was further reported in December that Akonnor was demanding some considerable sum of gold as compensation from the Dutch company. this was because Akwamu who was involved in a quarrel with a Dutch company slave had shot him himself “out of malice” whilst under the Dutch fort Crevecoeur.
The appointment of Hartman as Director-General in 1722 did not improve this situation. He was certainly hostile to the Akwamu, for when it was rumoured in 1723 that Akonnor would invade Accra, Hartman recommended to Savrte that “those robbers (the Akwamu) should be at once properly punished.” Consequently, instead of the Dutch negotiating for peace to prevent the invasion, they started making preparation for war. Svarte reported that he was keeping a good watch, as “the Accra had sworn to be faithful to one another” and the English had also promised to assist him in defending the Ga.
It is therefore no surprise that the Dutch and the English companies suffered during the invasion of 1723. After Akonnor had defeated the Ga, he blockaded the Dutch and English forts for three weeks, and the Dutch had to give substantial gifts as peace offerings to Akonnor before they were permitted to unload their ship which had arrived in Accra. It is the conduct of the Dutch during the blockade that emphasizes the extent to which they had no genuine interest in defending the Ga. For example, they handed over to the Akwamu all the Ga women who had sought refuge in Crevecoeur, in order that Akonnor would raise the blockade against the fort. Moreover, Benus, the acting factor in Accra, was reported as being pleased at the loss of the properties of those Ga who had managed to survive the invasion. His joy emanated from the hope that since all the private traders were ruined, they would be obliged to go and trade under the fort and so further enhance the profit of the company.
The European betrayal of the Ga people at the time of their greatest need can be readily explained. The Europeans were living in Accra during the time of Akwamu suzerainty; hence they were tenants of Akwamu and not tenants of the Ga. More importantly, they were on the Gold Coast primarily to trade and exploit and not necessarily to seek the interests of the inhabitants. This fact was never denied by the Europeans. In 1716, the Dutch Director-General Roberts stated in a message to the Ga that “the company does not keep such a considerable fort there (Accra) and does not incur such excessive expenditure merely for the defense of the natives and to carry on their affairs. But trade is the basis and centre upon which the matter turns.” Similarly, in 1730 the Danish Governor Wacro declared: “I have come here for the profit of my masters and that consists solely in trade and not in war.” The Europeans therefore found it more profitable to please their powerful landlords, the Akwamu, than to help their weak protégés, the Ga.
The Europeans sought to gain the goodwill of the Akwamu kings by sending them gifts. On 22nd August 1699 the Danish Governor decided to send the King of Akwamu “a little present” in order to attract trade to the Danish fort. Between 1st June and 31st July, 1704 the Dutch sent a cane with a golden knob and a fine musket worth 3 oz. 8 engels “for the furtherance of trade.” The English on 21st September 1717 sent the King of Akwamu “a costly bed with fittings.” In April 1707 the Danish Governor Lygaard complained that he had to send gifts to the King of Akwamu, for otherwise traders and farmers would be stopped from coming to the fort.
The European /Akwamu relationship was such that even Europeans suffered occasionally from Akwamu high-handedness. The Akwamu King had the habit of blockading the forts whenever he was displeased with the Europeans or felt that the Akwamu were not receiving enough presents from them. For example, on 17th May 1700 a messenger from King Ado arrived at the Danish fort with the threat that the fort would be blockaded if the Danes did not send him a substantial gift and more importantly reduce the prices of the company’s goods. This warning was carried out and the blockade was not raised until the Danes agreed to pay 4 bendas. In 1703 the road to the Dutch fort was closed; it was not opened until the Dutch factor had paid 5 bendas. In the same year, the roads to the English and Danish forts were closed on the pretext that the English factor and the Danish Governor had conspired to murder King Akonnor. The Danes and English had to pay a substantial fee in recompense before the roads were re-opened.
The tendency of the King of Akwamu to close the roads leading to the forts hung over the Europeans like a sword of Damocles. Bosman remarked at the beginning of the eighteenth century that although there three forts in Accra, the authority of the Europeans was in fact confined to within their own walls, “for if we should make any attempt on the Negroes, they would certainly end in our destruction.”
The period of Akwamu suzerainty can be seen as time of oppression when the Akwamu threatened and intimidated Ga and European alike. Ultimately, however, it was the Ga who were the principal victims, being forced to suffer Akwamu tyranny without receiving any effective protection from the Europeans.
THE GA REBELLION AND THE COLLAPSE OF AKWAMU POWER
It would seem probable from the events described in the previous chapters that sooner or later the Ga would feel compelled to rebel against the oppressive rule of the Akwamu. A number of factors precipitated the outbreak of this rebellion in 1728. The first and most important was the murder of Otin, cousin of Ansa Kwao, King of Alwamu; the second was the assurance of support offered by some of the Europeans and by Amo, the Akwamu representative in Accra, and the third was the well-founded hope harboured by the Ga of gaining allies from other disgruntled vassals and neighbours of Akwamu.
Otin’s murder which occurred at Fort Crevecoeur in January 1728, was the catalyst which sparked the rebellion. He had been sent for confinement in the fort at the request of Ansa Kwao, because he was said to have robbed people of their slaves and property. After the murder the Dutch factor, de la Planque, sent to Ansa Kwao “a small present of spirits to have no further difficulties with him over the occurrence.” However, the latter rejected this insulting gift and threatened to attack Crevecoeur and send de la Planque and his subordinates “also to the other world.” In response, de la Planque assured Ansa Kwao that the Ga were not responsible for the murder. He added that if the Akwamu began any hostilities against the company’s fort or its servants, “he would await with pleasure what they might undertake.” He then rejected the demand of 2,000 bendas put forward by Ansa Kwao as compensation for the murder.
At the time of Otin’s murder, the relationship between the European companies and the Akwamu was not particularly friendly. Of three European companies, the Danes were the least hostile; but even they, in 1727, had been compelled by Ansa Kwao to pay a fine of 46 bendas for selling the Akwamu gold pawns.
In contrast to the Danes, by 1728 the English and Dutch were certainly not feeling amiable towards the Akwamu. In the previous year an Akwamu prince had conducted a raiding expedition on the eastern coast. He proceeded to plunder the Dutch and English lodges at Keta, and the Danes later reported that there was a palaver between the English and the Dutch companies and the King of Akwamu. They stated that the English and Dutch would not declare open war on Akwamu but would persuade Asante,”the most powerful nation in the surrounding districts”, to fight on their behalf.
The Dutch were overtly hostile. This was greatly influenced by the character of the man in charge of Dutch affairs in Accra and Elmina. Norre, who was appointed Dutch Director-General on 11th March 1727, had immense confidence in the power of the European canons. His pronouncements on certain events which occurred on the coast reveal much of his character. For example, in September 1727, when the Fante asked for the thirty-five ships which the Dutch owed them at Kormantin Fort, Norre decided not to pay the ships’ gifts until the Fante had settled a debt of eighty bendas which he claimed they had owed to the Dutch since the time of Director-General Sevenhuysen. This meant that the debt was about thirty years old. The Fante claimed that they had already settled the matter but when they insisted on their payment, Norre wrote to his subordinate in Kormantin: “we do not mean to concern ourselves any more with their demand rascalities. Mr. Valckenier had left here and today we are at Elmina and await what they will undertake… We in no way intend to think of ships gifts for the Fantees before they have ended the old palaver to our satisfaction; much less do we intend to court, or to make war on them, but we are indeed ready to show them that we in no sense esteem, much less fear them; and if they begin anything against us, we shall show how far our power extends.” Similarly, in November 1727, when the Agona overlord Kusi Adu threatened to close the way to Apam fort if the Dutch did not pay the rent which they owed, Norre replied: “We are in no way disposed to allow Kusi Adu ‘Kostgeld’ before he makes good to us our six slaves in gold, or in acceptable slaves. He is talking big with his threats but we absolutely disregard them.” It was this same Norre who thought that Ansa Kwao was being presumptuous by settling the disputes between the Ga in 1727.
Norre’s subordinate in Accra, de la Planque, was of a similar temperament. In May 1727, when he felt that the Fante were damaging trade in Accra, he wrote to Norre at Elmina: “if your highness is pleased that I give a good thrashing to the first one I get into my hands I believe that people (Sic) would not come here so frequently in order to carry on their trade.”
Men of Norre’s and de la Planque’s temperament had their counterparts amongst the Akwamu leaders. Ansa Kwao was said to have preferred the counsel of “young hot-tempered rascals” to that of the wiser and older councilors. The combination of such impetuous leaders and unstable conditions meant that trouble was bound to flare up at the least provocation. It is therefore not surprising that the Akwamu demand for two thousand bendas was instantly rejected without any attempt at bargaining. The Dutch must have known that it was usual among the inhabitants of the Gold Coast to make demands far in excess of what they actually expected on the understanding that it was them up to the culprit to negotiate for a reduction in the demand. De la Planque treated the Akwamu demand as a challenge to Dutch power rather than as a claim for satisfaction for someone who had been wronged. He was even supposed to have shown powder, bullets and other war materials to the Akwamu messengers and told them that he would rather pay them with war than with goods.
The Dutch broker, Amo, supported the Ga in their plan to rebel in 1728. His backing was crucial, since he was also the Akwamu representative in Accra. Amo previously claimed to have taken an oath of allegiance with the Akwamu royal family during King Akonnor’s reign, and Ivor Wilks proposed an explanation for his change of loyalty. According to Wilks, Amo was the rightful heir to the throne after the death of Akonnor, since he was Akonnor’s sister’s son. He was however, bypassed in favour of Ansa Kwao, Akonnor’s sister’s daughter’s son. Amo was disqualified because, having lived for fourteen year away from the seat of government in the subordinate position of Akwamu representative in Accra, he had apparently lost the right to be King of Akwamu. Amo, therefore saw the rebellion as a chance for him to regain his rightful throne from Ansa Kwao.
The third factor which encouraged the Ga to rebel was their hope of securing allies from other vassals and neighbours of Akwamu. The Ga were not the only people who suffered under Akwamu rule. According to Romer, the King of Akwamu and his chiefs “knew what kind of roguery went on in this land.” The Akuapem, for instance, were forced to endure raids by armed bands, known as siccadings, who roamed the country, stealing innocent people and selling them as slaves. According to Romer, “Aquando allowed his people to steal and plunder among themselves and to maintain of Negroes and the Adampees.” Romer further stated that the King of Akwamu had over one thousand siccadings. The activities of the King’s nephews, Oten Abransamadu and Oten Agyare, likewise caused grave discontent. Reindorf’s statement that they “used the middle of the breasts of young women of Akuapem as target in exercising their newly arms”should not be taken literally, but does indicate the hatred felt towards them. In 1726, King Ansa Kwao informed the Dutch factor at Accra that he intended to attack the people of Brekuso, because they had shot dead one of his swordbearers. Amo was therefore summoned to join an expedition against Brekuso. The Brekuso men reacted to the threat of attack by killing their wives and children and taking flight so the Akwamu were obliged to retire to their country with nothing achieved. It would seem apparent, therefore, that there was considerable discontent in Akuapem by 1728.
The Adanme and Ewe were also prepared to support the rebellion in 1728. In addition to the siccading raids, they had been the victims of several Akwamu invasions, for example, King Ado’s in 1700, and Akonnor’s in 1708 and 1722.
In April 1727, the Danes reported that an Akwamu prince, Amega, “who lived on nothing but robbery”, was stealing people’s property on the eastern coast. He was plundering one town after another, and because of these ravages his victims had marshaled their forces and eaten fetish to punish him. Their combined forces proved too strong for Amega, and he had to seek reinforcement from the Akwamu. King Ansa Kwao dared not to send the reinforcement from Akwamu for fear that Ofori’s successor in Akyem would attack Akwamu in the absence of his troops. Amega, however, received reinforcement, from his father, Asumansu, an important caboceer in Akwamu, who in turn was able to get assistance from most of the other caboceers in Akwamu. Asumansu’s action showed that by 1727 the king’s authority even within the Akwamu state was weakening. With such reinforcements Amega was able to continue in his plundering of the towns. In response, some of the towns either sued for peace or the people took flight. In September 1727 it was reported that the Keta people had fled to Aflao, a town further east. By February 1728, Amega reached Ningo, and his arrival here coincided with the murder incident of 1728.
Of all Akwamu neighbours, the Akyem were the Ga’s most promising allies. From the end of the seventeenth century to the outbreak of the rebellion in 1728, the Akyem-Akwamu relationship had been predominantly characterized by war, or at least by the threat of war. The underlying cause of all these conflicts was the Akwamu policy of disallowing the Akyem access to Accra coast to trade. In January 1699 the Danes reported that trade was disrupted because the King of Akwamu was in conflict with the Akyem. By January 1700 the Akyem had acquired a “little town” from the Akwamu, and in February, Ado informed the Danes that Akyem wanted to wage war on him. In order to prevent this war, Ado had to send presents to Akyem. However, Ado’s presents did not bring any durable peace, for in May 1702, Ado’s wife sent a message to him whilst on campaign in Popo and the eastern coast, entreating him to return to Akwamu immediately. It was feared that since the Asante-Denkyira war had ended, the Denkyira in alliance with Akyem would attack Akwamu, who were allies for Asante.
In 1704 war finally broke between the Akyem and Akwamu. The Danes reported that trade had ceased because the King of Akwamu was at war with Akyem and “other Negroes”. This war lasted for two years, and it was not until March 1706 that the king of Akwamu informed the Europeans that hostility between him and the Akyem was “nearly over”. However, in 1713, Akyem-Akwamu hostility seems to have resumed. The Danes reported in May 1713 that the King of Akwamu was once again living in discord with the Akyem and the surrounding nations. This had caused a decline in trade due to the fact that Akwamu had closed its roads so as to prevent Akyem from coming to trade with the Europeans.
In March 1715 King Akonnor informed the Dutch factor Zelst in Accra that he was involved in serious dispute with King Ofori of Akyem. Whilst Akonnor was staying in Accra, his village and house in Akwamu were burnt down. His chiefs sent a message to warn him that the Akyem were again threatening to invade Akwamu. In May the Dutch factor Boerhaven was informed that the Akyem were preparing to fight against the Akwamu and that the Agna had taken an oath with Ofori and Apintin not to close the paths but instead to sell the Akyem all the powder and muskets they needed. Akyem traders, therefore, travelled daily to the coast through Agona.
There was an attempt at an Akyem-Akwamu rapprochement but this was short lived, for in October it was said “positively’ that the Akyem would march against Agona and Akwamu. The Akyem caboceers Apintin and Ofori had joined in; Ofori had sent a considerable present to the Zaay of Asante and obtained his blessing on the coming battle, and caboceer Apintin had sent home Akonnor’s daughter, his wife. After this, there was again an attempt at a peace settlement, but once more this broke down. Yet, in spite of preparations for war, no battle was investigated. in March 1716, it was reported from Bereku that the Akyem had ‘shamefully fled to their country.” According to Finn, the reason for this Akyem retreat was that the Asante threatened to enter the war at the request of the Agona.
After the retreat of both the Akyem and Akwamu forces, there was negotiation for peace. In September, Snoek at Accra reported that the differences between Akyem and Akwamu were not yet settled because “the demands which the Akyems make cannot be agreed to, in order to settle everything.” However, the Akyem eventually modified their terms and made peace with the Akwamu, primarily due to the fear of an Asante attack. War did finally bkeak out between the Asante and Akyem, but the latter were able to defeat the Asante in 1717. However, the war ended in tragedy for both sides, resulting in the death the Asante King Osei Tutu and the Akyem leader Apintin.
Akwamu can be seen to have acted treacherously towards both Akyem and Asante during this war. Before the war commenced Akonnor promised to show the Asante a way by which they could attack the Akyem and “very easily overmaster them.” At the same time Akonnor also agreed to take care of Akyem women and children until the war was over. Akonnor, however, betrayed the movement of the Asante forces to the Akyem army, who consequently used this information to defeat the Asante. Upon their defeat some of the Asante forces, struck by famine, retreated to their supposed allies, the Akwamu, for help. However, it seems that these unfortunate men were sold by the perfidious Akwamu to the Europeans “with great tranquility.” Akonnor also seized the opportunity provided by the Akyem-Asante war to plunder and pillage Akyem. He even went so far as to sell a number of the Akyem women and children entrusted to his care. It is, therefore, not surprising that news of the Akyem victory should have caused fear and apprehension amongst the Akwamu.
The Dutch factor in Accra thought it probable that the Akyem caboceer Ofori “may well come to demand account of the many Akyem natives whom Aquando had sold and seized their goods they had with them.” Ofori was, in fact, so enraged at Akwamu’s treachery that the fugitive Akyem women who were returning to their country from Akwamu were sent back along with the message that “he would come and demand them all back from Aquando at one time and then have the remainder given by each one’s friends in order to find those lacking.”
After this duplicity, relations between Akyem and Akwamu became increasingly antagonistic.
Eight years after the Asante-Akyem war, Akwamu’s ‘treachery’ was still being recounted in Accra. In seeking to explain the reason for Akyem- Akwamu hostility in 1725, the Danish Governor reported that during the Asante-Akyem war of 1717 the Akyem had sent their women to Akwamu for safe-keeping. At the end of the war, the King of Akwamu had not only kept the women instead of returning them as promised, but furthermore, had given the women and children to his people and even sold some of them as slaves. Indeed, the King himself had kept the Akyem King’s sister and treated her as a slave. She remained in Akwamu despite the fact that Akyem had sent presents to secure her release. This was the reason why the roads had been closed to the Akyem for so long and there appeared to be no hope of their being re-opened, as long as Akonnor lived. With Akonnor’s death, however, the Danes were filled with the hope of a possible Akyem-Akwamu friendship, because “the new King finds himself surrounded by enemies and his power now is very weak so he will seek for friendship.”
The possibility for any form of friendship between Akyem and Akwamu became bleaker when Ofori died in 1727. There was a state of uncertainty in Akwamu, because Ofori’s successor was said “to have always been hostile to the Akwamu.” Moreover, it was the custom of Akyem that, before the new king sat on the predecessor’s tool; he had to prove his bravery by fighting an enemy. By 1728, on the eve of the outbreak of the Ga rebellion, Akyem and Akwamu were said to be “deadly enemies.” Hence Akyem saw it advantageous to support the Ga in their insurrection. Their position can be summed up by the Ga proverb “Kwao Mensa ni miitao Gua aya in atsu le Anomabo,” which literally means “Kwao Mensah, who wants to go to Cape Coast, instead has been sent to Anomabo.” The proverbial Kwao Mensah is used to describe an opportunist.
By 1728 the possibility of Akwamu obtaining help from Asante, Fante and Agona, the states which were traditionally acknowledged as friends was very faint. The Asante, like the Akyem, had not forgiven the Akwamu for their conduct in 1717. In 1718 and 1722, Rumours had suggested that the Asante would ally with Akyem to punish Akwamu. Although these rumours did not materialize, by 1729 it was possible for Akyem to buy Asante neutrality by offering Asante five hundred slaves in exchange for being allowed five months within which to defeat Akwamu.
