Ghana Ethnic Groups
Ga Naming pattenAs soon as a child is born, the husband and his family are at once informed, so that they may go and congratulate both the mother and the newcomer. The husband then sends a present to all who have assisted at the birth. The present frequently consists of rum, and therefore called "Defomo dan," the hand washing rum. The husband then sends one of his cloths for use as a pillow for the child. This is absolutely necessary, as it is the first actual sign of recognition by him that the child is his.
On the eighth day, a week after birth, according to the native calculation, the child is taken out and publicly presented to families of both the father and mother, as well as to friends at the father’s or grandfather’s house, if they live in separate houses. The mother’s and father’s families meet together at the paternal grandfather’s house or the father’s house in the morning between 2 and 4; they take to the meeting corn, wine and other drinks.
A person of good character and reputation in either of the two families, or outside of them, is next asked to take the child in his arms, hold it up and bring it down three times gently on the floor, sprinkle water on it three times, and then the father’s family name the child with one of their family names.
Next the owner, or the eldest person in the house or quarter where the ceremony is being performed, will say the following prayer for blessing on the child:
Tsua Tsua Tsua manye aba. Tsua Tsua Tsua manye aba. Tsu-a Tsu-a Tsu-a manye aba, Osoro (Osu) Ahatiri, Obu Ahatiri, Oboro dutu wokpe, Wodsebu wodse nu, Wo ye wo nu wo kodsii adso wo, Gboni bale etse yi ana wala, Enye yi ana wala, Esee tuu, Ehee fann, Eyi aba gbodsen, Ese aba halaann, Wekumei wona faa ni wo fa le, Eba tsu eha wo ni woye, Eko atasi ni eko aba, Ganyo humile koyo tsua dani owieo, Tsua Tsua Tsua manye aba,"
To which the others answer "Yao!" A free translation into English of the above would be:
Oyez! may the Gods pour their blessing upon us! Oyez! may the Gods pour their blessing upon us! Oyez! may the Gods pour their blessing upon us!
A child has been born (presented); we have formed a circle round to view it.
Whenever we dig may it become a well full of water: and when we drink out of the means of health and strength to us!May the parents of this child live long!
May it never look at the place whence it came!
May it be pleased always to dwell with us!
May it have respect for the aged!
May it be obedient to elders, and do what is right and proper.
May many more follow, full of grace and honour!
May the families always be in a position to pay respect and regard to this child, and out of his earnings may we have something to live upon!
May it live long and others come and meet it!
As a Ga person does not speak at random, so may this child be careful of his words and speech, and speak the truth so that he may not get into trouble and palavers!
Oyez! may the Gods pour their blessing upon us!"
To which the others say "Amen!"
This ceremony is called "kpodsiemo" and is made up of three words meaning in English Annunciation, Proclamation, and naming. Some people compare the word with "Baptism." Whatever the meaning, there can be little doubt but that the form of ceremony seems similar to the Jewish one.
The Name.This is the most important thing among the Gas, much more important, even, than their tribal facial cut, which is of comparatively recent origin.
Just as it is possible for an instructed person to pick out a Ga man from among thousands of other people of a different tribe, so he can also distinguish from among most of the Ga people to which family he belongs as soon as he hears the name of that person.
In old days a Ga man would die for his family name; and, just as it is considered an insult, not only to the person to whom the affront is offered, but also to the family to which he belongs, to serve him with a summons personally, so it is considered and unpardonable defamation to call a man or a woman by a name other than the one which was given to him or her on the eighth day after his or her birth in the presence of the families of both of his or her parents.
Further, in former days a Ga man asked for nothing more than to die fighting in the midst of his family, under the family banner, with the family war song ringing in his ears, or in the time of peace to die in the midst of his family, and be laid to rest under the ground in the family house.
It is this enchantment in the family name that makes every man go to war taking for his party the father’s side; in a word, he does all he can to enhance the fame and the good name of his family.
It is only the present generation that has forgotten the house that bore and bred their forefathers, a generation that apes that which is foreign to its creation, nationless descendants of the generation that witnessed heroic acts and deeds, that look down on what is intended for them by nature, abashed, disgraced, and defamed to own the name into which they were born, considering it unbecoming to bear the honour of their father’s family name, but not ashamed to assume names coming form a land and people as foreign as it was unknown to his early imagination, and knowing not what the meaning or purport of that name may be these are the men who weaken the very roots of all attempt to live a national life suited to the country of their birth; without ambition, they look forward to being what they will never be, and, being without faith in the strength of indigenous things truly their own, they look for help and support from that which is entirely extraneous and exogamous.
