People & Culture
Four main groups
According to tradition, the Guan represent the oldest of the country’s groups. They migrated to Ghana from around AD1000.
Love and marriageLove and marriageIn this video…common marriage rituals are explained. If a Ghanaian man wants to marry, he must pay marriage rights to the woman’s family, as well as asking permission of course!
Guan people can still be found in a few isolated places. But today, Ghanaians can be divided into four main regional groups:
- Mole-Dagbani, of the Northern Region
- Ewe, east of Lake Volta
- Ga-Adangbe, of the East
- Akan (including the Anyi, Asante/Ashanti, Baule, Fante and Guang), who live across the south and centre of Ghana and comprise more than half the population.
These groups speak over 40 languages and 70 different dialects. The Akan languages of Twi, Ashanti and Fante are the most common.
A leader's stool
When a chief is appointed, his position of power is symbolised by the possession of a royal stool. This is often made of wood and blackened when a chief dies.
Throughout Ghana, villages and towns are part of chieftaincies. It is customary for visitors to pay their respects to the local chief when they visit.
Among most groups, such as the Akan societies, chiefs are elected to the position, normally by a council of elders. The elders have the power to overrule a chief’s decisions or remove him if he acts inappropriately. However, the role of the chief is largely ceremonial today.
FestivalFestivalIn this video…Children at the SOS Children’s Village in Tema, Ghana are having a festival. It's typical of festivals held all over Ghana: colourful, loud and with lots of singing, dancing and arts and crafts on show.
Ghanaians have a number of local festivals throughout the year. Some of these ask for a blessing or protection of an area, such as the Bakatue festival in July which marks the new fishing season.
Festivals held in the spring may ask for good rains, such as the Homowo festival of the Greater Accra region. In the autumn, they may give thanks for the harvest, such as the Kobine in the Upper West region.
Some festivals commemorate historical events or migrations, such as the famous Aboakyir deer-hunting festival in May. During this festival, two groups of hunters dressed in full traditional regalia compete to capture an antelope alive with their bare hands.
During the Hogbetsotso or ‘Exodus’ Festival in November, the Ewe people mark their escape from a tyrannical ruler. Traditionally-dressed chiefs lead lively processions of drummers and dancers through the streets.
Festivals such as these enable Ghanaians to show off their fine jewellery and textiles, particularly the intricate handwoven kente cloth with its bold geometric patterns and colours.