By 1728 Fante’s friendship with Akwamu was also precarious. In 1716 an alliance had been formed between Fante and Akwamu due to the rumour of an Akyem attack, and in 1724 the Akwamu had conspired against Agona during the Fante-Agona war. A disagreement between Fante and Akwamu after this war, possibly over the sharing of the spoils, had eventually been settled in November 1724. In 1726 the Dutch company attempted to break the Fante-Akwamu alliance. The Dutch Director-General Valckenier, instructed his subordinate Pranger in Accra to persuade Akwamu to join an Asante-Dutch alliance against Fante “to teach them a lesson for their maliciousness.” Valckenier suggested that the Fante were committing “every possible insolence” by panyarring Dutch canoes on the heads of natives who owed them nothing. He was prepared to pay the Akwamu 30-40 bendas in goods and shelter all the Akwamu women and children in the forts, if they agreed to march uup and join the Asante army. Unfortunately for Valckenier, Asante withdrew her forces unexpectedly, when recalled by King Opoku Ware. He claimed that his conflict was only with Intiere of Wassa and that he was too weak to take on the Fante army.
After the Asante retreat, rumours started to circulate that the Akron were trying to get Akyem to declare war on Akwamu. Apparently the King of Akwamu had sent two hundred muskets and some other goods to the King of Asante and promised him that as soon as Asante came to attack Fante, Akwamu and the district of Agona would fall on the Fante from behind. These rumours reveal that, by the end of 1726, Fante had no confidence in Akwamu friendship. In 1727 it was reported that Fante, Asante, Assin, Akyem and Kwahu had together resolved to attack Akwamu.
Agona’s relationship with her powerful friend, Akwamu, was also weakened by 1728. In 1716, when Akonnor was returning from his war with Akyem, he had indulged in “some plundering among the Agona.” In 1718 it had been reported in Bereku that “Aquando has received displeasure against his great friend Janconcoe, Headchief of the Agonas. Furthermore, Akwamu had acted treacherously towards the Agona when the latter was attacked by Fante in 1724. During the attack, the King of Agona with ten of his caboceers and about four thousand men fled to Akwamu believing them to be friends, or at very least neutral. Akonnor, however, captured the refugees and promised to share the booty with Fante. After this deceit, Akonnor attempted to regain the friendship of Kusi Adu, the new overlord of Agona, by sending him a “golden morion”, gold arm ring, a string of Conte de terre beads and forty cattle. The Dutch remarked: “such a present is seldom made out of courtesy, but one usually sees that in that way difficulties are removed and a union results. “
At least part of Agona still nursed grievances against Akwamu for her conduct in 1724. Because if this, their attitude at the outbreak of the Ga rebellion in 1728 can been seen as double-edged. The Dutch reported that Agona “still in appearance remains the friend of Aquamboe, so that they will pay Aquamboe with the same coin, which they (Agona) received at the time they were defeated by the Fantees. They, too, thought that Aquamboe was their friend and therefore look refuge with them, and were all made prisoners by them.”
From the above analysis, it is clear that by 1728 Akwamu was isolated. King Ansa Kwao himself admitted to the Danes that his enemies were ‘numerous.’ The Ga therefore, had sufficient cause to believe that circumstances were ripe for rebellion against Akwamu.
The first people to endorse the idea of fighting against Akwamu were the Aprags and Sokos. Led by Amo and Ayikuma, they were able to persuade other Ga towns, Osu,Labadi, Teshi, Nungua and Tema to join them. Each town paid a subsidy to the war in proportion to its size. According to the Danish Governor, Wellemsen, Osu paid three ounces of gold (48 rix-dollars), because they were led to believe by Amo that the subsidies were going to used merely to pacify Akwamu snd not as contribution towards the war. Even if the Danish versionis correct and Amo and Ayikuma did deceive the town of Osu into paying the three ounces, it is clear they did not subsequently withdraw their support, when they realized that their contribution war meant for the war.
When Wellemsen realized that the Aprags were trying to persuade Osu and Labadi to join them in the fight against Akwamu, he called the Caboceers of Osu and Labadi to the fort on 12th November 1728. Here, they were able to take an oath pledging that they would not become involved in the war. The Caboceers were thereupon given presents worth sixty-two rix-dollars by the Danish company. However, by December 1728 in contravention to the earlier oath, they decided to join the other Ga towns in the war against Akwamu.
Amo and the Ga were able to secure support from Akuapem, Adanme and Krepe. When the representatives of the allied forces met in Accra to discuss their war plans and to swear oath of loyalty, the English and Dutch promised to material assistance during the war. They also flattered the representatives by saluting them with canon shots. However, when Caboceer Ayikuma led the representatives to the Danish fort and demanded a similar promise of help from the Danes, the Governor declared that he was neutral. He had come to the coast to trade and not to indulge in war and therefore, was prepared to trade and make friend with anyone who brought him slaves, gold and ivory. He further declared that it was no concern of his if his own towns chose to be involved in the war. The only commitment that the Danish Governor would make was to give Caboceer Tete of Osu an old silk flag on condition that, when in the hills, he should send down millet on the Danish Company’s account.
In June 1729 formal war finally broke out between the allied forces and the Akwamu. On 18th June de la Planque reported: “affairs between the Aquamboe and the people of Accra have at last broken into formal war; the former having hostilely fallen upon the village of Tashi about two miles below Accra – a few days ago, massacred some people and plundered goods – but to this Crom (town) they have not yet dared to come for fear of the Akims whom the Accras with their allies have got to resolve too much up against Aquamboe (Akwamu). Makelaar Amoe and his people, besides the people of Labbodee (Labadi) and Tema and other beach people, have already risen on the 15th instant, and the rest of the Accras will, for the most part, follow in four days’ time in order, together with the hill people, to attack Aquamboe; while they are assured that Akim is also in readiness to extend a helping hand to them. The Akwamu army adcanced further westwards to Labadi, which on 20th June was set on fire and plundered of goods.
The outbreak of war caused pandemonium in Accra and led many people to seek protection in the forts. It appears that the Ga did not confine themselves solely to the Accra forts. In July the Dutch factor in Bereku apologized for the delay of his monthly returns for May and June, declaring that he was “so occupied by the Akra people that he does not even know where to shelter his body and has hardly a place to sleep in, through the numerous women and children whom the Accra people have sent him to be sheltered till the war with Aquamboe is over.
Although the Ga army had marched up into the hills in June, battle was repeatedly postponed until September, when the Akwamu finally attacked part of the allied army and compelled it to retire. Most of the Ga fled back to the coast; but the remainder, along with Amo and the other allies, retired into Akyem. (Akyem had previously given hostage as guarantee that they would join the war against Akwamu. With this battle ended the first phase of the war. According to de la Planque, it was only due to the faint-heartedness of the Ga that Akwamu were not totally defeated. He did however, observe that Akwamu had gained a little advantage in the attack since, in contrast to the allied forces; it had lost a substantial number of caboceers.
The initial victory of the Akwamu provoked various reactions. The Dutch Director-General Norre shifted the blame on to the Ga for starting the war: “having seen the faint-hearted retreat of the Accra men, we are all the more confirmed in our opinion, namely, that we have always had little confidence in the result of this perilous understanding, but as we are not in any way involved in this war, nor were we consulted about it, we will await its end tranquilly, especially as we have been able to observe that the Company stood to make any profit by it even though it had succeeded according to wish (sic). The Accra people can therefore see how they can get out of it and must take heed that they don’t trouble us about any of the consequences.”
De la Planque, however, disagreed with Norre over the issue. He declared: “although it is true that the Accras are waging this war on their own account, and without the special permission of your Highness, still, I consider it my duty to inform your Highness of everything I hear about it. That your Highness considers that even if that succeeds according to the wish of the Accras this would not bring any profit to the Honourable Company is, however, with all respect, contrary to my opinion, seeing that the Aquamboe are the sole cause that the Akims cannot come here to the beach to trade, but are obliged to leave everything in Aquamboe which then again trades goes so badly here. Wherefore I imagine that, if the Aquamboe might once be defeated and driven out of their country, the gold and ivory trade would flourish again as in former times.”
Indeed, de la Planque had so much confidence in the favourable outcome of the war that he invested his own money in it. He was even said to have offered 24 bendas to whoever would bring him the head of Ansa Kwao, King of Akwamu. He was also accused by the Danes of having boasted publicly that he would hoist Ansa Kwao’s head on his flag staff and had further sworn that, if he did not get hold of that ‘black dog” Ansa Kwao in the war, he would do so when he became Director-General, even if it should cost him one hundred marks. As further evidence of de la Planque’s keen interest in the war, he kept two of his servants in the army to act as spies, so that he could receive up to date information about the progress of the battle. All these factors earned him the nickname “akwamu wura”, which meant Akwamu’s master.
The Ga who had fled to their homes compensated for their defeat by taking reprisals in Accra. On 12th September 1729 the Ga caboceer Ayikuma and his followers panyarred some Akwamu and Brekuso who had visited the Danish fort. The Ga also directed their hostility against the Danish company itself. On 21st September 1729 de la planque reported that the Danish Governor had incited the hatred of the Ga because “he is taking the side of the Aquamboes very strongly.” As a result of this aggression, all the Governor’s subject people, including the canoemen along with their canoes, had fled from under the protection of the fort. Moreover, because of his “violent zeal” for the Akwamu, the Ga were employing every means possible to prevent the Danish Goernor from receiving provisions. It was de la planque’s believed that if the Akwamu did not win the war, the Ga would eventually starve out the Danish fort. It was further alleged that the Danish Governor had been told by the Ga to take his fort on his back and go with it to Akwamu if he wanted provision.
The feeling of animosity which the Ga held toward the Danes was aggravated by the fact that the Danish Governor had received jawbones from Akwamu messagers as a token of their victory in the first war. The Governor also sent servants bearing presents to the Akwamu king. On 31st December 1729 one of his servants, amo, was sent together with a mulatto, Christian Peterson de Widt, on a mission to akwamu. Whilst en route he threw down the anker of spirits that he was carrying as a present to Ansa kwao and sought refuge with the other Ga under the Dutch and English forts. It is not known what information this deserter gave to the Ga, but on 8th January 1730 they decided to take action against the Danish Company.
Okain, a Ga coboceer, together with some of his followers went to Osu and encited the Danish slaves into leaving the service of the company. Those who were of Ga origin left willingly, those who were not force to company them. The slave comprised 14 men, 2 women and 1boy. Okain and his followers also seized twenty goats and one sheep together with the boy who tended them. The Danish governor immediately sent a messeger, Noi, to inform de la plaque about the robbery and to ask for redress, but his messenger did not return. That same night, the Ga tried to sabotage the Danish caoes, in an attempt to prevent from securing any support from their ship,k the haabet Galley, Which was then anchored off Osu. The saboteurs were, however, repelled with hand grenades. For the next fifteen days and night the Ga attacked the Danish fort but were unable to stop reinforcement arriving from their ship. The Ga were alleged to have bragged at the beginning of their attack that they would seize the Danish fort within six days, massacre all the occupants so that not a”single Christian soul” remained and then raise the Dutch flag. However, the only apparent success achieved by the Ga was the wounding of three spldiers, one of whom later died of his wounds.
During the siege of the fort, the Danish Governor sent a certain Mr. Hougaard to the the Akwamu Caboceer, Amega, who was then in Great Ningo, to inform him of the Danish predicament. Amega immediately sent a messege to King Ansa Kwao, who responded to the request by sending five Cboceer along with their followers to relieve the Danes. The arrival of the armed men in Accra on 23rd January 1730 marked the beginning of the second phase of the war.
The Akwamu troops had been in Osu for less than a quarter of an hour when they were attacked by the Ga. They fought until noon and then retired because of the excessive heat of the sun. After the Akwamu’s poor quality ammunition had been replaced with better ammunition by the Danish Company, they renewed their fighting with vigour. They continued in this vein until 25th January, when they were joined by two further Caboceer and their followers from Akwamu. A day later the Akwamu forces were further strengthened by the arrival of the great caboceer kwesi Bibri, the king’s brother-in-law. By this stage the Akwamu forces numbered over two thousand men, yet in spite of these reinforcements, they were unable to defeat the Ga.
On February 6th, de la Planque reported that the Akwamu had attacked the Ga twice but, having been repelled by the Dutch and English canons had so not been able to penetrate into Aprag and Soko. The Akwamu later claimed that they had lost seventy-five men in these battles. There was a temporary cessation of fighting on sides until the 13th February. Onm this date Kesi Sibri, in accordance with an agreed plan, enticed the Ga attackers onto the beach under the Danish fort, where they were fired upon by the Danish canons. In the face of this setback, the Ga retreated, carrying with them their dead and wounded.
On February 14th, the King of Akwamu arrived in Accra with reinforcements. The Akwamu forces drove the Ga into and Dutch forts and in doing so gained control of the towns, despite the fact that both the European companies were firing upon them. After the Akwamu forces had entered the towns, they set fire to them and besieged the Dutch and English forts.
When Director-General Norre was informed of the attack, he expressed his “vexation” and accused de la Planque of not giving him the full information about the events which led to the siege. He declared that if the Ga had consulted him about their intention to wage war against Akwamu, he would not have failed to point out to them that “to attack Aquamboe could have no other result for them than that of a hare aousing and aggravating a sleeping lion. He also advised de la Planque to watch Amo closely since he believed the latter was employing “his talent” to deceive both the Ga and the Dutch. In spite of his anger, Norre, offered to send a ship- to Accra to collect all the women and children, but the Ga politely declined the offer, preferring to send the women and children away by their own canoes. For the duration of the siege, the Ga were forced to fetch water from Bereku on 5th March, Guicherit the factor there reported that about twe3nty small canoes went daily to9 Accra with water, as a result of the great scarcity of water in the Accra forts.
After the Akwamu had besieged the forts for a considerable length of time, the king sent a messenger to the Dutch and English and asked them if they were disposed to make a palaver with him. In response, both de la Planque and the English Agent General Braithwaite, who was then on a visit to Accra, replied that they would only listen to the king’s proposals if he withdrew his forces and sent someone on his behalf to meet them. However, Braithwaite subsequently changed his mind and made peace with Akwamu despite the fact that the acting Dutch factor Gawron made every effort to persuade him to delay in this course of action for at least three or four days. Gawron was intent on this delay because he had received two boys as pawns from the Akyem as security for their prospective advance agaist the akwamu, and so the Akyem were concerned that the Dutch and English should not enter into friendship with Akwamu. However on the night of 22nd March, the Akwamu unexpectedly and quietly withdrew their forces from Accra.
The sudden withdrawal of Akwamu forces from Accra suggests that there was an urgent situation to be dealt with in Akwam. Gawron was convinced that the hurried departure of the Akwamu forces meant that the Akyem had already fallen upon the Akwamu country, especially, since the Akwamu did not wait to receive payment for tow slaves that they had sold to the English the night before they left. Although Gawron’s statement is perhaps exaggerated, there is no doubt that the presence of the Akwamu king and his forces in Accra left his country exposed to attack. Indeed, on 5th March, Guicherit reported that following the siege of the Ga by the Akwamu, a party of seventy-one Fante volumteers had descended upon Akwamu for the purpose of a marauding expedition, but had obtained nothing except a man and a woman. They had however, promised to return in the hope of at5taining more booty. It was even rumoured that the FDante would unite with the Akeym and together they would fight Akwamu.
The period between the withdrawal of Akwamu forces from Accra and the final phase of the war was exploited by both theAkwamu and their enemies as an opportunity to look new for allies, or else, to ensure that the powerful neighbours would at least remain neutral.
On April 20th, Ansa Kwao sent a servant to Gawron, the acting Dutch factor,with gift of yams and 2 ankers of palm wine, one for Gawron and the other for Ayikuma. Ansa Kwao “begged” Gawron and Ayikuma to send a representative to Akwamu “to settle the palavers” He wanted to renew the former friendship with the Dutch company and assured Gawron that he had no further reason to rise up against them but that he was previously “instigated thereto by other who had turned his head. “When the Dutch council at Elmina was informed to the the king’s message, they decided to settle the disputes for the welfare of trade. Even though they believed the king of Akwamu was in the wrong, they were willing to comply because the Akwamu”appeared so submissive and were even the first to seek for peace.” The council, therefore, authorized a commission, comprising the chief factor de la planque and Blittersdorp, to go to Accra and settle the disputes with the king of Akwamu. The commissioners were, however, instructed not to make any payment or expenditure to the charge of the company.
When de la planque and Bliteersdorp arrived in Acrra, the king of Akwamu sent a servant to Crevecoeur. De la planque advised the servant to ask the king to send down some caboceers with full powers to settle the disputes and to reach an agreement “otherwise they would have very serious consequences.” De la planque stayed in Accra until May 19th, only deciding to return to Elmina when he realized that the king had not as jet sent his delegation. At the end of May, the king sent a messenges to apologise for this delay and as security for his genuine intention to settle the dispute the messenger wasaccompanied by two boy pawns. He did declare, however, that before settling the disputes, he had to fight with “the hill people to see who will be master.”
In June a battle was fought between the Akwamu and the allied forces backed by a number of Akyem troops. Although the Akyem Caboceer, Oforidua, was said to have so gallantly that he got “quite fifty heads of the Aquamboes”, the battle ended in defeat for the allied forces. This defeat can mainly be attributed to the treachery of the Akuapem Caboceer, who evidently deserted during the battle to join the Akwamu. Although the caboceer was caught whilst deserting and was promptly beheaded, many of his people did succeed in joining the Akwamu.
According to Ivor Wilks, the predominant reason for this defection lay in the fact that most of the Akuapem had joined the war not because they wanted to see a complete overthrow of Akwamu power, but because they wanted to rebel purely against the tyrannical personal rule of Ansa Kwao. When the Akuapem realized that they had become mere adjuncts to the Akyem objective of total destruction of the Akwamu, a large number of them decided to revert to Ansa Kwao. They had no intension of helping to bring about the Akyem rule. Among the people who joined Ansa Kwao were many of the followers of Osei Agyeman, who now supply the Nafihene of modern Akwamu.
The news of this Akwamu victory is reported to have caused great consternations amongst the Ga. They must have realized the enormity of the punishment which would be meted out of them if the Akwamu finally won the war and so they judiciously decided to renew their interest in the fighting. Accordingly, Ayikuma expressed his desire to panyar some Akwamu messengers who had brought jaw bones to the Europeans in Accra as proof of their vicotory. Blittersdorp, however, objected because he saw this act as a violation of the law of the nation, which granted that, “all ambassadors had the liberty to pass to and fro unmolested.” More importantly, Blittersdorp thought that such a violation would not be to the advantage of the Company, mainly because, as a result of the disturbances, Crevecoeur had been without trade for a long time. Although the Ga did finally allow the messengers to return to Akwamu unmolested, another group was not so fortunate. Twenty further Akwamu messengers, one of whom was a servant with the King’s stick, were attacked near the Dutch fort in July. Although Akwamu denied any knowledge of the attack, the assailants were said to have spoken Ga. The responsibility for the attack was eventually attributed to Tete Kpeshi, a Caboceer of Soko.