It appears that in other tribes there is always a difficulty in naming a child; therefore children are mostly called after the day on which they were born. But there is no such difficulty experienced among the members of the Ga tribes because, in most cases, if not in all, children are born into their names, i.e., before a child is born, it is known what name it will bear, irrespective of the day on which it is born they have their names according to the order of their birth.
It may be mentioned that in case a husband in either line has more than one wife, the issue of each wife has to be named the same order in the particular line and number.
There are generally two sets of names: the senior or first set, i.e., the fathers; and the junior or second set, i.e., the children. The fathers give the names in the second set to their children, and the children give the names in the first set to their own children. It means that the customary law lays it down that children are bound to give to their own children the names which their fathers, uncles and aunts bear or have borne.
Among the Ga tribes one or two of the following are given to children, viz.: Tribal names. Family names. Day names. Fetish names. Kra names. Nicknames. The following are the names in general use among the hole of the Ga tribes, viz.: Ayite (Male), e.g., Ga Nyo Ayite. Ayele (Female), e.g., Ga Nyo Ayele. Dede do. Korkor do. Tette (male). Ayi do.
Family Names.It is evident that a country like that occupied by the Ga tribes must necessarily contain a population made up of heterogeneous groups containing two or more families with distinctive names and customs peculiar to each of them, besides the general custom of the mass over which a Mantse rules or the unity of masses over which the paramount head called the Ga Mantse reigns.
Apart from any fame or importance which any particular family might have attained subsequently in politics or otherwise by individual exertions on the part of a member or by a whole family, the fact remains that these family names have in their origin a meaning attached to each of them, and also that they are arranged like a chain in make and female lines.
It is quite true that many of the family names have lost their original meaning, yet some of them can be traced even now. In this matter of the family names it is considered expedient to take Accra, the principal town of the Ga people and the seat of the Ga native government, which also has become the seat of the English government since the seventies, wherein the following family names exist, with all historic peculiarities attached hereto:
I. Ankrahs.The family name of the Ankrahs of Otublohum of Otoo Street, Dutch Accra.This is not the original name belonging to this family. The seat of the family is in the stool of the Gbese Quarter of Dutch Accra, and the head of the famil is known by the name of Ayi; but a member of that family was nicknamed "Wankara," abbreviated to "Ankra," a Twi word, which means "He never bids good-bye" or "He never gives anyone notice when leaving or going away."
Others also allege that a member of that family became so rich that he kept hotels at Accra for the white people who dealt in the iniquitous slave trade, and that when these white men were coming to Accra thy said, "We are going to Ankra" i.e., Accra, and lodged in his hotel, hence the name.
The family names of this family by a wife with a husband in either line are:First line,
Male. Second line,
Female. First line,
Male. Second line,
Female. (i) Ayi or Ankrah. Ayite.
The other names are the same as those of the Gbese Stool family names given below. There are more of the names belonging to each line, but thy are invariable taken from other branches of the family and therefore need not be given here.
The Ayi family, now known as the Ankrah family, in connected with family that has the charge and right of occupation to the Gbese Stool as Mantsemei or political representatives of the Gbese people.
It may be mentioned that the occupant of the Gbese Stool at present is called Ayi Bonte, Ayi being his proper family name and Bonte a nickname. There are other families in the Otublohum quarter of Accra which are Gas and not Skwamu, but it appears there is some difficulty in following the line of their names after the first two or three births, and generally only the first four names can be given with precision.
II. The Ama Family NamesThis is a place or family in the Asere quarter of Dutch Accra called or known by the name of Amatsewe, and the people living there, or the members of this family, are called Amatsewebii. The head or principal man among this family of people is the Jase-Asafoatse, or the captain of the bodyguard, of the Asere Mantse, and every male child of this family is a member of the bodyguard of the holder of the Asere Stool. It appears there is a family connection between this family and that of the Kpakpatsewe people and through that family to that of the Damtedsanwe people or family.
Certainly there can be no doubt but that the Amatsewe and the Kpakpatsewe peoples are smiths by trade originally; the amatsewe family being gold- and silver- and copper- smiths and the Kpakpatsewe peoples blacksmiths. Whether these two failies were related previous to their arrival at Accra it is not easy to say in this twentieth century.
This family has attained to great influence and reputation among the Gas, not only because the members thereof are gold-, silver-, and copper-smith, as well as being the bodyguard for the occupant of the Asere Stool, but also by the personal exertions of individual members of the family both politically and in their private business undertakings.
Whether the family brought with them the craft of gold-, silver-, and copper-smith from where they came, or whether they had some knowledge of it and improved upon it when they came into contact with Europeans on the Gold Coast, or whether thy only learnt their craft from Europeans after their arrival here and coming in contact with them, is a matter for another article.
