The West African nation of Ghana has a culture that is a blend of the cultures of the various ethnic groups residing in the country.
6. Ethnicity, Language, and Religion in Ghana
Ghana is home to a population of 28,102,471 individuals. The Akan is the biggest ethnic community representing 47.5% of Ghana's population. Other ethnic groups of Ghana with a significant population are Mole-Dagbon, Ewe, Ga-Dangme, Gurma, Guan, Grusi, and Mande. A variety of indigenous languages like Asante, Ewe, Fante, Boron, etc., are spoken in Ghana. English is, however, the official language and the lingua franca of the nation. Christians account for 71.2% of Ghana’s population. Muslims also have a significant presence in the nation and represent 17.2% of the population. Indigenous religions are practiced by a small percentage of the Ghanaians. However, many of those affiliated to the dominant faiths continue to hold on to some elements of their ancestral religions. There is also a strong belief in black magic and superstitions among the Ghanaian population.
5. Ghanaian Cuisine
A standard meal in Ghana features a staple carbohydrate dish that is served with sauces, soups, or stews. Tomatoes are extensively added to the soups and stews which thus have a red or orange color. Staples of the diet include cassava and plantain in northern Ghana and millet and sorghum in southern Ghana. Sweet potatoes, maize, and beans are also used in various dishes of the cuisine. Rice and wheat have been introduced in the country in recent times and are growing in importance as staples of the diet. Beef, lamb, goat, pork, chicken, smoked turkey, dried snails, fried fish, seafood, etc., are usually added to the soups and stews of the Ghanaian cuisine. A variety of spices like thyme, ginger, peppers, garlic, bay leaf, nutmeg, etc., are also added. Bread of different types like tea bread, brown bread, butter bread, oat bread, rye bread, etc., are consumed for breakfast. Most widely consumed Ghanaian alcoholic beverages included drinks made from fermented maize, palm wine, a local beer made from fermented millet called pitoo, etc. Popular non-alcoholic beverages include cocoa drinks, yogurt, ice cream, soy milk, soft drinks, etc.
4. Literature and the Arts in Ghana
Ghana has a rich tradition of storytelling. Ghanaian folktales and epics glorifying past chiefs are still enjoyed by large audiences in the country. Kwaku Ananse, a spider, is a popular figure of Ghanaian folklore. There is a small body of written literary works in the country’s indigenous languages. Literature in English is, however, well developed. Efua Sutherlan, Ama Ata Aiddo, and Ayi Kwei Armah are Ghanaian writers who are internationally well-known.
Ghana also has a rich tradition of graphic art. Ghanaian craftsmen excel at wood carving. Stools representing abstract designs or animals are carved out of large logs. These stools become objects of veneration after the deaths of their owners. Sculpting is another craft form of Ghana whereby iron and bronze casting techniques are used to produced ceremonial swords, gold weights, and other products. Textiles and pottery are also produced by Ghanaian artisans.
3. Performance Arts in Ghana
Ghanaian music and dance performances were traditionally held in the context of religious or political rites. They were also part of wedding ceremonies, initiation ceremonies, and other social situations. Today, while music and dance continue to serve these purposes, they also symbolize the country’s culture. Such performances are part of cultural festivals and public occasions and are also performed in front of tourists. The Ghana Dance Ensemble of the University of Ghana is a cultural institution of global repute. Today, Ghanaian youth, especially those in urban areas, also favor contemporary music and dance styles. Highlife and Hiplife are the most popular modern music and dance forms in the country. This type of music is usually played in urban nightclubs.
2. Sports in Ghana
Association football is Ghana’s most popular sport. The country’s national football team known as the Black Stars have taken part in many international football tournaments like the FIFA World Cup and African Cup of Nations. Football is also played informally throughout the nation. Other popular sporting events in Ghana include tennis, basketball, athletics, rugby, hockey, golf, etc.
1. Life in the Ghanaian Society
In the pre-modern Ghanaian society, women were primarily viewed as child bearers. They were associated with the traditional roles of managing the household and rearing children. Women in rural areas participated in agricultural activities while those in the urban centers stayed at home. However, the situation has greatly changed in modern-day Ghana. Today, over 40% of the Ghanaian women participate in the country’s workforce. Many women also hold top offices in politics, business, education, and other fields.
Marriages in Ghana, especially in the rural areas, are still arranged by the parents of the bride and the groom. Polygamous marriages are allowed but it is dependent on the financial conditions of the man. The village chiefs often marry many women. A bride price is paid to the bride’s family in exchange for the bride. The primary aim of most marriages is to have children. Women who do not bear children are often divorced by their husbands. Divorce is easy to obtain and is widespread. In urban areas, however, the spread of Western values have influenced marriage customs. Monogamy is preferred and modern, nuclear families are more common.
The basic household unit in Ghana varies in size and composition. The domestic arrangement differs by ethnic group. Patrilocal residence (bride moves in with groom’s family), natalocal residence (both bride and groom stay with their respective parents after marriage), and avunculocal residence (a man resides with his maternal uncle) are the different types of domestic arrangements that can be seen in Ghana. Inheritance is matrilineal (for the Akan ethnic group) or patrilineal (other ethnic groups).
Children are highly valued in society. Mothers are primarily responsible for childcare. Grandparents and other relatives also participate in this activity. The transition of children to adulthood is marked by many initiation ceremonies and puberty rites. Both boys and girls are sent to primary school but few make it to secondary school. High levels of poverty and poor infrastructure often prevent children from attending school or lead to high dropout rates. Only a very small percentage of the population gets the opportunity of attending a university.
Ghanaians are known for their hospitality. Visitors are treated with great respect and offered food and rest. It is also important to be polite towards elders and treat them with respect. Older members of the society are revered for their age and experience of life. Often, one seeks advice from them.
About the Author
Oishimaya is an Indian native, currently residing in Kolkata. She has earned her Ph.D. degree and is presently engaged in full-time freelance writing and editing. She is an avid reader and travel enthusiast and is sensitively aware of her surroundings, both locally and globally. She loves mingling with people of eclectic cultures and also participates in activities concerning wildlife conservation.
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