Immediately after the Akwamu victory, Ayikuma sent two delegates, Grande Tete and Okaidza, to send a messenger to Akyem and Agona to try to persuade them to join the advance against Akwamu. He also asked Blittersdorp to send a messenger to Akyem to secure their support, but he declined to do so, suggesting that he had been sent to Accra to trade and not to “thrust” himself into any new quarrel. The Akyem were, however, busy taking precautions before committing their forces to the war. In July, the Akyem army sent two people to the Dutch factor, Gawron, at Apam as security that they would take possession of the Akwamu country and renew the trade and alliances with the Dutch Company. They alleged that the Fante had been the cause of their delay because they had made a new demand for 100 bendas, which had already been sent. They were taking these precautions to safeguard their alliance ewith the Fante so that “their minds can be at rest” over their wives and children whom they intended to leave in Agona.
Gawron’s acceptance of the Akyem pledge reveals a lack of co-ordination amongst the various Dutch forts. It seems that whilst Blittersdorp was trying to make peace with the Akwamu, the other factors were supporting their enemies. On 11th July, Blittersdorp received some servants who had been sent by King of Akwamu. They had brought with them a boy, to prove that Akwamu had won the war against her enemies. On 12th July, Gawron was given two jaw bones by an Akyem caboceer, as a token that they had fought Akwamu. These jawbones were given to Gawron by Tete and Okaidza, the Ga delegates to Fante and Agona. Gawron was later reprimanded for this action by Director-General Pranger, who believed that Ansa Kwao would be offended when he discovered that the Akwamu jawbones, had been presented by the Dutch to his enemies the Ga, especially at a time when Akwamu was trying to settle her differences with the Dutch.
Pranger’s reprimand should not be taken too seriously, for he himself on July 22nd had authorized the factor at Accra to give protection to some Akuapem women in response to entreaties by Ayikuma. Indeed, pranger’s decision to offer protection to the enemies of Akwamu was, for practical purposes, worse than that of the donation of Akawamu jawbones to Tete and Okaidza. His empty threats towards the Ga. Whilst the Dutch may have wished, either secretly or openly, for the defeat of the Akwamu, they also felt compelled to convey the pretence of friendship, in case Akwamu eventually did win the war. In a letter to the Directors, dated 9th July 1730, Pranger wrote: “it would be desirable that the Aquamboes were defeated, or their wings clipped, since it is they alone who in every way prevent and hinder the Akyem the passage to the beach; and if they were somewhat prevented from doing this, and the Akyem could get passage through Akwamu, it is evident that the trade there would change for better for the Company.”
In contrast to these Dutch machinations, the English and Danish companies were more consistent in their dealing with the war. The English had originally supported the rebel forces; but when they made peace with the Akwamu in the aftermath of the siege of Accra, they remained constent in their position as friends of Akwamu. On September 7th 1730, Cruickshank, one of the English agents at Cape Coast, visited Accra. Upon his arrival he immediately had Tete Kpeshi, the Soko caboceer accused of having panyarred the Akwamu messengers, put in irons. The Dutch factor Blittersdorp commented that Cruickshank “strongly takes side of the Aquamboes.” Cruickshank believed that if the Akwamu were defeated, it would be prejudicial to trade. The Fante would doubtless take kpossession of their country, continue their trade with the interlopers at Anomabo and , crucially, prevent the Akyem from coming to trade at the fort.in short, Cruickshank’s statement implies that the English pro-Akwamu policy emanated from the fear of what a Fante victory would mean for the English Company’s trade prospects.
The Danes remained friends of Akwamu throughout the war regardless of their previously avowed neutrality. In spite of this, the Ga hostility towards them lessened after the siege of Accra: the Ga began to sell the majority of their slaves, most of whom were stolen and of the best quality, to the Danes.
Despite evidence which suggested that the Ga were stepping up their anti-Akwamu activities, the Akwamu continued to pursue both their friendship and that of the Dutch, even after the June victory. The messengers who had brought the jawbones and news of the Akwamu victory to Accra also informed Blittersdorp that Ansa Kwao would send messengers to settle the disputes as soon as everything was in order again. They further advised Blittersdorp that there were about three hundred slaves or captives in Akwamu, some of whom they would bring along when they eventually came to settle the disputes. A second group of messengers arrived two weeks later, accompanied by a boy whom they had taken captive in the war. These messengers informed Blittersdorp that the caboceer who had been chosen to settle the disputes was afflicted with guinea worm. Upon receiving this latest evidence of what he saw as Akwamu procrastination, Pranger instructed Blittersdorp to send a servant to the King to ask him categorically whether he entended to settle the disputes or not. He was to assure the King that his ambassadors would not be injured or molested. Blittersdorp was also instructed to ask the Ga to recall their delegates who had been sent to Fante and Agona, as they previously assured Pranger the Fante would never rise up against Akwamu. The Ga were warned “on pain of severe opunishment” not to molest the Akwamu.
Such threats turned out to be ineffectual, for when the third group of messengers, sent by Ansa Kwao were panyarred by the Ga, Pranger did not punish them. He said that he was unable to prevent the Ga or punish for panyarring the Akwamu whilst the disputes remained unsettled. He was, however, convinced that “if the Aquamboes saw an opportunity to get hold of any Accras, they would not let it pass to panyar them all.
After this latest attack on his Akwamu messengers, the king sent Boakye (son of the former king, Akonnor) to Accra. Boakye protested against the panyaring and insisted that this and other minor grievances should be redressed before any of the major disputes were settled. He further demanded that Blittersdorp should wait until he had returned to Akwamu and made his report on the molestation, before sending the Dutch servant to Akwamu. Boakye returned to Accra at the appointed time and swore in the presence of Blittersdorp and the Ga caboceers that no harm would befall the servant who was to accompany him to Akwamu.
Boakye had to postpone his return to Akwamu, he learnt that a large group of men, mostly Kusi Adu’s people, were waiting to molest him and his party en route. He therefore requested and was duely provided with escorts to lead some of his men back to Akwamu. Boakye’s people returned to Accra some days later, bringing with them men armed with muskets to safeguard Boakye. Upon the arrival of these armed men at the outskirts of Accra, Boakye left the town on the pretext of taking some drinks to his people. Nothing further was heard of him and so Blittersdorp kept all his goods and the party of five boys whom he was to have taken back to Akwamu. With Boakye’s departure from Accra in the middle of August went all possibility of the Akwamu ever making peace with the Ga and the Dutch before the end of the war.
Blittersdorp began to doubt the Akwamu sincerity in ever desiring a peaceful solution: “as regards the Aquamboes I can form no opinion about them and I believe they proposed everything with deceit and rascality, and they came here to spy out what was going on.” It was this same Blittersdorp who had commented earlier that “so far as regards the protestations and outward appearance of the Aquamboe Caboceer, I should presume that the Aquamboes are in earnest about settling the disputes which have arisen.”
Boakye’s abscondance from Accra may have resulted in the fact that he similarly did not believe that the Ga and the Dutch would be honest in their settling of the disputes. Blittersdorp himself said that he presumed that the Ga were not “altogether inclining to make the palaver.” During the negotiations, besides repeatedly panyarring Akwamu messengers, the Ga gave active support to the enemies of the Akwamu.
On 18th July, Akwamu asked Blittersdorp to grant protection to the wives of the “hill people”, because the Ga had taken an oath in the presence of de la Planque to assist them in this way. On 9th July, Blittersdorp reported that a large body of the hill people, amongst whom were the caboceers Anpon and Etoe, had retired to Accra. These caboceers sought refuge with the Ga, because their people, many of whom had rejoined the Akwamu forces, wanted to hand them over to the enemy in order to make peace. Ayikuma asked permission of Blittersddorp to fortify the Dutch salt hut on the beach in order to shelter the refugees, as the fort was too small to accommodate them all in the event of an Akwamu attack. By the time Ayikuma received permission from Director-General Pranger, the fortification had already been started. Unluckily, the construction these fortifications coincided with Boakye’s presence in Accra. In addition to protecting the enemies of the Akwamu, the Ga also deliberately did not pay heed to Pranger’s instructions to recall their delegates from Fante and Agona. In August when Frimpong Manso (leader of the Akyem Kotoku responsible for the main offensive against Akwamu) wanted 50-60 bendas worth of powder on credit from the Dutch factor Gawron, it was the Ga and Agona king, Kusi Adu, who guaranteed what he received.
The Akwamu negotiations for peace with the Ga and the Dutch were conducted whilst the war was still being fought. After Akwamu’s June victory, they appear to have suffered a temporary reversal. On the 12th July, Gawron reported that an Akwamu force had been surrounded by enemy men and moreover that the King of Akwamu could not go to their aid because three Akyem captains had previously cat his communication line by seizing a large town of Akwamu. It seems that the Akyem were biding their time and waiting for the Fante before attacking Akwamu with their full force. However, Akwamu was able to revenge this setback, for on 31st July, Blittersdorp reported that the Akwamu had again fought the hill people and he believed they had won, because some hill people had already fled to Accra and about five hundred more were expected.
In September, Akyem stepped up her offensive against Akwamu. On 5th September, Gawron reported that Akyem had already captured the Akwamu bush villages and cut off the Akwamu food supplies. Furthermore, the Akyem had promised that they would capture the whole country of Akwamu, whether Fnate marched up or not. Indeed, on 17th September, they sent a messenger to inform Gawron that they “as good as had the Aquamboe country in their possession, as they had fought against them and taken possession of all the Aquamboe croms, except the King’s crom, with which they were waiting to see what Fantyn would undertake for their assistance to whom the had advanced gold to help them. But if Fantyn does not also rise up against Aquamboe, they have let them know that they will catch and cut off the heads of all their thieves who are now plundering in Aquamboe and would take further measures against Fantyn itself as soon as they had settled their palaver with Akwamu.”
Gawron further stated that the Akyem had “so shut in” the Akwamu they could flee neither forwards nor backwards; many Akwamu were surrendering to “mercy or displeasure” of the Akyem, others scattering in the bush and the King had to “flee everywhere” from the Akyem, “so that Akim is already master of this whole country from which good trade may be expected from Honourable Company.”
The Danes likewise give a description of this final battle. Waeroe reported that the Akwamu, in order to fight the Akyem, crossed a river which was low enough at the time to enable them to easily wade through. Akyem, however, did not join the battle immediately and in the meantime it rained heavily andd the river naturally filled up. The Akyem then proceeded to attack the Akwamu who, when forced to retreat, were forced to cross the swollen river. They lost more than four times as many men doing this then those who had already been killed in the battle. The Akyem then followed them, attacked them in their own land, and within three days had destroyed and conquered the whole Akwamu. Ansa Kwao was captured, put in irons and finally beheaded. In October, Amo returned from the war to Accra bringing with him the head and hand of Ansa Kwao, King of Akwamu.
The final defeat of the Akwamu led to a general state of disorder. The major culprits in this latest upheaval were the Fante, about fifteen to twenty thousand men, had joined Akyem, and although they had not taken part in the battle, they wanted them to hand over part of the booty they had taken, “all of which causes considerable troubles in the interior.” Guicherit at Bereku also reported that the roads were unsafe and no woman and children in the croms which they (the Fante) marched through are safe, and that would last for about eight days, yet when the Fante and Akyem caboceers, so is said , will then be in Agona and will bring everything in tranquility there.”
Many of the Akeamu who were captured were sold as slaves. Romer commended: “one could imagine what was done with the Akwamu so long as a pot of brandy could be obtained from each of them. Some of the Akwamu who were fortunate enough to escape from the general plunder and cassacre, fled beyond the Volta and founded new Akwamu (the modern Akwamu state). Here, there resided under the leadership of Akonnor Kuma, son of the late King Akonnor by a slave woman. According to Romer only about five hundred families across the Volta, and these included not more than one thousand fighting men. This, however, could be an underestimate, intended to illustrate that only a small proportion of the Akwamu population founded the new state of Akwamu. New Akwamu continued to maintain links with Accra.
The remnant Akwamu who did not join their brethren beyond the Volta were consigned by the Akyem to live under the leadership of Akwamu caboceer Kwasi Bibri. Pranger in reference to this somewhat peculiar state of affairs, noted that: “it is an old custom among the natives always to leave a part of their vanquished foes in their own country and to entrust the authority over it to someone of the same, whom they then as tribute-paying vassals: those of the triumphant party can, however, settle there if they are so disposed without nevertheless having a share in the government.”
It appears that Caboceer Amo and other sections of the Ga were not wholly satisfied after the defeat of the Akwamu. In December there rumours that Amo still felt disposed to attack those Akwamu who had fled to “an inland”, and would do so as soon as he had gathered together the necessary men. Amo obviously succeeded in gaining this support, for in March 1731 Aprag was “entirely devoid of people”because of the campaign in the Volta area. Amo was joined by Ayikuma, Okpoti kof Labadi and the people of Osu. Ayikuma, however, returned to Accra in May 1731, leaving the others to continue with the campaign. The campaign lasted for more than two years, for it was not until 1733 that Okpoti returned to Labadi. Dako (who had taken over the leadership after his father Amo’s death) likewise returned to Aprag after defeating the Awuna in 1733.
The Ga who chose not to go on this campaign and instead remained under the leadership of Ayikuma attempted to solve their differences with the Akwamu who were left in their country. In May 1731, a party of Akwamu who were going to Bereku were attacked, and one of them was shot dead by some Ga assailants. The continuation of such hostilities was injurious to trade, and so in June 1731 an attempt was made to negotiate a peace settlement. An oath was taken by the Ga and the Akwamu in the presence of Blittersdorp in Accra, declaring that:
1) Hostilities were now at the end.
2) The Ga and Akwamu would live like good friends
3) The Akwamu would come and carry on their trade in Accra.
4) The roads could be used on either side unmolested and without hindrance as soon as the Akwamu had established themselves in their country.
Blittersdorp did not have much confidence in this agreement, because he believed that “no reliance can be placed on forced and dominated people such as the Akwamu.” He was convinced that upon the smallest chance of deliverance, the Akwamu would seize the opportunity and make the Ga pay dearly for being the primary cause of their misfortune. However, after this agreement was signed the trade paths did apparently become safe, and in November 1731 it was reported by Guicherit that the ways from Alwamu, Agona and Akyem were open again for trade.
Another group of people with whom the Ga had to make peace were the Akyem. In October 1730, the Ga caboceer and Amo agreed to pay 350 bendas and six stings of conte de terre, as a war contribution to the Akyem. The Ga were at first only able to pay 120 bendas and five strings of conte de terre and time was fixed for the payment of the rest. In return, the Akyem envoys who received the payment swore according to local custom and on the Bible to live in friendship with the Ga.
Barely one month after this promise, the Akyem sent envoys to Ayikuma to demand the balance of the payment (amounting to 240 bendas and 1 string of conte de terre) even though not more than one-fifth of the time fixed for the payment had expired. The Akyem claimed that they were compelled to demand the amount because they needed it to support the fugitive Wassa King, Intiforo, to whom they had pledged their help in fighting the Asante.
From the preceeding chapter, it would seem clear that it was largely the Ga rebellion of 1728 which participated the complex war that culminated in the collapse of Akwamu power in 1730. With the disintegration of Akwamu authority came the problem of filling the power vaccum which now existed in the Accra plains.
THE PERIOD OF TURBULANCE 1730-42
The period 1730-1742 can be seen as the most turbulent in the history of the Ga. It witnessed attempts by the Ga to work out a modus Vivendi with the Akyem and the Europeans, it beheld a civil warm, and finally, it saw the Ga confronted by the powerful Asante after their defeat of the Akyem.
The Ga used this period after the defeat of the Akwamu not only to reassert themselves, but also to affirm their rights to the ownership of Ga lands which they believed to include the Adanme coast. They therefore challenged the European propensity to build on their lands without first seeking permission. Such protests to the Europeans implied an unwillingmess to accept the Akyem in the role of suzerain, as landlords who had merely taken over where the Akwamu had left off. Ga efforts to reassert themselves were further manifested through their attempts to break the power and influence of Akwamu elements in Accra, some of whom had become permanent settlers, and who even today are known as the Otublohuns.
In March 1732 the Danes reported that, since the defeat of the Akwamu the Devil’s “Accras” (frandens Accraer) had arrogated far too much power to themselves. This comment by the Danes is not surprising when one considers that they were the first victims of the newly assertive Ga.
In January 1732, whilst the Danes were building a lodge at Great Ningo, the Ga seized the Danish representative Sparre. He was taken to Aprag (usshertown) and was not released until he had promised to pay 100 bendas to Ayikuma. The primary objection which the Ga held towards the erection of the Danish lodge was the fact that the Danes had not asked for their permission before undertaking the enterprise. Secondly, the Ga were still suspicious of the Ga support for Akwamu, especially because the Danish decision to build at Ningo coincided with the period when Akwamu had fled and settled in the Volta area. The Ga therefore, saw the Danish enterprise as a means of giving assistance to the Akwamu, who were still perceived to be ‘mortal enemies’ of the Ga.
The Ga were actively encouraged in their attack upon the Danish lodge by the Dutch factor Elet, who saw the presence of the Danish lodge in Ningo as a threat to the Dutch trading interest on the leeward coast. Significantly, the Dutch Director-General Pranger was far from pleased at the demolition of the Danish lodge. He viewed the incident as a sign of Ga defiance, which could easily be extended to all the Europeans if it was not forstalled. In his protest to Elet, the Director-General expressed his surprise that he had not “emphantically checked the excessed of our subjects (Ga), and if they had been wronged anywhere by the Danes, to have him ask for justice or satisfaction, instead of allowing them to take the law into their own hands… We also consider the expressions of your natives (Ga) regarding their hatred of the Danes pre-eminently insolent, and impertinent, the more so as we could conform to them and we say in reply that we are by no means disposed to let the law be laid down for us by anyone on the coast, especially, not by the Accras who are the biggest rascals in the world… you can therefore order them in our name to refrain henceforth from all hostilities as regards the Danes of any other nation… and with regards to their threat that if we did not find the Danes in the wrong, they would abandon your crown and retire elsewhere, you can tell them that we are very thoroughly convinced by their ‘lachiteyt’ (cowardice)? And that they therefore have not the courage to proceed beyond the reach of our fort as the Fante would immediately swallow them up shell and all.”
Pranger gave further empjhasis to his disapproval of the Ga molestation of the Danes, by travellin to Accra himself in April 1732, to settle the matter. The Ga were made to pay 153 oz. gold as compensation. At a meeting between the Dutch, Danish and Ga representatives, Pranger advised Ayikuma to be friendly with the Danes. The Danish Governor thereupon gave Ayikuma substantial presents, and the latter promised to the Danes’ friend in all matters.
Another protest against the European decision to build on land without Ga permission was issued in 1740, when the English started building a lodge at Prampram. The Ga sent a messenger to the English to ask them “what reason they had to build on their (Ga) land.” The Ga caboceers, who were then in friendly terms with the Dutch, claimed that the lartter could have possession of all the land frm Bereku to the eastern towns since the Ga had won them in the Akwamu war of 1728-30 only with the assistance of the Dutch. The caboceers must have realized that their argument would be challenged by the English and so they therefore claimed that although the English had also helped them in the war, their assistance had been paid for.