The family name for this people starts by each wife to each man in either line with Armah or Ama for the first male line and Amale for the first female line, e.g.:
Male. First Line. Second Line. 1. Ama. 1. Amate. 2. Amakai. 2. Amatei. 3. Amalai. 3. Amakwei 4. Amakwei. 4. Amalei. 5. Boi. 5. Laryea.
After these names others are borrowed from other families or fetishes to give to male children that may follow in either line.
Female. First Line. Second Line. 1. Amele. 1. Ahine. 2. Amokor. 2. Amateokor. 3. Amakai. 3. Amatekai. 4. Amatso. 4. Amatetso.
After these names others are borrowed from other families or fetishes to give to female children that may follow in either line; they then run on through the grades like any other family name. This family is described in the article on "The Native Tribunals of the Akras." The customary ideas of this family are not unlike those of the Kpakpatsewe people, which are opposed to twin births.
III. The Kwate or Kpakpa Family.There is another family, also in the Asere quarter, known as the Kpakpatsewe people, which family is also fully described in the article on "The Native Tribunals of the Akras." How this family came to be known as Kpakpatsewe instead of Kwatetsewe or Kwateitsewe is difficult to deal with under native tradition. The word Kpakpa was not originally the family mane; according to tradition, it was first given as a nickname to one of its members.
It is stated that the Kpakpatsewe people, besides being farmers and blacksmiths, sometimes engage in trade with other tribes, and that one of them, called Kwate, treated his customers so well that he was nicknamed by the Twi-speaking people "Papa," or "Kpakpa." This word "Papa," or "Kpakpa" in Akan-Twi, means "Good and strong," which came into common use afterwards and has led to all the members of the family who are called "Kwate" being known afterwards as "Kpakpa," and, like the nickname "Ankrah" in the Ayi family, the nickname "Kpakpa" also became prominent in this family instead of the proper family names of Kwate or Kwatei.
It is easy to try in this way to explain away how it is that in one family there are three distinct first male child names, when there should be only one or two, as usual. But if this explanation is correct, how came it about then that the first of the two principal stools of this family is called Kpakpa? It appears also that the first male child of the senior half of this family has been called Kpakpa previously to the coming of this family from Ayawaso to Accra with the other Ga tribes.
There must therfore be reasons other than those given to explainwhy there are three distinctive first male child names in this family. It may be mentionedthat from "Kpakpa" sprung "Kpakpafio" or "Papafio," the name of the Quartey-Papafios, which name should be spelt Kwate-Kpakpafio instead of the euphonic spelling Quartey-Kpakpafio, as adopted in these days.
The following are a few of the names of the members of this family by a wife to a husband in either line.Male Female First or Senior Line Second or Junior Line Senior Line Junior
(1) Kwate or Kpakpa Kwatei Kwalei Oyo
(2) Kwate Kwatelai Kwateokor Kwateokor
(3) Kwakwei Kwate-Kwei Kwatekai Kwatekai
(4) Kwaboi Kwate-Boi Kwatecho Kwatecho
(5) Laryea Laryea Kwatefo Oyiofo
(6) Afutu Afutu Ashame Ashame
It should also be mentioned that in olden days the Amatsewe and the Kpakpatsewe peoples use their family names in common, as is observable form the family names given of the two families. Not only did they use the family names in common, but many other things as well; in fact they were in olden days known as what might be called "Cousins."
IV. The Damte FamilyThere is another family also in the same quarter as the last two known as the Damtedsanwe people. This family is also described in the article on "The Native Tribunals among the Akras."
This appears to be an important family that occupied themselves largely in mercantile business. The members of this family are proverbially known to be acute in finding money but very careless in keeping it. They are proper members of the Ga tribe in many respects, and it is in a house in the "place" where this family lives that the Elephant and the Palm tree, which form the emblem of the Gold Coast Colony, was, according to tradition, first known.
This family formerly played a not ignoble part in the history of the Ga peoples; but the scorn which they now have for anything native, and their intimacy, love, and devotion for everything foreign, have greatly weakened their influence. The Chief, or political head, of this family went to live at Gbere together with Mantse Okaija; since that date the Priest of the Damte fetish, which is the fetish for this family, has become the head and representative of the family politically.
He it is that regulates the calendar every year for the Gas. He manipulates it so nicely that the Honowo or Harvest Custom falls on Saturdays always.
Male Female First Line Second Line First Line Second Line (1) Odarte Lamptey or Damte Lamile Koshi (2) Odatei Lamtei Lamiokor Odakor (3) Odakwei Lamkwei Lamikai Odakai (4) Odalai Lamiaya Lamtsoi Odacho
Here also thy borrow names from other families to add on. As stated before, the Damtedsanwe people are not only good and proficient traders, but thy are also not at all behind any other tribe or people in martial spirit. In fact, so much is this the case that some of them adopted such nicknames as follows:
Owusu = Owuolisu, i.e., death is crying: this is the nickname now belonging to every Odate.