The European companies were prepared to accept the Ga claim to ownership of lands on the Ga-Adanme coast. For example, in 1732 even after the Ga had thwarted the Danish attempt to build in Ningo, the Danes, instead, obtained permission to build a fort from the Akyem caboceer Owusu, variously described as nephew or brother of Bakwante. They had to pay a sum of 20 bendas before the fort was built and continued to pay I oz. a month to Owusu. In 1738 Owusu further demonstrated his authority over Ningo by imposing a fine of 7 slaves on Ningo Caboceer for flying the Dutch flag without his concent.
In 1740, the English ignored the Ga claims to Prampram and continued to build their lodge. While the Ga were making these claims, the Danish Governor (who obviously acknowledged the Akyem as owners of the land) sent a message to the Caboceer Owusu. He suggested that if the Akyem permitted the English to build at Prampram, the Danes would refuse to make the monthly payments for Ningo, because to give permission for an English lodge would a violation of the agreement signed between the Dnaish Company and Owusu when Ningo was first built. Owusu cunningly sent the Danes the reassuring message that what the English could build in six months, he could destroy it in one day. His message was obviously a means of allaying Danish fears until the English lodge was completed, since the English were, most likely, building with his consent.
The attitude of the Ga, the Europeans and the Akyem towards the ownership of land along the Ga-Adanme coast reveals fundamental difference of interpretation as to the implications of 1728-30 war. The Ga had seen the war of 1728-30 primarily as a struggle for their own independence. The war had started as a Ga rebellion against Akwamu power; the Akyem had been invited to join as allies of the Ga and had been compensated for their services. The Ga, therefore, found it difficult to accept the idea of the Akyem as new overlords, which had simply taken over the role vacated by the Akwamu. Moreover, unlike the Akwamu, the Akyem had not defeated them in war.
The Akyem, on the other hand, chose to interpret the war as a culmination of power stuggle between themselves and the Akwamu. It was they who had been responsible for the main offensive which had brought about the collapse of Akwamu power and so the Akyem saw no reason why they should not acquire ownership of former Akwamu territories.
It has already been shown that Akyem’s right to dispense with Ga-Adanme lands was acknowledged by; the Europeans. The Akyem also collected the rents from the forts on the Ga-Adanme littoral. An interesting feature of the controversy over the ownership of the Ga-Adanme lands is the fact that the Ga did not directly challenge the Akyem right to control over their lands; instead they contended themselves with protesting to the Europeans when the latter did not seek permission before building their trade posts.
The records from this period did not provide a clear picture as to the type of relationship that existed between the Ga and the Akyem. It appears that the Akyem were satisfied with their rents from the forts and the right to dispense with Ga lands, and so they left the Ga to themselves except at the time when they needed help.
There are only three recorded instances of the Akyem asking the Ga for support. In 1734, Owusu sent messengers demanding the Ga march with him against the remnant Akwamu. However, the Ga were reluctant to fight and so started devising means of satisfying him in “a quiet unobtrusive manner.” In 1740 Owusu again asked the Ga to accompany him on a campaign to the eastern coast. This time the Ga complied with the request, although the Dutch objected to it on the grounds that their company could not be responsible for the remnant Ga women and children, left behind by the men embarking on the campaign. The men’s absence would leave their dependents in a vulnerable position, especially since the Fante were reported to nothing but “steal and rob.” In 1742, Akyem once more asked the Ga to help them in their war against the Asante, but this time they emphatically refused.
It would appear that the Akyem did not attempt to establish firm control over the Ga. For example, there is no evidence to suggest that Akyem had governors to supervise the Ga towns. In fact, the Akyem leaders did not even visit the Ga coast. There is only one recorded instance of Akyem leader having visited Accra, and this was Owusu’s visit in 1738. In response to the repeated entreaties of the Ga Caboceer Okaidza, Owusu finally arrived, accompanied by over six thousand men. However, even under these circumstances, Owusu’s visit did not result in an assertion of Akyem supremacy over the Ga.
In contract to the Akwamu, the Akyem did not constantly plague the Ga with threats and extortions. There was only one occasion on which the Akyem threatened the Ga and this was during the civil disturbances of 1737-38. Even then, division amongst the Akyem leaders rendered their threats ineffective, for owusu supported Dako and the Dutch faction. It would seem clear; therefore, that Akyem control over the Ga was never particularly strong.
The Akyem’s lack of coherent leadership meant that the Ga began to struggle for power amongst themselves. This conflict escalated into civil war in 1737. On one side were the Ga caboceer Okaidza and his followers in Usshertown, supported also by Osu, La, Teshi, the Danes and the Akyem leader Owusu. Fighting against them were Dako and the Otublohuns, supported by the Aseres, the Dutch, a number of Fante and finally, the Akyem leaders Bakwante and Frempong.
Three major factors caused this civil war of 1737-38, resentment against the influence and power of the Otublohuns, commercial jealousy between the Danes and the Dutch and the fear of Akyem hostility.
Resentment against the Otublohuns had existed since the time of Akwamu suzerainty. This resentment stemmed from the power and influence enjoyed by the Otublohuns leaders, Pieter Passop and Amo, as a result of their dual roles as Dutch brokers and representatives of the Akwamu government in Accra. In 1730, the Dutch factor Blittersdorp stated that there was ‘faction and enmity” between Amo’s people and Ayikuma’s people which was caused by the fact that when Amo was in Accra, he was always sent by the Dutch to give orders to the Ga king Ayikuma. Hence, in June 1730 Ayikuma seized the opportunity provided by Amo’s absence from Accra to slander and molest the Otublohuns. Ayikuma reported to the Dutch factor blittersdorp that the Otublohuns were responsible for the panyarring of Akwamu messengers sent to Accra. Consequently, there was a confrontation between Ayikuma’s followers and the Otublohuns which nearly resulted in armed fight. Futher disputes between the two factions were only averted when blittersdorp, acting on instructions from the Director-General, warned both parties that if either of them committed hospitalities, they would be sent in irons to Elmina. This cessation of hostilities was further aided by the absence of Amo and his son Dako from Accra, on a campaign in the Volta area. In January 1733, it was Okaidza, a member of Ayikuma’s family who was judiciously sent by the Dutch on an embassy to Akyem, thereby performing the functions previously enacted by Pieter Passop, Amo and later Dako.
The appointment of Dako as Dutch broker in March 1737 by the Dutch Director-General de Bordes, precipitated the resurgence of the latent resentment against the Otublohuns. Okaidza, who acted as the champion of this resentment, was aware that the strength of the Otublohuns during the period of Akwamu suzerainty had lain firstly in the strong ties between their leaders and the Akwamu royal house and secondly in their position as Dutch brokers. This, in effect, meant that the Otublohuns were backed by the two strongest powers in Accra. Okaidza was not prepared to see a similar situation develop during the period of Akyem rule over the Ga. Because he could not hope to break the bond between the Otublohuns and the Dutch, He tried instead to alienate both parties from the Akyem.
Okaidza gained the support of the Akyem Caboceer, Owusu, by sending him presents. He was able to win the support of the eastern Ga towns osu, La and Teshi, because they saw the disputes as an opportunity to react against the domination of Akwamu elements in Ga Society. In a petition to the danes for help, the representatives of these towns stated that okaidza was the only accra caboceer left and if they did not help him , the rest of Ga would be thrown at the mercy intrigues of Dako, who was only “a slave’s son elevated by the help of the whites.” However, the petition from these towns was not the sole reason behind the Danish decision to support okaidza. More importantly, the Danes were prepared to offer their assistance because of the commercial rivalry between themselves and the Dutch.
Danish-Dutch relations had not been particularly harmonious since September 1735, and the situation worsened during the following year. In April 1736 the Danish Governor reported that the African inhabitants had so much love for him that they hardly passed by his fort to trade with the other Europeans so long as he had the goods they required. He also stated that for every twenty slaves he had purchased, he was sure the Dutch and English had not obtained two. There was a trade boom in Osu which had enticed all the inhabitants who had previously deserted to return. Furthermore, many other people, including one of the minor caboceer of Usshertown and his followers had decided to settle in Osu. All these people were good traders, and the resultant commercial advantage annoyed the Dutch factor so much that he was prepared to send Dako on a mission to set fire to Osu. However, the Danish Governor, obviously aware of the intrigue, immediately distributed muskets and powder to his people to keep a good watch and defend themselves. In January 1737, the Dutch Director-General de bordes and the council at Elmina reported that they had foiled the Danish attempts to build forts at Teshi and the Fante country, the Danes had managed to build at Ningo, thereby causing great inconvenience to trade at Crevecoeur. The Dutch heightened their intrigues against the Danes in Teshi by building a lodge themselves. Under such circumstances, it was not surprising that the Danes supported Okaidza against Dako and the Dutch.
Dako’s support in the war comprised the Dutch, the Aseres, the Fante and the Akyem leaders Bakwante and Frempong. The Dutch were obliged to support Dako because they were already implicated in Okaidza’s scheming. If Okaidza ever succeeded in alienating them from the Akyem, the commercial losses for the Dutch company would be substancial, due to the fact that the Akyem provided the bulk of the trade on the leeward coast.
Aseres’s support for Dako is interesting since it was the cause of one of the principal divisions amongst the Ga. According to oral tradition, Okaidza originally belonged to the Asere division but he left the division to found his own Akutso (quarter) of Gbese. Asere’s support for Dako probably stemmed from a feeling of resentment they held towards okaidza for trying to arrogate too much power to himself as leader of the Ga. Similarly, Asere’s stand could also be due to a sense of loyalty to the Dutch company.
The Fante decided to support Dako because they were invited to do so by the Dutch. Likewise, the Akyem leaders, bakwante and Frempong, supported the Dutch and Dako because they were offered presents to ensure their loyalty. However, there is no concrete evidence to suggest that Bakwante and Frempong’s men were ever involved in the actual fighting.
It has already been stated that Okaidza attempted to alienate Dako and the Dutch from the Akyem and indeed, it can be seen that it was this effort to arouse hostility which provided the prelude to civil war. In 1737 rumours began to circulate that the Dutch, by means of bribes and promises, were trying to persuade the Asante to attack akyem. The Akyem readily believed this rumour, because they had long been suspicious of the Dutch friendship with Asante. For example, in October 1734, the Dutch factor Augier in Accra reported to Elmina that the Akyem reproached him daily because he was a friend of “king pockoe of Assiantyn” (opoku Ware I) and had therefore refused to sell arms to akyem trades. Akyem’s reproach Stemmed from the fact that her traders could not obtain the quantity of arms they needed from the Dutch at Crevecoeur during this period.
When, in May 1737, the rumours of the Dutch-Asante conspiracy against Akyem finally reached Elmina, the Director-General de Bordes, together with Messrs. Raams and Worst were dispatched to Accra to settle the matter. On their arrival, de Bordes sent a messenger to the Akyem leaders Frempong, Bakwante and Owusu demanding to know the reasons behind their war preparations.
The Akyem leaders claimed that they were only preparing for war because rumours abounded that the Dutch had hired the Asante to intrigue against them. The Akyem delegates, who had been sent to Accra, declared that Okaidza was the cause of the disturbances. He had sent Patram(a man who had previously been dismissed by the Dutch factor and had sought protection in Osu) to Owusu to report on the Dutch-Asante conspiracy. He had also offered a considerable amount of money to Owusu with the request that the latter should come to Accra to exterminate Darko and his followers.
After receiving this information, de Bordes had Okaidza put in irons, and the following day a meeting of the Dutch representatives, Accra caboceers and Akim delegates was held in the Dutch fort to deal with Okaidza’s case. In the course of the proceedings, it became clear that Okaidza had also advised the Danish Governor to attack the Dutch fort Crevecoeur, because there was enmity between the factor and the Director-General, making it unlikely that the factor would receive any help from Elmina. Okaidza had also told the Danish Governor that he would continue staying in Usshertown in order to protect Danish interests there. However, in the event of an attack by the Dutch, he would retire to Osu to ensure that he would be under Danish protection.
After Okaidza’s machinations had been revealed, the Accra people declared unanimously that he was “a disturber of the public peace and a traitorous rascal.” Their attitude changed however, when de Bordes condemned Okaidza to death. They begged de Bordes to spare Okaidza’s life and instead to make him pay a fine; otherwise it was feared that he would immediately leave with his followers to seek protection under the Danes in Osu. The Caboceers promised to keep a close watch on Okaidza’s future conduct. A delegation of Okaidza’s followers, accompanied by the Accra caboceers, offered the Director-General 70 bendas for Okaidza’s release. This was duly accepted by de Bordes, and Okaidza was subsequently released. However, since the 70 bendas offered were not immediately available, some of his people were taken as pawns and kept in Elmina.
The imposition of this penalty on Okaidza did not avert civil disturbances. It merely delayed actions for a few months and allowed Okaidza the opportunity to continue his intrigue in Akyem. In November 1737, Darko sent a messenger to the Dutch factor at Bereku entreating him to send some people to collect his women and goods from Accra, because he was being threatened with war by the Akyem caboceer Owusu. In December there was further confusion in Accra, because Owusu and his men were said to be camped “two hours journey from the hill.” Owusu sent a messenger to Dako to demand satisfaction from him but Dako replied that he had been unaware of the existence of any quarrel between them. The confusion in Accra was such that some of the people took their goods to the Dutch fort whilst others took theirs to the Danish fort. The people then started preparing their defense against Akyem. The Dutch factor Starckenburg was convinced that even if Owusu failed to invade Accra, there was bound to be a civil war, because the people were determine to punish those elements who were constantly causing trouble. Okaidza and the Danish Governor were accused of being responsible for Owusu’s threatened invasion of Accra.
On 23rd December 1737 the people of Accra heard that Owusu had approached to within five or six miles of the town with the avowed intension of supporting Okaidza and exterminate all the other subjects. Acting upon this news, the people complained to the Dutch factor about the “rascalities and treachery” committed by Okaidza and as a result of their remonstrance were ordered by the factor to arrest him.
It was this order, given by the Dutch factor, which precipitated the outbreak of fighting. When Olaidza heard the news of his impending arrest, he retired to Osu, where he was helped by its people, and more importantly by the canons of fort Christiansborg, to fight against the pursuers. On this same day, Okaidza returned to Usshertown with his supporters, determined to attack Dko and his party. However, after an indecisive battle Okaidza retired to Osu.
On 31st December Dako’s supporters went to Osu to attack. They believed that Okaidza’s men would be drunk because they had been presented with New Year’s drinks by the Danes. However, they were once again forced to retreat. On 15th January Okaidza’s men, aided by some Akyem forces set out Usshertown but were met half way by Dako’s men. The latter were subsequently driven back to their town but they were helped by canon shots from Crevecoeur which eventually forced Okaidza’s people and their Akyem allies to retreat. The Dutch doubted wether Owusu had any genuine desire to help Okaidza, because he had previously given orders for his men to leave Accra immediately after they finished this one skirmish. The Akyem forces stayed longer than they were ordered to only, because Okaidza sent a further “good present” to Owusu as an incentive to send more men if he could not come to Accra himself.
On 21st January 1738 Owusu himself arrived in Accra with between six and eight thousand men. He was met by a deserted Usshertown, because Dako and his supporters were being protected in Crevecoeur. Realizing that he could not attack the Dutch fort, as his force was not strong enough; Owusu stayed under the Danish fort and sent messengers backwards and forwards to the Dutch. After a fruitless stay, he withdrew his forces and returned to Akyem.
Owusu’s retreat from Accra was followed by disputes over Teshi. In March 1738, the Dutch representatives Jansen, Hoes and Hecre were sent with goods and orders to trade at Teshi. Upon their arrival, they were confronted by two or three hundred armed men who demanded that they leave at once, since Okaidza would not tolerate any Dutch trade at Teshi. Later, a messenger who had been sent by the Dutch representatives to the factor in Accra was beaten en route and forced to return. In response to this, some Akyem messengers, sent by Bakwante and Frimpong to the Dutch in Accra, asked Okaidza why he persisted in obstructing the Dutch trade. He replied that he would not only protect the country from Osu as far east as Keta, but would also not tolerate any Dutch trade being transacted in that district.
On 24th March Dalo’s supporters marched out to “open the ways to the leeward croms which they were hindered from going to by Okaidza.” This resulted in a fight between Okaidza’s and Dako’s forces, during which Labadi was burnt down by Dako’s men.
In April the Dutch factor sent a servant to the “King of Akyem” to ask for his help. On 8th April the factor wrote to Elmina to say that the servant who he had sent to Akyem had promised to return the following day “bringing with him some armed men from the King of Akyem in order with his help, again to establish the lodge down below.” However, there is no evidence to suggest that the King of Akyem did send down these promised armed men.
In June 1738, the sword-bearer of the “King of Akyem” was sent to demand of Olaidza that he drops his “unfounded claim” to the towns on the leeward coast and desist from molesting the servants of the Dutch company; otherwise he would “feel the displeasure” of the King of Akyem. Okaidza ignored the Akyem threat and replied that “he would wait for three years or so” whilst considering what he would do, but in the mean time he “smash without mercy” the first Dutch man he found in any of the leeward towns.
When the King of Akyem received Okaidza’s defiant message, he asked the Dutch for 25 bendas’s worth muskets and powder for the purpose of “teaching Okaintie a lesson for his big talk” and in so doing would make the Dutch masters of the leeward towns. The Dutch thereupon resolved to give the required arms, to help “render a public enemy incapable of crying out his evil intensions.” There is, however, no evidence that the Akyem fulfilled the promise. After this ineffective Akyem threat the civil war reached a stalemate.
The Danes continued to harbour Okaidza because he conferred on them many advantages. His presence in Osu made it the largest and the most powerful of the Ga towns. This was obviously appreciated by the Danes, especially because they had been instructed by their directors in Copenhagen to “enlarge and supply their towns with good Negroes.”
Okaidza’s presence in Osu also gave the Danes a great commercial advantage over the Dutch, because his supporters would not allow the Dutch to trade in any of the other leeward towns. In June 1738 Starckenburg, the Dutch factor in Accra, observed: “there is no hope to trade here (Crevecoeur) before the leeward coast is again brought under this Company, and I believe that the reason why Okantye is strongly protected by the Danes, as he is now having a good trade there.”
Towards the end of 1738 attempts were made at reconciliation between the opposing factions. In October of the same year, Starckenburg reported that the Akyem leaders had sent for Dako and the other subjects in order “to settle everything and bring this country into peace and quiet.” Unfortunately, nothing resulted from this Akyem attempt to negotiate a peace settlement. However, the European allies of Dako and Okaidza did become reconciled in October 1738, due to the intervention of the English. They agreed to engage in hostilities concerning Okaidza’s affairs. However, Okaidza himself rejected a Dutch invitation to travel to Usshertown to settle the disputes because he feared that “there was finesse under their sweet words.” Moreover, Okaidza had sworn by his father that he would never live in Usshertown so long as Dako resided there and de Bordes was Director-General. He therefore chose to stay in Labadi.
This deadlock continued until 1739, when Okaidza finally began to modify his stand. In November 1739 Okaidza together with representatives from Osu, Labadi and Teshi requested permission from the Danish Governor to return with his brother Tyke Tette (Fat Tette) to Usshertown. The Danish Governor agreed to this, on condition that Okaidza came to the town of his own accord. He further stated that Okaidza could leave whenever he so desired, but he would have to accept that, when he left Danish protection, they could no long be responsible for his safety. After the Danish Governor had granted the required permission, Okaidza and rthe other towns took an oath of loyalty towards each other to ensure that “whoever touched one of the party had touched the rest.”
It would seem that Okaidza’s return to Usshertown in 1739 was only a partial reconciliation, since he was accompanied by only one of his wives and about ten men. He left the rest of his family and followers together with his goods in Labadi and Osu. Moreover, he neither rebuilt his house nor showed the least inclination to build it upon his return. The Danes were convinced that he had only agreed to return to Usshertown because the Dutch factor had promised to negotiate the return of his people who were being held as pawns by de Bordes in Elmina.
It was until July 1741 that a complete reconciliation occurred, and this was due only to the intervention of the Akyem. A meeting was held in Accra between the Akyem representatives and the Ga to resolve the case between Dako and Okaidza. Okaidza was “found in the right; whereupon the side which got the right has paid “esson” to the Akyem and Accras as well as the English natives, according to the custom of the country.”
The Ga had hardly settled their internal conflict, when they were confronted by external problem which did not directly concern them. This was the outbreak of the war between the Akyem and the Asante. During the preparations for the war, the Akwamu seized the opportunity to wreak vengeance on the Ga for their defeat in 1730. In December 1741, it was reported that the Akwamu and the Accras were both panyarring anything they came into contact with, and as result the Ga felt compelled to take reprisals to protect their town. These Akwamu and Acron insurgents declared to the Gat heat they “had got the Accra country from King Pokoe as a present” and moreover threatened also to invade Labadi, Teshi and Tema.
Before the Akyem joined the battle, they demanded that the Ga should help them against the Asante onslaught. However, the Ga Caboceers unanimously refused to comply, suggesting that it was more important for them to protect their own country. In the end, only Dako of Otublohun assisted the Akyem, but even here, it was alleged that he had gone to Akyem to settle his own palavers before the war started and he was therefore forced by the Akyem to participate.
In March 1742 it was reported that the Asante had defeated Akyem. During this war Dako had fallen into the hands of the Akwamu and had been beheaded. In April 1742 it was reported that the Akwamu had his head.
News of the Akyem defeat caused much confusion amongst the Ga. The Usshertown people started putting up fortifications to protect themselves. The remainder of the Ga either sought protection in the fort or fled from their towns and went to places such as Bereku. Accra which probably could have protected them all, was experiencing water shortages and so was not a suitable place to seek refuge. In short, there was general panic amongst the Ga.
On 9th April 1742 information reached Accra that the first and great servant of the Asante King along with two “ensigns and five thousand muskets” had arrived in Akwamu. The Ga promptly sent an embassy to the Asante General, and this action probably saved them from the ravages of the Asante army. According to this same general, if the Ga had not have the foresight to send a delegation, the Asante would have released an army of “three to four quarters” upon Accra. However, as a result of the embassy’s diplomacy, the Asante sent a messenger to Accra to declare that they had no quarrel with the Ga but, nevertheless, they expected the latter to pay 17 bendas to avert any possibility of war. With friendly negotiations the amount was reduced to 12 bendas for each Ga town.
Each Ga town from Accra to Ningo, paid this war levy. At Ningo, the Danish factor Dorf, who was in charge of Fort Fredensborg, initially refused to pay. He called the Asante embassy “thieves and vagabonds.” This predictably resulted in an invasion of Ningo by a 4,000-strong Asante army. During the siege they carried off all the Ningo subjects, plundered their houses and blockaded the Danish fort, so that Dorf was finally obliged to sue for peace and pay the Asante what they had originally demanded. This wpisode at Ningo illustrates what the fate of the other Ga towns would have been, had they not initiated friendly negotiations with Asante.
Despite the fact that other towns had all paid their war levies, the Ningo incident caused such terror amongst the Ga that they fled into the forts with their women, children and worldly goods. The general panic was aggravated by the fact that after the invasion of Ningo, the Asante army visited Tema “with hot heads” and plundered goods worth 30 marks (even though Tema had paid her war levy). Fortunately, at the point, the King of Asante personally intervened. He vociferously objected to the behavior of his army and offered to repay the cost of the plundered goods to the Dutch company and to the people of Tema. He subsequently started making installments of payments and asked for receipts in order to know how much he still owed the Dutch company.
However, despite such diplomatic gestures towards peace, the involvement of Dako in the war was taken very seriously by the Asante. On 18th April 1742 envoys from Asante, accompanied by fifty fully armed men, came to Accra to demand, in the name of their King, the surviving family of Dako. On 20th April another Asante ambassador, who had previously been sent to Elmina, arrived in Accra and demanded everything that Dako owned, down to the smallest, most insignificant article. During the ensuing three weeks of negotiations, the Ga pointed out to the Asante that prior to the war between Akyem and Asante, Dako had gone to Akyem to settle some palavers. He had not only been detained against his will as the Akyem prepared for battle but had also been compelled to fight with them against the Asante. This excuse obviously did not impress the Asante, because they insisted in taking not only Dako’s people, but also those of Amo and Pieter Pasop. In short, they seemed determined to take charge of all Otublohuns.
The Datch representatives in Accra endeavoured to negotiate milder terms for the Otublohuns, because the “Holland nation is accustomed to protect its subjects and not to give them as a prey to their enemies.” When the negotiations reached deadlock, the Dutch had the guns at the forts “moved a bit,” to show them that they were not prepared to be bullied. This must have had effect on the Asante, because they started “playing a softer tune”. They finally reached a settlement, whereby the Asante agreed to accept all the conte de terre (beads) of Dako, which consisted of five large strings, the worked and loose gold, two kelders and everything else that was in Dako’s household amongst Dako’s women and slaves. The Asante also accepted 58 bendas from Usshertown as a present to their new King, but upon negotiation the amount was reduced to 12 bendas. This peace settlement was rounded off with seven gun salutes from the Dutch fort.
The Ga confrontation with the Asante in 1742 started another phase in their tumultuous history. Through their submission, the Ga had acknowledged the supremacy of the Asante without actually facing them in open battle. Henceforth Asante became the new suzerain of the Ga.
The Asante, like the Akwamu and the Akyem who had preceded them, demonstrated their newfound authority by immediately taking over the rents from Accra’s three forts. Romer stated that when the Asante envoys came to collect the rents, the Danes informed them that they were only paying for the sake of trade, and hence, if no trade came to their fort they would not feel obliged to pay them at all. The Asante therefore made a matter of policy to bring down trade with them each time they came to collect the rents. It would appear that the Asante were unable to consolidate their position as suzerain over the Ga during the years immediately following 1742. In fact, Asante traders could not even get undisturbed access to the Ga coast. They were hindered by the Akyem, who attacked any Asante who attempted to reach the coast. The Ga likewise suffered from the menacing activities of the Akyem. According to the Danes, the Akyem normally descended on Accra in bands of 1000 armed men, camping two to three miles from the coast and sending messengers to the forts to demand war levies. This usually caused such commotion amongst the Ga that they often sought protection in the forts. As a result of the obstruction caused by the Akyem, Asante traders had to use a circuitous route through the Volta gorge and, moreover, to travel in caravans of 2,000 men to ensure their protection en route.
Under such circumstances, it was difficult for Asante to enhance and consolidate its position of authority over the Ga. However, it appears that by the late eighteenth century, Asante was finally able to establish some sort of supervision over the Ga towns. According to Reindorf, “there was true respect and friendship between the Asantes and the Akras.” Yet the Ga did later join the alliance of southern states which finally defeated the Asante at the battle of Akatamansu in 1826 and in doing so contributed towards the collapse of Asnate suzerainty.
SOCIO-POLITICAL CHANGE AMONG THE GA
The main areas of the Ga society which have been influenced by events of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are; the composition and organization of the Ga towns, the Ga family, religion and language. An important result of the wars and invasions of 1680 to 1742 was the depletion of the Ga population in the Accra plains. It has already been stated that the southern part of the Republique du Togo, became an asylum for the Ga whenever they were disturbed or threatened in the Accra plains. Apart from the voluntary fight, the population of the Ga was also diminished due to repeated capture. The lamentations in the kple song below show the feeling of the GA towards the dwindling of their population.
Ani Lomo be mo kwaraa?
Aha Lomobii fee
Nyeha Lomobii blublu
Oshi Adu Kome, lomo be moko kwraa
Aha Buadzabii fee;
Naa, Buadza be mo.
Ahu komebii fee:
Kome be mo kwaraa.
Nyeha Dodebii fee;
Naa Dode be mo;
Aha Dodebii fee;
Naa nye ha Nkranpong fee;
Nye ha folio eha Nkranpong fee;
Wo Atsimbii ameha Nkranpong fee
Ameha Nkranpong blublu;
Mua Nkranpong be mo.
Does man have anyone at all?
They snatched all man’s children;
You snatched all man’s children;
You snatched all man’s children;
Skumo, man has no one at all.
They snatched all Olila’s children;
Lo, Olila has no one.
They snatched all Sakumo’s children
They snatched all Sakumo’s children;
Sakumo has no one at all.
You snatched all Dode’s children;
Lo, Dode has no one.
They snatched all Dode’s children;
Lo, you snatched all Great Accra.
You let uncircumcised people snatch all
Our Akims have snatched all Great Accra;
It is finished.
They snatched all the people of Accra;
So Accra has no one.
The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries also witnessed the intermixture and reshuffling of the population in the Accra plains. Originally, members of the same lineage lived close together, causing lineage and local grouping to be almost identical. The situation, however, began to change as lineage members moved away to settle in other Ga towns. In the course of time, the descendents of the emigrant lineage members began to identify themselves with the town in which they had settled rather than with their ancestral home. This process is well encapsulated by the Ga saying, “himee he hi fe fomo he”, “A happy place is better than birth place.” The emigrant lineage members, however, continued to use their own family names and to worship their particular family gods. An example of this can be found in the wide dispersal of the worshipers of the god Klan, who are to be found in Ga Mashi, Labadi and Teshi.
Occasionally, one can witness a feeling of solidarity amongst branch members of the same lineage, even if the break occurred more than two hundred years ago. This feeling of belonging together, often experienced by branch members of the same lineage, is revealed in the kple song:
Womli egble yaa.
Si wole wohe
Wole two ni wowo,
Shi mole wohe
The relatives are scattered;
We are scattered,
But we know ourselves.
The relatives are scattered;
We know the tree that bore us.
(But) we know ourselves.”
The migration of lineage members from one town to another was precipitated by several factors. The most important of these was economic. In essence, ambitious and adventurous members of the lineage often felt compelled to leave their own towns to trade or seek fortune in different and perhaps more lucrative environments.
The propensity of the European companies towards preventing the Ga from trading with interlopers or European nations other than the one under whose fort they lived, led to the migration of many Ga traders from one area of Accra to another. It was not uncommon for a Ga living under the Dutch fort to seek refuge or settle under the English or Danish fort and vice versa. An example of such an incident can be seen in the flight of Caboceer Tyke Tete from Dutch Accra to Osu, upon his arrest by the Dutch for trading with interlopers.
The second factor which could cause the migration of lineage members was dissension or civil war. An outstanding example was the movement of a section of La people under the leadership of Nmasi to Teshi in the seventeenth century. A similar migration might have occurred with the Gbeae of Ga Mashi if Okaidza had not been reconciled with Dako and the Dutch after the civil war of 1737. In fact some of Okaidza’s followers who fled with him to the eastern Ga towns did not return to Ga Mashi even after the reconciliation. This was probably because they had become contracted in marriage and had better hope for future prosperity in the towns where they had sought refuge. These remnants of Okaidza’s family and followers came with their families to pay their last respect to Okaidza when he died in 1770. There was a fight between the mourners from Teshi and some Ga Mashi people at Okaidza’s funeral.
A third group of Ga who moved from their towns to settle in other towns were criminals who wanted to escape punishment. These included adulterers, thieves, murderers and sorcerers.
Frustrated or sick people also migrated from their towns of birth to seek medical care or consolation from some of the more reputable fetish priests and priestesses in the other towns. These people often stayed permanently in the towns in which they had been cured.
This migration of certain Ga people from the towns of their birth was paralleled by the influx of members from other ethnic groups into the towns which had been left depleted. The predominant group amongst these newcomers was the Akan. However, groups of Adanme, Ewe and other people from the coast of present-day Nigeria also came to settle among the Ga. Some of these groups came to Accra as traders and fortune seekers; others arrived as official representatives of their country. This was particularly true of the Akwamu, Akyem and Asante who ruled the Ga in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The remainder worked as brokers, labourers and slaves for the European companies in Accra.
These different ethnic groups added a new dimension to the composition of the Ga towns. Each Ga town was (and still is) divided into Akutsei or quarters. The Akutsei came into existence as a result of the break from an original lineage group. For example, in Labadi, Fante fishermen who settled there became known as Abese Fante section of Abese, an already established Akutso, whilst in Osu, immigrants from Anahor established the Anahor Akutso. Of the seven Akutsei in Ga Mashi, three are alien origin: Otublohin is of Akwamu origin, Abola is predominantly Fante; it was referred to in eighteenth century as the slave quarter of the Dutch company, because their labourers and slaves resided there. These labourers and slaves joined by Fante fishermen.
In the eighteenth century, the Ga mantse together with a group of Ga estranged from the Asere Akutso also joined the Abola, so that it is now a mixture of Ga and aliens. The Alata Akutso is a combination of the people from the present-day Nigeria and Fante. Alata was the residence of the slaves and labourers of the English company in Accra. According to their own oral tradition, the first leader of the Alata Akutso was Wetse Kodzo from Lagos, who was amongst the labourers and slaves who originally came with the English company to Accra to build James Fort. The descendents of these labourers and slaves continued to serve the British company.
The presence of these alien elements inevitably affected the governmental machinery of the Ga towns. The aliens became incorporated into the governmental structure through family ties and their personal ability.
Within Ga society, the family is a miniature political organization with an elected head. The Ga are divided into patrilineal houses called Wei, and each Ga belongs to his father’s We. Offices in the towns are held by a We and not an individual, and it is the members of the We who decide on the suitable person to be chosen for posts vested in the family and to administer property left by a deceased member of the family.
European writers of the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries described succession amongst the Ga as being pratilineal. In the seventeenth century Dapper commented: “in thr inheritance of the crown, the brother succeeds, or for want of brothers, the eldest of the family, without any consideration of the children, not even in the inheritance of their father’s property; for this goes from the father to the brother or, for want of brothers, to the sisters children; only at Akara the children inherit as well the father’s as the mother’s goods, except that in the matter of the crown the brother comes first.” In the eighteenth century Bosman stated: “the children they have by their wives are indeed legitimate, but all along the coast never inherit their parents’ effects except at Accra only.” Barbot also declared: “the right of inheritance all over the Gold Coast, except at Accra is very strangely settled, for the children born legitimate never inherit the parents’ effects. Accra is the only place where the children are the sole lawful heirs to their father’s or mother’s effects.” Rask likewise observed: “when a Caboceer or other free Ningo dies in Accra, the eldest son inherits his father’s slaves and all that he left with the responsibility of taking care of his brothers and sisters till their can fend for themselves, but the Akwamu have a different rule of succession whereby one brother succeeds the other.”
The law of succession practiced by the Ga implied that children of Ga men by women of different ethnic groups had a right to succeed or inherit their father’s property. Problems were however, bound to arise when Ga women had children by men, who were foreigners to Accra. It will appear that at the beginning of the eighteenth century sexual involvement between Ga women and aliens to Accra was not common. This was primarily due to the fact that many of the foreigners were uncircumcised and Ga women considered it an abomination to become sexually intimate with uncircumcised men. The women, however, began to break these traditional taboos due to certain lucrative attributes of the newcomers. Many of the Akan and European men, although uncircumcised, had access to power and wealth. Hence, the Ga women became the concubines and sometimes even the wives of the foreigners in Accra. What then was the legal position of the children of Ga women and their alien partners, who were not permanently domiciled in Accra?
The existence of certain practices in the Ga family made it possible for such a child to be incorporated into the mother’s patrilineal family. The Ga have a system of adoption whereby a child of unresolved paternity is adopted by his maternal grandfather. Even when there is no controversy about the paternity of the child, the maternal grandfather can reject the biological father if he considers him to have been an unsuitable match for his daughter. In such circumstances the child is outdoored by his maternal grandfather’s family. In this case, whether the child has a known or unknown biological father, he belongs to his mother’s family. In other instances, a child may be compelled to join his mother’s family because his father is a stranger who has died or neglected him and returned to his own country. In these circumstances the child can retain the name given to him by his father, but he becomes accepted as a member of his mother’s family. This is made possible by the fact that although the Ga are patrilineal, they also have certain rights and obligations towards their mother’s family. Field made a revealing comment on succession amongst the Ga: “there are no rigid laws of inheritance as a European understands codified law. There are only certain usual practices which the elders are at liberty to modify in any way they deem fit. They do not administer law, they administer what seems to them justice and wisdom.” This means that a neglected son of female member of a Ga family could succeed or inherit property held by the family if he proved more intelligent, hardworking and reliable than sons of male members of the family.
The compromising stand adopted by the Ga towards inheritance has given rise to the controversy and confusion concerning the legal right of succession. Judgements given in the Accra courts in the closing decades of the nineteenth and in the present century have favoured matrilineal succession, especially, among the people of Ga Mashi. Sarbah stated: “it would be doubtless noted that the so-called customary law of succession by children, said to be the rule at Accra and among the Ga tribe, is of doubtful authenticity.” Quartey-Papafio, on the other hand, condemned the rule of matrilineal succession being applied to the Ga: “among the Ga tribes proper, sons succeed in preference to nephews, or in other words, succession among the Ga tribes proper is through the male line.”
In spite of Quartey-Papafio’s contention, judgements in the Accra courts continued to be in favour of matrilineal succession, although there were always witnesses to the contrary. The other Ga towns did not allow the law of matrilineal succession to be applied on them. This is because, as Ollenu stated, in cases which came before the judges, there was a “mass of evidence uncontradicted that they were patrilineal, and the judges were compelled to accept that custom, in some cases with great reluctance.” This has led to the view expressed by Ollenu that “the custom of succession in Accra is the same as that of the Akan tribes and different from that obtaining in all the other Ga-Adanme towns and states.” This, in effect, implies that the Akan elements in Ga Mashi have dominated the Ga elements. The Ga elements who wished to retain their patrilineal law of succession have been forced to accept an alien law of succession through the law courts. What the judges were not aware of, was the fact that the Ga are ethnically mixed and it was through compromise and peculiar circumstances that sons of female members of a Ga family could succeed. Even the Ga towns which are now supposed to be patrilineal compromised and still compromise on succession. For example, Adzei Wulu, the present family head of Ahimako We, a section of the Koe Akutso in Labadi, is a son of Yoomo Akrong, a female member of the house.