Ajebu = he sizes and breaks: this is also the nickname of every Odate.
Owusu = Wonwuso, i.e., he boldly speaks his mind and never dies.
Abolo = the meaning of this varies.
There is another family known by the name of Sackey in Adansi, a place in the Alata quarter of British Accra. The founder of his family was an Obutu man, a member of the aggregate Ga tribes.
There are many other families in the town of Accra, but it is difficult to discuss them, because the members have lost touch with their traditions, and at present either refuse or else are not in a position to give any reliable information whatever about them; such are the Addys of Atukpai (Otuopai), the Nunoos of Abola, the Alloteys, Addos and Kpakpos of Sempe, the Ayikais of Akamaije, the Yaotes of Gbese the Krotes of Asere, the Abbeys of Asere, the Netteys of Gbese, the Amoos of Otublohum, the Lalais of Gbese, and others, many of whom are not strictly Ga.
The Stool Name.This is the greatest of all names, and designates the members of family which occupy stools.
The various stools in Accra and their origin are treated in the article on "The Native Tribunals among the Akras."
The Ga stool _ Nicknamed Takyi. The names of the occupants of the Ga stool since the eighteenth century are Yaote, Adama, Obile, and others which are not easy to give in detail.
The Gbese stool _ Nicknamed Okaija. The names of the Gbese family stool holders ever since its foundation are:
Males. First Line Second Line (1) Ayi. (1) Ayite. (2) Ayikwei. (2) Amma. (3) Ayai. (3) Adu. (4) Boi. (4) Okai. (5) Adama. (6) Ayikai. (7) Teiko. (8) Ankama.
Females. First Line. Second Line (1) Ayikale. (1) Okaile. (2) Ayikaikor. (2) Okaikor. (3) Ayikaikai. (3) Okaikai. (4) Ayikaitso. (4) Okaitso. (5) Ayikaifo. (5) Okaifo.
The Abola Stool _ Nicknamed Nunu. The name of the Abola Stool holder is generally known as Nunoo, followed by Anuum, words which are not strictly Ga.
The Otublohum Stool _ the name of the Otublohum stool holder is Amu, followed be Daku and other names, which are strictly Akwamu in origin.
The Asere Stool _ the name of the Asere stool holder is not fixed, since the change took place after the fall of the Ga Mantse in June, 1660, during the Akwamu War, as described in the article on the "Native Tribunals among the Gas" but the present names are taken from the two families which supply occupants for the stool.
The Sempe Stool – Nicknamed Anege. The name of the Sempe stool holder is generally known as Anege; the other names are Kpakpo, Akwei, &c.
The Akamai-je Stool – Nicknamed Ayikai. The name of the Akamai-je stool holder is Ayikai.
The Alata Stool _ the name of the Alata stool holder is now ganerally Kojo, but this is not a Ga name.
The Ga Akwason Stool _ Nicknamed Kpakpa. The name of the stool holder of the Kpakpatsewe family is Kwate or Kpakpa, but the stools themselves are called Kpakpa and Kwatei.
Birthday Names.There are people who, though Gas, are nevertheless called be the name of the day of the week on which they were born in addition to their family names. The seven days of the week have names attached to them, and by which they are known.
It is stated that these are named after some fetish or other such ting, and some of them declared holidays on which certain classes of the people do not carry on their trades and vocations. The names of the days of the weeks are the following:
Ga. English. 1. Dsu Monday 2. Dsufo Tuesday 3. So or Shor Wednesday 4. So Thursday 5. Soha Friday 6. Ho Saturday 7. Hogba Sunday
It is rather curious that although the Ga language has names for the seven days of the week, the Gas are said in reckoning their time, to count eight days to the week, but I think the real thing is that they cannot count the day on which the matter happened, but include the day of the same name following, and when giving birth names they take the name of the day of the week form the Akan-Twi names of the days of the week. This may be an indicative reason to show that the usage of naming people by the name for the days of the week was by the Gas acquired from the practice of the Twis. The names of the days of the week according to the Akan or Twi language, where also eight days make a week, are the following:
Akan-Twi. English. 1. Dsoda Monday 2. Bla Da Tuesday 3. Kuda or Okuda Wednesday 4. Yaoda Thursday 5. Fida Friday 6. Memleda Saturday 7. Kwesida Sunday
It will be seen from the following that the birth day names are strictly Akan-Twi, or what is commonly called Twi. The following are the birth day names:
Male Female Born on Monday called Kojo Ajua Tuesday " Kobla, Kwabina or Kobina Abla Wednesday " Kwaku or Kweku Aku or Akua Thursday " Yao or Kwao Yawa or Aba Friday "