The compromising attitude to succession among the Ga was extended to important offices in the town. This has given rise to what are termed nephew stools. The nephew stool usually has its origin in a son of a female member of the family volunteering to perform a difficult task which sons of male members had refused to do. After the son of the female member had performed the necessary task, he was compensated with the office held by the mother’s family. The office was kept by his descendents after his death or his house became one of the groups which succeeded to the post by rotation. An example of a nephew stool is Kwakwaranya We, one of the houses which supply the mantse of Labadi.
From the above, it is evident that men of alien paternity or maternity could become part of the ruling organ of the Ga towns. However, intermarriage was not the only means by which newcomers were incorporated in the governmental machinery. Sometimes the Ga gave a particular office to the immigrants so that they could have a feeling of belonging to the town and thereby co-operate in its smooth running. For example, the Sanshi group in Labadi who came from Aneho in the Republique du Togo to settle in Labadi in the eighteenth century were given the office of Mankralo.
Titles and offices were also conferred on aliens who proved to have outstanding qualities such as bravery and wealth. This arose from the fact the Ga have a custom of honouring members of their society for great feats. Rask remarked at the beginning of the eighteenth century that before a man could become a Caboceer, he must have done at least three of the following: he should have been to war, killed an elephant, a tiger and buffalo. Rask commented that the rules were not adhered to as strictly as they were in the olden days. This implies that the pre-requisite conditions for the achievement of Caboceer status must have experienced a gradual change according to the needs of Ga society in the eighteenth century.
In addition to bravery, the ruling class in Ga society needed wealth. This was because the Ga needed people who could afford to supply them with and lead them in time of war. These requirements made it easier for talented and wealthy aliens to be accepted in the Ga ruling class and even supersede the trueborn Ga rulers. The presence of the European forts in Accra also helped this process. The Alata Akutso in Ga Mashi provide a good example. As labourers and slaves of the English company, some of them had the opportunity of rising in the service of the company. In the mid-eighteenth century, one Cudjo was referred to, variously, as English company slave and English company linguist. In Cudjo’s capacity as linguist and messenger of the English, his influence became remarkable in Accra, especially in the English section known as Jamestown. It was probably the same Cudjo who was referred to as Caboceer Cudjo in Accra in 1469. According to oral tradition, Kodjo, the first Alata Mantse, was provided with a chief’s stoolby Oto Blafo of Otublohun and adopted the Akan Odwira custom. Kodjo’s achievements did not end with his position as Mantse of Alata. He superseded the mantse of Sempe, the original rulers and owners of the land on which James Fort was built and the mantse of Akanmudze. The descendents of Kodzo became acknowledged as mantse of the whole of Jamestown comprising Sempe Akamadze and Alata, and in this capacity he claimed compensation from Jamestown land acquired by the Government. In evidence given by the Alata mantse Kodzo Ababio IV in March 1912, the Alata mantse declared “my predecessors in title have been recognized as mantse of Jamestown. The mantse of Alata was made mantse by the Sempes and Akamadzes as he had power, he had money and in going to war he always went in front of them. The Sempe, the original rulers and owners of the land, began to resent the power and influence of the Alata mantse in 1906, when the Alata mantse Kodjo Ababio had become so entrenched in his position as Jamestown mantse that he even denied that the Sempe, whom he had superseded, had a right to elect a mantse for their own Akutso. Before a commission of inquiry held in 1907 by the District Commissioner Crowther, Ababio IV claimed that the head of the Sempe was his Mankralo, and this infuriated Moi, representative of the Sempe, that he asked “I am a Ga, did you come from Lagos and make me Mankralo here? Can you who say you are a stranger make me Mankralo?” Kodjo Ababio withdrew his objections and claims and from then on, Sempe refused to acknowledge the mantse of Alata as mantse for the whole Jamestown.
The influence of Otublohun in Accra during the Akwamu era has already been mentioned. The fact that they continued to have influence in Accra after Akwamu had been defeated in 1730 was due to the ability of their leaders and their position as brokers of the Dutch company. the martial qualities of the Otublohun leaders were acknowledged and respected by the Ga. In 1785, when a combined force of the Ga, Ada and Volta region settlements marched with the Danes to fight Awuna in the Volta area, it was Oto from Otublohun who was chosen as a leader of the allied forces.
The nature of leadership among the Ga has also undergone some significant changes. Reindorf and Field were right in stating that originally the Ga were ruled by priests. Reindorf is wrong, however, in has dating of the separation of the priestly from secular authority. According to him, the separation of powers took place after the Ga had been defeated by Akwamu in 1780. It has already been stated that the separation of powers occurred in the individual Ga towns at different times. Whilst in Ga Mashi it took palce at the end of the sixteenth century, Labadi continued to have her fusion of priestly and secular authority in the eighteenth century. Romer, who was on the coast in the mid-eighteenth century, stated that King Okpoti of Labadi was at the same time high priest of Labadi.
In describing the process of separation of priestly from secular authority, Ffield stated that the chief priest in the Ga towns were originally the heads of the ruling organ; the mantse, who is now acknowledged head of the ruling organ of the Ga town, was originally just minor priest chosen to act as liaison and messenger between his people and the Europeans, since the chief priest could not travel to and from performing such menial tasks. Field referred to the mantse as a “small boy” and described him as a “vestigial survival without function, like the vermiform appendix in the human body and is of embarrassment rather than use to the organism.”
Field’s generalization is misleading just as each Ga town evolved its secular authority at different times, so also was the conferment of secular and priestly power done by different processes. In some Ga towns the separation occurred when secular or military leaders seized power from the minor priests; in others, the separation of powers came about the ruler delegating one of his slaves or a minor branch of his family to performhis priestly functions for him. In the latter case, the original ruler became the mantse whilst his priestly functions were performed by someone else; Labaki is good example. According to Labadi tradition, the King who was then chief priest chose a subordinate to performthe rituals of the Lakpa, principal god of Labadi. Lakpa’s grove was therefore removed from its original place at the courtyard of the king and placed in the outskirts of the town in the present Leesi Akutso, where the king kept most of his slaves. Some of my informants claim that it was one of the king’s slaves who became the new Lakpa priest; others claim that a man called Odoi from the king’s Akutso was made the new priest. It does not really matter whether it was a slave or a free born who was made the new Lapka priest at the time that the separation of powers occurred. The crucial point is that when the change occurred, the original ruler retained the mantseship and chose a subordinate to become the chief priest. At a commission of enquiry held on stool disputes in Labadi in 1938 the witnesses asserted that the Lakpa priest’s ancestry is not royal.
An interesting feature of the evolution of secular leadership among the Ga is that there was no complete severance of the mantse from the priesthood. The mantse was and is still subjected to religious sanctions and taboos. For example, Tilleman stated that King Okai Kwei could not, in accordance with religious sanction leave the Ga capital Ayawaso to the coast, except once a year. A vestige of the religious role and functions of the mantsemei in the Ga towns is revealed by the fact that they still wear the white wristband, Afli, associated with the priestly order. In some of the Ga towns, they perform priestly rituals and have the office of minor priest. For example, the Labadi mantse is priest of the god Nyonmo Tsaa and also act as priest of Lakpa when there is no Lakpa priest.
The priests too continued to have influence as long as the Ga continued to worship and seek protection from the gods for which they were responsible. For example, the Sakumo priest or god was able to affect a major political upheaval, which brought about the new dynasty in the paramount Ga stool. According to tradition, the Ga were so perplexed about leadership that they consulted the Sakumo oracle to appoint someone to lead them in pending war in the nineteenth century. It was probably this situation which gave rise to the kple song:
Obi nni Abola.
Someone is there, no one is there;
No one is in Abola.
When the Ga consulted the Sakumo oracle about leadership, a mysterious voice was heard in the grove telling the Ga to accept a man called taki, one of the slaves who had sought asylum and was then living with the Sakumo priest. The Ga accepted the order from the mysterious voice and Taki led the Ga to war. Taki was so successful that the war ended, he became acknowledged as the Ga mantse, paramount chief of the Ga.
Another interesting feature of the evolution of secular rule is the adoption of alien, especially Akan, paraphernalia and characteristics by the Ga mantsemei. The stool which is the symbol of office of the mantse is said to have been copied from the Akan. The text of the speech or appellations blown on the horn which heralds the approach of the Ga mantsemei are mostly in foreign language, usually Akan. Fro example, the horn of the Akanmadze mantse sounds:
Onipa nii aye
Onipa nii aye
Onipa to nsu mu a ma onko
Aboa to nsu mua yino kodi.
Man is ungrateful
Man is ungrateful
If a man falls into a river, let him go
If an animal falls into a river, take it out to eat.
Some of the texts are a mixture of Akan and Ga. For example, the horn of the Labadi mantse sounds:
Kwao ee! Kwao ee:
Kwao woye Foroanko
Hena before? Hena before?
Otamfo kata wani.
Kwao ee! Kwao ee:
Kwao you are impossible to climb.
Who will climb?
Who will climb?
Is it the bush cow?
Enemies cover your eyes!
The text of the Ga mantse’s horn is not Akan but Ewe.
Kpo Avuu dodome
Look at dogs
Look at dogs
Look at their dog-like faces.
Nketia also stated that the text of the speech mode of drumming associated with the Ga courts is “invariably Akan (Twi, Fante). There does not appear to be an established tradition of drum language based on Ga.”
The mantsemei in the Ga towns are aided in their rule by the Dzaasetse, Mankralo Shikiteele, Akwasontse and Asafoatsemei. Apart from the Dzaasetse, who is head of Dzaase, the body which elect the mantse and the Asafoatse, a military captain, the functions of the other officials differ from town to town and are known under differing names. This relative lack of uniformity in titles and functions is due to the fact that the offices were created according to the exigencies of the situation in the Ga town concerned at a given time.
The military organization of the Ga has been influenced by the Akan. Each Ga town is organized into military companies called Asafoi under captains called Asafoatsemei. The Akan influence on the Asafo is borne out the fact that the Asafo songs are mainly In Twi. The songs of the Out religious cult associated with war are also the Fante. In the report of a commission of enquiry held in Accra in October 1907, the Commissioner in charge stated that the Ga stools “are arranged for military purposes in groups of wings and from the fact that Twi words are used to describe such divisions, there is a strong presumptive evidence that this formation has been imitated, if somewhat imperfectly, from that common to the Akan race. (Evidence on details of this application was conflicting and somewhat meager but this may be attributable to the fact that it does not affect the judicial system.) the stools of Asere, Obese and Otublohun from round the stool of the Ga mantse, the centre; those of Alata, Sempe and Akumadze the left wing; those of Osu, La Teshi-Nungua and Tema on the right wing.”
Religion is another aspect of Ga life which has been influenced by the influx of aliens. The Ga claim that of all the cults, Kple is the only one which is of pure Ga origin. Kple reveals a unity in Ga religious belief and is an embodiment to the Ga concept of the universe. Marion Kilson stated that “underlying Kple cult activities is a systematic conception of the ordering the universe. This cosmology not only validate cult activities in so far as certain rituals are taught to be necessary to maintain and restore ordered relations within the universe, but it is re-created through the performance which expresses aspects of the cosmic order and the interrelations of its categories… such rites ate performed on behalf of the entire Ga community. The aims of these rites, therefore, unite all living Ga within the Kple community. The community of believers, however, incorporates not only living men but also ancestral shades… the Kple cult therefore is all encompassing in so far as it embraces a total world view and total community.”
Kilson further stated that the Ga believed in the existence of a supreme being, Ataa Naa Nyonmo, who created the world. Between this creator and human beings are the gods or dzemawodzii, who act as mediators. The Ga therefore pray to the creator through these dzemawodzii, normally symbolized by the sea, rivers, lagoons and trees. If Marion Kilson’s account is accepted, then the proliferation and diversity of gods among the various groups of Ga is not a sign of religious fragmentation, since Ga worship has one apex —
Ataa Naa Nyonmo. Unity in Ga worship is also revealed by the Ga concept of the dzemawodzii as a family. Thus the Sakumo in Tema is Sakumo Nukpa, brother of Sakumofio in Ga Mashi. The Sakumo in Ga Mashi has two wives, Naa Koole also in Ga Mashi and Ogbedee the Kpeshi Lagoon in Labadi. These ties among the dzemawodzii were probably meant to epitomize interrelations among the Ga. Another sign of religious unity among the Ga can be observed in the text of the speech of the Ga Wulomei or priests when they pour a libation. They do not offer the drink to (or ask for blessing from) the particular god for whom they officiate, but to and from all the gods from Lanma near Nyanyanu in the west of Ada at the mouth of the Volta. An example is the text of the Lakpa priest’s prayer. After calling on all the gods known to the Labadi people, he states:
“Milee maa kulibii ayibE ni
Male ny yibE.
K dz la ma, k ya i Ada wilao
K dz suoy k ya I amli
Bibii ke ewudzi f abanu eko.”
“I cannot count the grains of millet
So I do not know your number
From Lanma to Ada in the Volta.
From the north to the south.
Come and drink both Great and Small.”
Kple, however, is not the only cult which prevails among the Ga. The aliens who settled among the Ga brought with them their cults and gods. For example, the Europeans brought Christianity. Field had classified Ga gods into four categories. The Kple and Kpa gods are Ga, the me gods are Adanme origin and the Out and Akon gods are of Fante and Akuapem origin. When the mediums of these gods are possessed, they speak the language of the original home of their gods. Thus kple mediums speak Ga, me mediums speak Adanme, Out mediums speak Fante and Akon mediums speak Twi when they are possessed.
Further evidence of Akan influence on Ga worship is revealed by the fact that the text of some of the religious songs are in Akan language. This is true even of kple, which is supposed to be a Ga cult. For example:
Kome, midzara Omanip;
Miti ade, mproobi
Kome, midzara Omani,
Mihu ade mproobi.
Sakumo, I represent the nation,
When I hear something, I do not reject it.
Sakumo, I represent the nation;
When I hear something, I do not reject it.
In fact what can be termed the religious anthem of the Ga has absorbed some Akan words:
Awo! Awo! Awo!
Exalted! Exalted! Exalted!
It is being prophesized.
The influence of foreign languages on the Ga can be observed not only in ceremonial speeches, war and ritual songs but also in recreational music and dances. Adowa is an example of Ga adoption from the AAkan. Nketia described Ga recreational music as “a common meeting ground of Akan and Ga forms.” The spoken language of the Ga has also incorporated a number of foreign words, phrases, idioms and proverbs. This came about by the Ga being obliged to communicate with foreigners through trade and politics. Foreign languages also acquired a prestige value for the Ga. In such cases the foreign words have either completely ousted or dwarfed the Ga equivalent. In some cases the Ga were obliged to use foreign words, because the articles which the words described were of foreign origin. Example of Akan words commonly used by the Ga are: anihao – lazy, ohiafo – pauper, kunim – victory, ahuntoo – bother, pesenkuminya – selfish. The Akan proverbs “adebone se preko” – “evil befits the pig” has completely ousted any Ga equivalent that may have existed. In describing the difference between the Adanme and Ga languages, Zimmerman stated that “the Adanme dialect is to be considered as the mother dialect of Ga proper being more primitive and less mixed with foreign elements than the latter, which is somewhat mixed with Otyi” (Twi). The Ga language also has borrowings from the European languages: Skist is a corruption of the Danish word Saks, Klakum – turkey- is from the Dutch and Danish kalkoen/kalkun, and kaklaka – cockroach- is the name as the Dutch and Danish kakkerlak.
The existence of cultural, religious and linguistic identity or similarities among the Ga has given rise to the controversy as to whether the Ga-speaking people should be considered a single political unit under the leadership of the Ga mantse who is now paramount chief of the Ga people. Field has stated that “Each of the six coastal towns is an independent republic with its own territory and its own unique set of customs. There has never been any political association between the towns and they have never had a paramount chief or indeed any chiefs at all in the sense that the word usually conveys.” Manoukian has also stated that “each Ga town is an independent unit. There has never been any confederation of the towns.” Among the Ga themselves, opinion is divided. Some claim that the Ga are a cohesive political unit under the Ga mantse, while others claim that each Ga town is an independent unit.
The reason for this controversy is that changes have occurred at different historical periods. Originally, the Ga lived in independent towns, villages and hamlets, and they moved into the Accra plains in independent groups. From the beginning of the seventeenth century to 1680, they were a cohesive political unit under the King of Accra, whose territories stretched from Breku in the west to the Volta in the east. The defeat of the Ga by Akwamu in 1680 shattered the political cohesion of the kingdom of Accra. This was caused by the fact that the new King of Accra did not have the machinery to grant protection and enforce his will in the Ga towns. The subjects in the individual Ga towns turned to their own leaders for protection. These leaders owed allegiance directly to the King of Akwamu and not through the King of Accra, even if the Ga had wanted to continue acknowledging the authority of the King of Accra, it is doubtful whether, apart from the Dutch, the other European companies would have encouraged it. This was because the King of Accra lived under the Dutch fort and, since he depended on the Dutch for protection, was likely to be influenced by the Dutch company. the English and Danes would therefore find themselves and their protégés, ruled by a Ga king under the control of their trade rivals, the Dutch.
The political fragmentation of the Ga was so effective that even the town of Accra was divided into two distinct parts owing allegiance to the Dutch and English. The separatism of the English and Dutch sections of Accra erupted occasionally into fights and disputes during the eighteenth century. This rivalry was carried on into the nineteenth century even after the Dutch had left their fort and the English were the sole rulers of the Gold Coast. In 1884 there was a civil war known as the Agbuntso War between the English (James Town) and the Dutch section (Ussher Town). In the last decade of the nineteenth century, Nii Tackie, King of Acra living in Ussher town, tried to solve the problem of rivalry and separatism of the two sections. He informed the English Governor that “the people of James Town and Ussher Town had mutually agreed that James Town should no longer be a separate town but that its King should be under King Tackie … the whole of Accra is now under him and that the chiefs and captains of James Town have sworn fealty to him”.
Tackie’s attempt to reunite Ussher Town and James Town brought resentment on the part of the newly installed chief, Amoako Atta, known under the stool name of Kodjo Ababio IV of James Town. This resentment became obvious when King Tacki introduced the newly installed chief together with other newly installed chiefs, Okaidza of Obese and Adotey of Sempe, to the English Governor in October 1892. The following is a description of the introduction ceremony:
“Amoako Atta stood before the Governor with a fillet on his head. King Tackie removed it, an act which caused Amoako Atta to scowl at him. The Governor having then expressed his pleasure at the announcement that James Town and Ussher Town agreed to amalgamate and to become one town under King Tackie, congratulated Amoako Atta upon being elected chief of one of the quarters of James Town. There upon Amoako Atta drawing himself up said “I am not one of King Tackie’s chiefs, I am King of James Town. James Town is English town and English people can’t serve Dutch people.” Ironically, Kodjo Ababio had, in accordance with customary rites, taken the oath of allegiance to King Tackie about three weeks before his introduction to the Governor.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the King of Accra or Ga mantse was not able to retain and exercise complete control over the inhabitants of the town of Accra, how could he be expected to make his power felt in all the Ga towns stretching to Tema during that period? Isert made an apt description of the fragmentation of power among the Ga when he stated “the Akras were once a mighty nation who had their own King until they defeated by the Aquamboes in the preceding century. Their king and a great number of Blacks were forced to flee accorss Rio Volta to as far as Popo. .. .. .. Accra is now a republic in which the kabossies and their grandees together exercise the supreme power in the town.
The political fragmentation among the Ga people existed simultaneously with their cultural and kinship ties. This ambivalence sometimes infuriated the Europeans in the eighteenth century, for the Ga were reluctant to carry their quarrels and rivalries to extremes and were usually prepared to be reconciled when their European protectors were not.
It was probably the existence of these cultural ties which encouraged the British Government (largely for reasons of administrative convenience) in the twentieth century to regard the Ga-speaking people as a single political unit and to strengthen the power of the Ga mantse over the other Ga towns. Since Ghana’s political independence governments have tended to follow the example of the British colonial government in this respect. The other Ga towns see the present traditional political set-up as a degradation of their status, for, they have been put in the same category as Akutso chiefs such as Asere, Gbese, Otublohun, Sempe, Akwanmadze, Alata and Abola of Ga Mashi. In the present era, when democratically elected governments with their appendages of police and military forces have control over traditional authority, the form of traditional set-up rests not with the Ga people themselves but with the Government, and it is for this reasin that all the petitions of the ckiefs of the towns of Osu, Labadi, Teshi, Nungua and Tema for recognition of their independence have been directed to the Government.
The socio-political changes among the Ga are eloquent testimony to the importance of the period 1600-1742 in the history of the Ga. The changes which have been discussed are certainly not the only ones which have taken place. In fact changes are still occurring, not least on account of Accra’s position as the capital of Ghana.
Perhaps the most revealing remark on changes in Ga society is the one given by the Kple song:
Naa, be ko mba “Lo, a certain time is coming.
Oshwila, be ko miiba; Oshwila, a certain time is coming;
Beni abo ado, dzee neke abo ade. When the world was created, it was not
dzeng ko bamba;
niimei boa de dzee neke abo ade.
dzeng ko bamba;
Oshwila dzeng ko ba.
“Lo, a certain time is coming.
Oshwila, a certain time is coming;
When the world was created, it was not
Like this that the world was created.
A certain Civilization is coming,
Oshwila, a certain civilization is coming;
Grandfather’s world, it was not like this
that the world was created.
A certain civilization is coming
Oshwila, a certain civilization is coming.”
RELIGION OF THE GA PEOPLE
African Indigenous Religion, like other world religions, is the way of life of Africans since it permeates into their daily activities as well as their social lives; and the Ga of Ghana are no exception. In view of this, my focus in this discourse shall be on the religious belief system and cultural practices of the Ga people. Here, I shall examine the doctrine of the Kpele cult – the religion of the Ga people, as well as their cultural norms and practices.
KPELE: RELIGION OF THE GA PEOPLE
The contemporary Ga, who speaks a Kwa dialect: one of the sub-languages of the Niger-Congo language family, are an ethnically and culturally diversified people. According to Kilson, “Their cultural heterogeneity arises from a variety of factors which include penetrable natural boundaries; the entrepreneurial role of the Ga in prehistoric and historic times; the Akwamu domination of Ga society during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; the location of the centre of colonial and later national authority and international commercial activities of Accra.”
These she attributed to the fact that the Ga perceived their cultural heritage as unique and distinct from other Ghanaian cultures. Even though, much of contemporary Ga culture may owe its richness to contacts with other African nationals: and not to say the least, to that of Europeans during the past three centuries. These contacts, they assume not to be limited to the exchange of ideas and customs, but also believed that the impacts of these interactions are reflected conspicuously, in their political and religious institutions.
This view is also shared by Field (1937), who was of the opinion that the polytheistic nature of Ga religion and their habit of toleration, and consideration for other people’s gods gave impetus to such amalgamations. To support these assertions, Kilson further argued that with respect to religious institutions, three of the four major traditional cults practiced by contemporary Ga are non-Ga in origin.
For example, “me is an Adangbe cult, otu and akong are Akan cults. Kpele, the fourth cult is believed to be the indigenous Ga religious system.” A religious system, whose level of linguistic usage has been influenced by the mixture of Akan, Adangbe and Guan words, which appear in the liturgies of both the eastern and western Ga people.
DOCTRINE OF THE KPELE RELIGION
Kpele is an ancient religion that the Ga kroŋ considers as the religion of their ancestors: a religious belief system, which fundamental theology and doctrine is the systematic conception of the ordering of the universe. A doctrine, which Kilson opined, validates the cult’s activities insofar as certain rituals are thought to be necessary to maintain and restore orderly relations within the universe.
Indeed, the fundamental concept of the Kpele doctrine has the taxonomy of the hierarchy of beings made up of a Supreme Being, divine beings, human beings, animals and plant as its principal teaching. These groups of beings according to Kilson are classified, based on their four distinctive characteristics that set them apart for one another, namely: creative/created, immortal/mortal, rational/irrational, and mobile/immobile.
THE SUPREME BEING
In her analysis of the classification of the above named characteristics of beings as found in the Kpele doctrine, Kilson argued that the creative powers of the Supreme Being distinguishes it from all other classes of beings, while the perceived immortality of the gods or divine beings differentiates them from all other creations. Moreover, the rationality of human beings sets them apart from both plants and animal, and the mobility of animals distinguishes them from plants.
Thus, at the apex of the Ga religious belief system is the Supreme Being: a personified creative life force that the Ga has termed Ataa Naa Nyongmọ. An indication of the importance that the Ga attaches to the attributes of this personified life giving force: for in daily usage, Ataa is a term that means father, provider or protector based on the context in which it is being applied. In this context, however, the usage of the term has a different connotation.
Since indigenous exegesis of the name Ataa Naa Nyongmọ has been interpreted to mean taolọ naanọ nyoongmọ (seeker, eternal, nocturnal being). A notion considered by the Ga, which suggests that Ataa Naa Nyongmọ is an eternal, nocturnal being; creator of the universe, who seeks and care for all his creations.
However, another aspect of the exegetical commentary indicates that Ataa Naa Nyongmọ nurture his creations through the provision of sustenance from the bounties of the earth, as a mother does for her offspring. Thus, in Kpele thought, the bisexual nature of the Supreme Being is acknowledged in the belief that Ataa Naa Nyongmọ not only created the universe in the distance past, but also continues to be the source of all forms of life in the present.
This conception is expressed in the following Kpele song:
Nyongmọ Adu Akwa, God
Lε dzi okua agbo lε; He is the great farmer.
Lε ebọ dzeng; He created the world;
Ni eha anyieọ mliŋ ahi. And He gave it to them to live in.
As lyrics of the above Kpele song imply, the Ga believe that human beings not only depend on Ataa Naa Nyongmọ for their existence, but also for their means of sustenance and the perpetuation of life on earth.
The second aspect of the doctrine of the Kpele religion is the belief in divine beings or spirits of nature (dzemànwọdzi). According to Kpele teachings, these are sky-dwelling spirits associated with certain topographical features such as the ocean, lagoons, rivers, mountains, etc: which are thought to be the natural habitation or places of descent for these dzemànwọdzi. Of course, these terrestrial beings not only manifest themselves in these topographical features, but also more often than not, do manifest themselves in human forms or may speak directly to the people through mediums such as Wọŋtśεmεi (traditional priests and priestesses).
Consequently, the Ga regard the dzemànwọdzi as intercessors or mediators between humanity and Ataa Naa Nyongmọ for the protection and blessing of the living, and the future generation of the Ga people. Whereas, the dzemànwọdzi are believed to be the most important intermediaries in the affairs of the Ga, ancestral shades on the other hand, equally play an important role in the lives of their descendants by liaising between them and the dzemànwọdzi when the need arise.
Field (1937), researching into the religious belief system of the Ga was of the opinion that an idea common in West Africa, but foreign to them is the worship of fetish, and that the typical Ga high priests (Wọlọmεi) have no fetishes (wọdziŋ) in their shrines (gbatsui) and therefore are not fetish priests. She emphasized that these Wọlọmεi are servants of the dzemànwọdzi who interpret the will of these divine beings, through the medium of wọŋyei to the people.
Moreover, she tried to differentiate between a fetish (wọŋ) and a deity (dzemànwọŋ), by giving the definition of the latter as understood by the Ga people. In her opinion, the word that the Ga translate into a deity is dzemànwọŋ (divine being or spirit of nature that moves around the world and the towns) and therefore concluded that awọŋ “is anything that can work but not be seen and include smaller beings of specialized and limited activity associated with medicines and magic”.
While a dzemànwọŋ on the other hand, is regarded as a powerful type of intelligentwọŋ (deity) not only specialized in its activities, but also equally omnipotent and omniscient though not limited to any particular locality. For these and other reasons, the Wọlọmεi do believe that direct communication with the Supreme Being is not possible since He is Invisible, Omnipotent as well as Immortal.
This in their opinion, can only be achieved through the mediation or intercession of the dzemànwọdzi (deities/spirits of nature) believed to be intermediaries or messengers of God with earthly features. For example, deities such as Sakumọ (Tema),Sakumọ fio (Accra), Kọrle (Accra), Klọte (Osu), are residents of rivers and lakes;Gbọbu (Nungua) in a hallowed grove, while Nai and Trotroe (Accra) are spirits of the sea.
Thus, as illustrated in the Ga belief in the Supreme Being – Ataa Naanọ Nyongmọ/Atta Naa Nyongmọ; Creator of the world, Invisible, Omnipotent and Immortal, there are about similar beliefs expressed in the intercession of thedzemànwọdzi who are regarded as Nyongmọ tsulọi (messengers of God), and in this case are referred to anthropomorphically as Klewi. Thus indicating the mysterious relationship between God and humanity, as expressed in the following Kpele song:
Atẹ Nyampong baana; Father God will see;
Klewi baana. Klewi will see.
This is an assertion that has been given credence by Reindorf (1897) who had earlier on argued that, “The Ga worship must be of foreign origin. As there is no African nation or tribe ever known to have advanced in their religious views as the Akrahs, one is inclined to suppose that the Jewish system of worship has been earlier on introduced or imitated from the people who came out first to this coast.”
On these bases, the Kpele worship of the Supreme Being through the intercession of the dzemànwọdzi as indicated earlier on by both Kilson and Field may be compared to the angels of God, which appeared to Moses, Abraham, Joshua and other leaders of the Israelites.
In corroborating these assertions, Henderson-Quartey noted that the Ga sharing of similar religious beliefs and cultural practices with the Hebrews could be traced to the Semitic people. Especially, Jews and Arabs in their encounter with most Africans believed to have originated from the southern Sudan and the Niger plateau region.
He further argued that traditional Ga religion and culture fundamentally differs from the Fante, Twi and many others systems in Ghana. This is because investigations conducted into Ga religious belief system and cultural practices from oral sources have revealed some similarities between the two cultures and religious traditions.
Prominent among some European researchers who conducted these investigations were scholars/authors such as Bosman, Barbot and Cruickshank. Their findings have confirmed as well as commented on the semblances between Ga religious beliefs and cultural practices, and that of the pre-Christian Jews.
In order to understand and fully appreciate the role of the ancestral shades in theKpele doctrine, one needs to examine the concept of a human being (gbọmọ adesa) from the Ga perspective. According to Kilson, the Ga believe that all persons (adesai) have two aspects of humanity namely, the corporeal and the spiritual: and that in the mortal life of everyone, the soul (susuma) inhabits the body (gbọmọ tśo) except during sleep, when it leaves the body and travels about without being limited by time or space.
However, at physiological death, the soul (susuma) is believe to remain in the body for three days, after which it vacates or abandons the body to wander about, until burial and the performance of final funeral rites (faafo). It is therefore, at this stage, that the souls of the deceased persons achieve their ultimate social status as ancestral shades (sisai/nsamantanŋi), in the underworld or “dead person’s world” (gbohii adzeng).
Nevertheless, the Ga firmly believe that the ancestral shades continue after death to show much concern in the affairs of their living descendants, due to the blood relationship which a person derives from both parents at birth and which affiliate one with individuals and groups (we kui) in the Ga society
As a result, ancestral shades may sometimes manifest themselves to the living in human forms or through dreams. Moreover, their spiritual presence may sometimes be invoked to assist the living during periods of crisis or calamities. On this basis, the role of the ancestral shades in the Kpele doctrine cannot be underestimated, since they not only act as guardians of the welfare of their living kith and kin, but also serve as the custodians of Ga culture. A culture firmly established by the founding fathers of the Ga State.
This latter aspect of the Ga belief is particularly relevant to the Kpele religious system for the fact that it is the embodiment of Ga traditions, which achieves its authority through the enactment of customs established by their predecessors. Thus, the role of ancestral shades as embodied in Ga customs and traditions in general; and the Kpeleworship in particular, are expressed in the verbal form of Kpele ritual prayers in the following words:
Tśwa, tśwa, tśwa. Hail, hail, hail.
Manye aba! Let happiness come.
Wọgbèi kome? Are our voices one?
Ngmεnε ashi mέ? What is today?
Ngmεnε ashi họgba. Today is Sunday.
Niimεi ahọgba. Grandfathers Sunday.
Naamεi ahọgba. Grandmothers Sunday.
This form of prayer expresses the importance that the ancestors attached to the unity of the Ga people and some specific days of the week during their existence on earth. Days set aside for the benefit of both humanity and nature in the form of rejuvenation after human activities, and for the regeneration and reproduction of flora and fauna. As well as, unity that translates into harmony, cohesion, peace and tranquillity for the development of the Ga State.
Others can be found in Kpele ritual songs, which express the importance of Ga cultural practices to the contemporary generation of Ga people as seen in the lyrics of this song:
Ataamέi shi ha wọ. Ancestors left it to us.
Tśεmέi shi ha wọ. Fathers left it to us.
Thus, the belief in the role of the ancestors as founders and custodians of Ga culture and Kpele religious belief system as substantiated in the above Kpele song, is the authority for contemporary Kpele rites: based on the precedents that they have established in the Kpele religion and Ga cultural practices of the distant past.
HUMANITY, ANIMALS AND PLANTS
Finally, the Kpele doctrine teaches that though animals and plants like human beings may wither and die, humanity is quite different from these two species; since human beings have the capacity to reason, hence the Ga expression (dzwεŋnmọ dzi gbọmọ) meaning “the mind is the person”. This is deduced from the fact that, the rationality of humanity enables them to coordinate their social and moral existence: especially, their sexuality on which the procreation of humanity depends for the survival of the human race on earth.
In view of this, the Kpele doctrine has utilized the concept of the taxonomy in the hierarchy of beings in explaining the relationship between the Supreme Being, divine beings, humanity, animals and plants. A relationship based on the dependency of each class of beings within the hierarchy, to promote peace and harmony within the universe.
Furthermore, this explains the Ga belief that all creations depend on the Supreme Being (Taolọ naanọ nyoongmọ/Ataa Naa Nyongmọ) for their existence, sustenance and security. Hence, the Ga axioms, Nyongmọ gbeọ ni wọ yeọ (God slaughters and we eat), Nyongmọ dzi wala tśε (God is the owner of life), Nyongmọ dzi wọ hiε nọ kamọ(God is our hope), etc.
TAXONOMY AND FORM IN KPELE RITUALS
Having said that, I wish to state categorically that with regard to all religious faiths the world over there are some basic principles and practices which are fundamental; and therefore, such rites or rituals are obligatory to their followers or adherents. Hence, African Indigenous Religion, which is an integral part in the lives of the people is no exception to this rule. Rather, such practices are the main features found in the religious observations of most African communities throughout the continent.
Indeed, since the fundamental aim of the Ga religion is to harmonize the relationship between the Supreme Being and humanity through the intercession of divine beings and ancestral shades, Kpele rituals are performed by cult groups, each of which is responsible for the performance of the rituals associated with a specific dzemànwọdzi(deity).
Of course, cognatic kin units (we kui) associated with the dzemànwọŋ (deity) of a particular Kpele cult determines membership into the group. However, these are restricted to the Gamεi kroŋ (true Ga) families of the Ga society who are the custodians of these dzemànwọdzi, and whose prerogative is to perform, as well as observe all rituals and worships associated with the cult as for example, in the case of Kpakpatsewe Royal Family and the Gua deity.
According to Kilson (1970), although theoretically, all members of such cognatic groups are automatic members of these Kpele cults, responsibilities for the performance of rituals are entrusted to two categories of ritual specialists: a Wọlọmọ(high priest) and a wọŋ yoo (female medium). Indeed, in the Ga customs and traditions just like the Hebrews, the priesthood is a hereditary office where a person is selected by the elders of a particular household (We) or in some cases by thedzemànwọdzi themselves.
Besides, since the office of a Wọlọmọ is a lifetime occupation, due diligence is done by these elders in selecting a chaste and an unmarried young man after a thorough vetting and examination of the proposed candidate. As already discussed in the taxonomy of the hierarchy of beings, at the apex of Kpele doctrine is the Supreme Being who is creative, immortal, rational and mobile: the source of life and controller of the natural processes in the universe of his creations.
In view of these attributes and other reasons, the Ga believe that contact cannot directly be made with Him. Rather, relationship between Him and humanity must be channeled through the mediation of the dzemànwọdzi and ancestral shades. Consequently, humanity may appeal directly to the dzemànwọdzi and thereby to the Supreme Being through libation during prayers.
While at the same time, ancestral shades may act or serve as intermediaries between their living descendants and the dzemànwọdzi in the time of crisis or calamities. Although, animals and plants formed part of the taxonomical hierarchy of beings in the Kpele doctrine, not much exegetical commentaries have been made about them. Except for the anthropomorphic utilization of these non-human classes of beings as analogues of human existence in some of the Kpele songs, as for example stated in one of the songs “wuọ nuu looflọ shishi” meaning, a domestic fowl does not understand a wild bird.
LIBATION IN KPELE RITUALS
The act of offering prayer through libation has been an integral part of the African culture, and since religion as already stated is the way of life of African, libation play an important role in the daily activities of the people. As a result, libation forms the core of Kpele rituals since it is the vehicle through which both the dzemànwọdzi and ancestral shades are summoned during prayers and worship, to serve as mediums for the supplications offered to the Supreme Being.
Kilson in her analysis of the ritual act of libation among the Ga stated that “Libation involves two actions: one verbal, the other non-verbal. These actions according to her are performed sequentially; a priest prays before he libates. Sometimes a number of such sequences of ritual actions may comprise a single act of libation.” She further posited that, libation prayer consisted of three successive elements which are the invocation of divine beings and ancestral shades; explanation for the summons; and supplications to the divine beings.
Even though, the form and approach to libation prayer is constant, the length, content and context may vary depending on the intentions or reasons for the invocations and supplications as well as the ritual knowledge of the supplicant. Consequently, the performance of certain rituals and prayers are the prerogative of ritual specialists who are conversant with the rules of these acts.
Libation prayers among the Ga, therefore, elucidate certain ideas about the Kpeledoctrine, which recur in every prayer irrespective of the supplicant or occasion. This is reflected in the summons and invocations of the three categories of immortal beings by the supplicant to come to the aid of the community or individual; among whom are, Ataa Naanọ Nyongmọ, dzemànwọdzi and sisai/nsamantanŋi. This in my view is based on the taxonomical structure of the hierarchy of beings as discussed earlier on.
An assertion corroborated by Kilson in her differentiation of the method and approach adopted by ritual officiants (Wọlọmεi, Mantsεmεi, Wekuu Nkpai, etc), when gods and ancestors are invoked; as against when the Supreme Being and other major deities are summoned during libation prayer and worship.Thus, in Kpele religious thought, libation prayers contained three formal elements namely: invocation, prayer or supplication and libation.
VERBAL FORM OF LIBATION PRAYER
The first part of the libation prayer which is verbal, comprise of the invocation of the Supreme Being through the appellations of His various attributes such as His bisexuality (Ataa, Naa i.e. Father, Mother). His role as Creator of the universe, Provider for the needs of His creations, Sustainer of life and the only One who gives Divine guidance to humanity through His messengers (dzemànwọdzi). These ideas are explicitly expressed in the following Kpele prayer text:
Ofe Nyongmọ nibọ ngwei kε shikpong kε shikpong nọ tśei kε tεi, fai kε godzii, nudzii kε nibii krokomεi. Sεε mliŋ ni ebọ adesai, ni eto adsai adeng kε tsọ nonọ ni eha Ga hu bọfo…………..
Tśε Nyongmọ Mãwu, nọni ogblenaa lε no dzi nọni wọbaa nye wọtsu. Nọni ofèè ko daŋ lε, wọ nyeng he noko wọ fè, ni nọni otshiko taŋ lε, wọnye henii wọtsu.
This translates as follows:
Almighty God who created the sky and earth and on earth trees and stones, rivers and mountains, valleys and other things. Afterwards He created human beings and He put all things into the hands of men and through this He also gave Ga a messenger (i.e. Sakumọ)………..
Father God, what you have opened that is what we will be able to perform. What you have not done before, we cannot do anything about it, and what you have not mentioned, we cannot perform.
The second category of beings invoked in the course of the prayer are thedzemànwọdzi (divine beings) which is illustrated in the second part of the prayer as can be observed in the following supplication:
Nii/Nuumo Sakumọ; Grandfather/old man Sakumọ;
Klọọte kotobridza akotobri; Great, great Sakumọ;
Odai wọmu oye; Sakumọ, it is good you are present;
Afite osaa; They destroy and you repair;
Abuo Tete ke tśei; when Sakumọ is called, he answers;
Ọnyanku afle; one whom one calls when in danger;
Oku ama Nkran. you kill for Ga;
Tete yee, tete yee; Sakumọ senior, yes; Sakumọ junior, yes;
Angula sro, Ashanti sro. Ewe fear you, Ashanti fear you.
These appellations showed the awe and reverence that the Ga hold for the immortal beings i.e. the deities. While believing that Ataa Naanọ Nyongmọ assists humanity, especially the Ga, through the dzemànwọdzi when the need arise. Indeed, the maintenance and restoration of harmonious relationship between immortal beings and humanity depend to some extent on the performance of rituals whereby the latter reaffirm their subordinate status in the taxonomical structure of the hierarchy of beings as well as acknowledge their dependence on the super-ordinate beings.
DZRANO -YEE. WOMEN SPIRITUAL ADMINISTRATORS OF THE LA-ASAFO. GA-ADANGBE
NON-VERBAL FORM OF LIBATION PRAYER
In the non-verbal aspect of the libation prayer, water, corn wine (nŋmaa daa) or alcoholic beverages play an important role in summoning the dzemànwọdzi andsisai/nsamantanŋi as a means of establishing contractual relationship between mortal men and immortals spirits. Through this act, the Ga believe that immortal spirits can be manipulated to perform the tasks that has been addressed to them, for the onward transmission to the Supreme Being.
While at the same time, it is believed that by accepting the offering of the above named items, immortal spirits not only sanction the actions of the Ga, but also acknowledge their responsibilities towards them. Libation, therefore, in Kpele rituals is a sacrificial act and communion, which seeks to emphasize the taxonomy of the hierarchy of beings in order to validate and ensure the success of the rites, which are performed.
KPA-SOLEMO DANCE, ( SACRED TESTIMONIAL PROCESS )
Here, instead of sacrificial animals and in some cases human beings that are immolated for the propitiation of immortal beings, the offering of water, nŋmaa daaand liquor are symbolically annihilated by being poured on the ground. Thus, libation emphasizes the communion between the taxonomical structures of the hierarchy of beings; both mortal and immortal, whose cooperation is essential for the existence and prosperity of humanity.
TWIN CULTS AND WORSHIP AMONG THE GA
Furtherance to the taxonomical structure of the hierarchy of beings in the Kpeledoctrine, Kilson in researching into the phenomenon of twin births among the Ga, was of the view that the Ga believe twins (haadzii) are human beings associated with certain sky dwelling spirits. In order to fully comprehend and appreciate the Ga belief about twin births, one needs to analyse the Kpele doctrine to grasp its fundamental teachings: the taxonomical conception of the hierarchy of beings.
A doctrine, which teaches that both mortal and immortal beings, depends on one another for the harmonization of the universe, and the prosperity of humankind. In this regard, twin births among the Ga are seen as desirable anomalies, which resulted from the parents’ unusual reproductive powers and at the same time; a gift from the Supreme Being.
Expatiating further on this phenomenon, Kilson averred, “the Ga believed that for every pair of human twins born on earth, there are corresponding pair of spirits in sky, which are the bush cow (wuo) spirits.” This belief may be attributed to the conception of the hierarchy of beings in the Kpele doctrine, due to the fact that next to human beings, animals play an important role in the survival of humankind on earth since they serve as food and beasts of burden.
To the Ga, therefore, although the bush cow spirits are sky dwelling beings they sometimes descend to the earth and become localized in human beings, other animals and plants; either by their own volition or through human intention. Indeed, the belief of the existential nature of the bush cow spirit explains in large measures the rituals surrounding twin births in Ga culture. The bush cow, a ferocious and wild forest dwelling animal that attack other creatures and objects with its horns.
This animal is believed to be gregarious, travel in groups and enjoy bathing in ponds. Above all, its spirits is believed to cleanse the yam (yεlε) crops, of any inherent mystical dangers. Thus, the birth of human twins or multiple births are a source of joy among the Ga who believe that there is strength in numbers.
Moreover, such births are believed to be gifts from the Supreme Being, which must be handled with all the care that it deserves. For these, and other reasons as explained earlier on, elders of the patriarchal family consult a medium of a Kpele cult who invoke the twins spirits to determine whether they wished to be worshipped or not.
When the latter is determined, arrangements are made for the construction of a twins’ shrine (kodziŋ) which are kept in their home. This shrine consists of a small hand woven raffia purse (flọtọ), a pair of bush cow horns (kodziŋ), a bottle of Schnapps, a small ceramic plate and a piece of kaolin (ayεlọ), which are all kept in a tray or wooden bowl (tsese) and covered with white cloth. The most important objects in the shrine according to Kilson, is the pair of bush cow horns that are procured for the twins. Since as human beings, they lack the natural horns of their counterparts: the bush cow spirits.
Furthermore, it is belief of the Ga that since the spiritual powers of the terrestrial twin spirits are localized in the bush cow horns, mortal twins equally derive and exert their powers (hewalε) through the replicated horns. Consequently, twins are feared among the Ga because, when angry, they may beat their horns to invoke and thereby localize the twin spirits in the horns and through these spirits to cause sickness; if not death, to those who have incurred their wrath.
On the contrary, Field (1937) having researched into the rites performed during childhood of special children among the Ga earlier on, held an entirely different view from that of Kilson. In analyzing her findings she posited that, the cult of twins which is one of the yam-eating cults are connected with animal worship, and that twins are supposed to have ‘the same spirit’ as the wuo, a very savage kind of wild cow.
She contended that, “When the twins are a week old, in addition to their ordinary naming ceremony, each receives a little clay pot which is embedded in a little clay platform outside the house. Offerings of herbs, rum, cowries, money, are put into these pots, and chickens are killed and the blood sprinkled on them…When the twins are a few months old, and had evidently ‘come to stay’, the pots are exchanged for a pair of wuo horns.”
However, in my opinion, even though there may be variations in the findings of both researchers, the performance of certain religio-cultural rites may vary depending on the locality as can be seen in the celebration of the annual Họmọwọ festival among the various Ga groups. For example, while the Wọ Sagba of Ga Mashie and Osu celebrate the Họmọwọ with the satirical Oshii dzo as a side attraction, the Wọ Doku of La and Teshie have the Kpã Shimọ or La Kpã Yo Kpèèmọ with śakamọ the ceremonial embracing of the opposite sex as a special feature of the celebration.
On the other hand, while the Wọ Krowor of Nungua performs the Obeneshimọ after the Họmọwọ celebration, the Wọ Kpele of Tema performs the Kpeledzo before the annual agricultural harvest festival of the Ga society. Again, we do agree with Field on her assertion that twin cults are basically, yam-eating cults, associated with animal worshipping tribes such as the Lε who were believed to be the shikwέbii of La, Tema, Nungua and Kpone. These aboriginal tribes were worshippers of the snake, leopard and hyena who were assimilated by the Adangbe and Lashbii.
Consequently, it is not surprising that the Ga adopted the twin cult and worship as part of their cultural heritage due to their consideration and tolerance for other people’s religious beliefs and practices that preserves human life and dignity. Hence the Ga axiom, Ablé kuu aba kuma wọ: literally meaning, “let a good and abundant harvest of corn be our lot.”
In other words, all manner of persons are acceptable to, and welcomed by the Ga as neighbours, provided they live in peace with them. Of course, the Ga consider themselves as affable people with open heart that embraces everyone irrespective of race, colour, gender, religion or creed without any form of discrimination.
This can be seen from the composition of the various Ga communities in the Greater Accra region. Hence, the twin worship ceremony formed the prelude to the celebration of the annual Họmọwọ festival after the lifting of the ban on drumming and noise making in all the major Ga towns, especially, Ga Mashie. Thus, though twins may be notoriously capricious and difficult to nurture, their parents are always proud of them. Additionally, they are regarded as divine beings that never bring misfortune to their families when treated with tender care and loving kindness, but rather, blessings and prosperity.
GA CULTURAL PRACTICES (RITES OF PASSAGE)
The supposed Hebraic origin of Ga religious beliefs and cultural practices are illustrated by some rites of passage practices among which are the kpojiemọ (naming ceremony) performed on the eight day for all newly born babies irrespective of gender, and the circumcision of the male child (hii aniŋ/ketia) after the kpojiemọrituals (Gen. 17: 9-14).
Amartey (1991) corroborated these assertions when he noted that the Ga group, who were exposed to the Israelites in the land of Goshen due to their common habitation and social status, assimilated some aspects of their culture through intermarriages and acculturation. Moreover, he discussed the patriarchal naming of the Ga kroŋ and argued that this system is based on the family or clan names for easy identification, in addition to the inheritance and succession, as found in the Ga social organizational structures.
However, Kilson (1974) in analyzing the Ga customs and traditional ceremonial rites of passage observed, “The aim of the cycle of life crisis ceremonies is based on the physiological development of the human organism……each ceremony defines an individual as a member of a bio-social category and failure to observe a ceremony entails mystical and practical sanction.”
She further argued that five major ritual ceremonies marked the social transitions during the life span of every Ga person, who live up to adulthood. These ceremonies, which comprise of kpodziemọ (naming rite) among others, transforms an eight-day-old child from a biological fetal nonentity into a Ga person. Based on this, an infant who dies before the naming ceremony is performed is not considered a social beingand for this reason, its mother does not achieve the respected social status of motherhood, which reflects in the use of a family/clan name: for example, Kpakpanye.
Another ceremony that she laid much emphasis on is the hiianii (men’s thing) – the circumcision of all male children, which has to be performed at any time after thekpodziemọ, and or before the age ten. This ritual masculinizes the boys and at the same time, differentiates the Ga from other ethnic groups on the West Coast of Africa.
Other rites of passage ceremonies in her estimation are the physiological puberty rites (dzengniŋ) performed for both genders, and which marked the transition from immaturity to maturity. The performance of which signify the purification and preparation for the assumption of the adulthood role of marriage, parentage and other social responsibilities.
Without which a person may be branded ‘immoral and stupid’ thereby being denied ancestral status after death. One other important bio-social transition to Kilson is that of marriage, which constitutes a major change in the process of maturation for both men and women in the Ga customs and traditional life cycle.
Indeed, the institution of a first marriage is contracted by two sets of ceremonies namely: shibimọ (betrothal) and yoo kpèèmọ (wedding) rites. On the issue of betrothal, Kilson observed that “It involve the transfer of goods from the groom’s kin to the bride’s family, which establishes the groom’s exclusive rights to the bride’s sexuality and his kindred’s right to her reproductive capacity.” Thus, the formal wedding, which entails a week of merriment and feasting, transfers the bride to the groom’s family and ends with a blessing at the shrine of Nai: the senior Kpele deity in Accra, at the Nai We.
However, as it is with all human existence and life transitions, the funerary rites marked the end of all rites of passage. In the Ga customs and traditions, certain conceptions of humanity are relevant in the life of every person. In accordance with that, the Ga believes that a person has two aspects of humanity namely: a body and a soul.
In view of this, while the body is believed to have only temporary existence; thesusuma (soul) has eternal life, though its association with the body is limited. Thus, it is believed that every soul has a predetermined length of human existence, and when it leaves the body, it wanders about ‘nobody knows where’ until the performance of the final funeral rites (faafo) has been completed.
This aspect of the Ga funerary observation according to Henderson-Quartey has the semblance to that of the Hebrews practices. He observed that at death and mourning, burial rituals such as kotśa gbamọ (separation of sponge) which signifies the separation of the dead from the living as against that performed by the Jewish special group; the Hevra Kaddishah (Sacred Society), formed part of the Ga cultural practices.
These rituals are strong indications of the belief in the after-life. For, to both the Ga and the Jews, death is the separation of the body from its life giving force: the soul, and the continuation of life in the hereafter. Thus, the after-death treatment of the body is a strong indication not only in the belief of the sanctity of life, but also in the equality of all humanity and the mutual responsibility entrusted to all families and friends in times of bereavements.
KPELE AGRICULTURAL RITES AND FESTIVALS
One of the major occupations among the Ga is agriculture, since it plays an important role in their livelihood, as no family is without agricultural or fishing interest in one or any of the villages of the six Ga coastal towns stretching from Langma to Tema. Again, as part of the Ga religious system as can be seen from the analysis of the Kpeledoctrine of the taxonomy of the hierarchy of beings, even though animals and plants formed part of the subordinate beings, their role in the harmonization of the universe cannot be overemphasized.
On these bases, periodic, occasional, and calendrical rites as well as festivals are performed on behalf of the entire Ga community by the various Kpele cults as a means of harmonizing the relationship between the super-ordinate beings and humanity. Among these rites are the weekly rituals performed by the various Wọlọmεi on the days of the week that are sacred to their family deities.
In addition to these, are other annual rituals such as the nŋmaa yeli (eating of millet) festivities to celebrate each deity, annual nshor bulemọ (purification of the sea) by theWọlọmεi of the various Ga coastal towns assisted by the Wolεiatśεi (chief fishermen). Again, rituals to close the Sakumọ, Tśεmu and Korle lagoons to fishing in order to replenish the fish stock as well as protect the fish fingerlings from extinction, thereby preventing the depletion of marine life in these water bodies.
While on the other hand, the opening of these water bodies to fishing ensure that there is enough fish for the celebration of the Họmọwọ festival. However, all these activities serve as a prelude to the Nŋmaa dumọ (cultivation of millet) by the various quarters in both Ga Mashie and Tema communities prior to the celebration of both Kpeledzoand Họmọwọ festivals.
GA HỌMỌWỌ FESTIVAL
The institution of the Jewish Passover according to Henderson-Quartey has some similarities with the Ga Họmọwọ festival. These are manifested in the way and manner in which both the Jews and the Ga count the yearly calendar of twelve moons for the commencement of religious rituals and festivals.
For example, the counting of the number of nyanyara garlands used in purification rites from the first Monday after the Họmọwọ celebration, and subsequent Mondays throughout the year by the Dantu Wọlọmọ of Lante-Djan We clan. Hence, the method through which the Wọlọmọ announce the days of the Kpele religious rites; and most importantly, the commencement of the Ga Họmọwọ festival.
He further argued that unlike other festivals in Ghana, the Ga Họmọwọ portray the sense and significance in which the celebration of the Roshanah and the Yom Kippurby the Jews does. The significance of which is meant to fulfill the commandments of God by bringing all the people into the experiences of their ancestors and the gathering of kith and kin together. Moreover, the need to face up to past mistakes and to let go of resentments against one another, and a time for reconciliation by giving a genuine chance of a fresh start in family relationships and neighbourliness.
Finally, to appreciate each other’s need as well as role in the harmonization, progress, and development of the family in particular, and the Ga community in general; through the ŋgọwala greetings offered to the family and members of the Ga community, a day after the Họmọwọ celebration (Ex.12:19).
However, Amartey on the other hand has argued that, the only festival, which the Ga-speaking immigrants do then celebrate, is yihoo gbi (the day of Passover). A festival that they adopted from their encounter with the Israelites. This, he strongly believes have been substituted with an agricultural harvest festival – the Họmọwọ. The celebration of which the Ga groups may have instituted due to hunger they suffered from famine, during their long journey from their place of origin to their present locations in the then Gold Coast.
Besides, Field also alluded to the fact that the Kpeledzo festival is another annual agricultural harvest celebration of the Kpele cult assimilated by the Ga of Teshie, Nungua and Tema into their cultural practices. While, in places like Ga Mashie, Osu and La, elements of Kpeledzo such as Kpele ha manbii ŋgọwala greetings (Kpeleoffering of life to the people) have also been incorporated into the annual Họmọwọfestival celebration.
Although these religio-cultural practices vary in both scale and magnitude in respect to the number of participants and complexities of the rituals, they are system-maintaining or redressive acts, which are considered essential for maintaining harmonious relationship between the super-ordinate and subordinate beings as already stated.
Thus, the success of Kpele rituals and worship depends on a number of dramatic forms which include songs, dance, music, prayers, libation and sacrifice all aimed at achieving orderly and harmonious relationship between the taxonomical structure of the hierarchy of beings in the universe.
In conclusion, the religion of the Ga people just like its language have undergone a lot of changes even though originally, its was supposed to be monotheistic in nature; as per their association and intermarriages with the Israelites in the land of Goshen in Egypt. And although they may have acquired the cultural traits of other ethnic groups, they have still retained their belief in the Supreme Being as can be seen in most of their cultural practices and rites of passage.