, , ,


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.


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.


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.


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 AkwaGod

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 a wọŋ “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 intelligent wọŋ (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 the dzemànwọdzi 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 the Kpele 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 Kpele worship 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.


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.


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 the dzemànwọdzi 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.


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 Kpele doctrine, 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.


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 the dzemànwọdzi (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.


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 and sisai/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.

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 daa and 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.


Furtherance to the taxonomical structure of the hierarchy of beings in the Kpele doctrine, 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 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.


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 kpojiemọ rituals (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 being and 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 the kpodziemọ, 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; the susuma (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.


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 Kpele doctrine 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 the Wọlọmεi 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 Kpeledzo and Họmọwọ festivals.


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 Kippur by 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 (Kpele offering of life to the people) have also been incorporated into the annual Họmọwọ festival 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.       


Field, M. J. Religion and Medicine of the Ga People, 1937

Field, M. J. Social Organization of the Ga People, 1940.

Greenburg, The Languages of Africa, 1966.

Henderson-Quartey, David K. The Ga of Ghana, London: 2001.

Kilson, M. African Urban Kinsman, 1974.

Kilson, M. “Taxonomy and Form in Ga Rituals” Journal of Religion in Africa, Vol. 3, Fasc. 1, 1970.

Kilson, M. Kpele Lala: Ga Religious Songs and Symbols, 1971. 

Kilson, M.“Libation in Ga Rituals”, Journal of Religion in Africa, Vol. 2, Fasc.3. 1969.

Kilson, M.“Twin Belief and Ceremony in Ga Culture”, Journal of Religion in Africa, Vol. 5, Fasc. 3, 1973.



Kpakpatsewe Royal Family is one of the early Ga-speaking Wo Sagba emigrants that arrived in the then Gold Coast from Tetetutu or Samè situated between two rivers located in the east beyond the Volta, and settled at Ayawaso with its capital on the hill of Okaikoi or Kplagon in the fourteenth century. The family came to prominence when Queen Dodi Akabi; the grand-daughter of the then King Wyete of Obutu and the mother of crown prince Okai Koi usurped the throne after the death of her husband King Mampong Okai in 1643 and ruled her subjects with iron hands.

In fact, so merciless, cruel and tyrannical was Dodi Akabi that she once ordered the young men in her dominion to execute all the elderly men to prevent any claimant to the throne competing for succession against her son; Okai Koi. Due to the fear of oppression and execution, this wicked order by the Queen was implemented by the young men, except in one family where the life of the father was spared by his sons who hid him in the forest of Ayawaso.

Besides, in order to differentiate the Ga-speaking Wo Sagba emigrants from her native Obutu followers, the Queen instituted the facial scarification for all the Ga people as a permanent mark of identification. In spite of all these acts of high handedness, Dodi Akabi still not satisfied with her oppressive rule ordered her subjects to build her a palace and instructed that it should not be thatched with grass as is usually done, but rather with clay.

However, her subjects could not carry out her instructions since they have no idea or lacked the knowledge of the techniques for the use of swish strings in thatching buildings. In view of this, the sons of the old man (believe to be Nuumo Gua Koi) whose life has been spared consulted their father for solution to the problem confronting them. He advised them to demand from the Queen a sample of the swish strings used in roofing the palace of her predecessors so as to imitate it. When this request was made, she realized that one of the old men was alive and ordered that he should be brought before her.

At the Queen’s court, the old man clearly demonstrated to her the futility of using swish strings for thatching to the extent that, she abandoned the idea of roofing a grass house without the natural materials. Consequently, she appointed the old man as her Chief Councilor or Akwashon Mantse in addition to seven others. This according to C. C. Reindorf (1895) was the origin of constituting seven elders as Councilors to advice kings and chiefs on governance and administrative matters relating to chieftaincy in every town.

Indeed, oral traditions or folklores have indicated that Nuumo Gua Koi (a name now corrupted to Kwakwei) established the Gua war shrine and stool in the forest which is now known as Gua Koo (Gua’s forest) a name derived from the Gua deity. In view of this, the descendants of Nuumo Gua Koi known presently as Kpakpatsewe Royal Family of Asεrε, Gua We are the officially recognized sole custodians of the Gua deity and war stool in the Ga Mashie community and the Ga State as a whole.

Of course since the demise of Nuumo Gua Koi, the care and control of both the Gua deity and war stool has passed on to this noble family from one generation to another. In addition to that they have continued to provide the Ga Akwashon Mantse who now serves as the Chief Justice in the administration of justice and adjudications as well as the Supreme Commander of the Asafo Companies of the Ga State in times of war. Consequently, the occupancy and succession to the Gua war stool as well as to the office of the Ga State Akwashon Mantse have continued from a single lineage of which the list of the past occupants are as follows:

  1. Nii Gua Koi aka Koi Obredu – circa 1654.
  2. Nii Guate l aka Kpakpa Osiakwan – circa 1674.
  3. Nii Guatei ll aka Asahene – 1765-1805.
  4. Nii Laryea aka Kotobri –1806-1808.
  5. Nii Kwatei Kojo aka Katamanso Bremah – 1809-1833.

However, during the reign of Kwatei Kojo aka Katamanso Bremah, the then Supreme Commander of the Ga warriors who was regarded as the greatest of all Akwashontsemei of the Ga State due to his exploits in the Katamanso war of August 7th 1826 between the coastal allied forces and the Asantes; a notable slaves owner who strengthened the position of Kpakpatsewe Royal Family at the center of political power in Kinka, the order of succession changed.

Ga Akwashon Mantse Kwatei Kojo married three wives. His first wife Naa Amponsah, the daughter of the then Otublohum Mantse Amponsah was the mother of Kpakpa Kakadann the elder brother of Chief John Quartey. His second son William Quartey-Papafio, who succeeded his father to the office of Ga State Akwashon Mantse due to the sudden demise of his half-brother Kpakpa Kakadann, was from the womb of the second wife. While the third son William Quartey aka Owula Kpakpa Blofonyo (the educated good master), son of Naa Odarkor of the Lamte Djan We succeeded his paternal half-brother William Quartey-Papafio aka Zoti Kpakpafio after his demise in 1889.

These were the children of Kwatei Kojo that constituted the three distinct branches of the Wei or Royal Households namely; Kpakpa Kakadann We, Kpakpa Fio We and Kpakpa Blofonyo We between which the office of the Ga State Akwashon Mantse have circulated after the death of their brave and illustrious father in1833. In view of this arrangement, the office of the Ga State Akwashon Mantse have rotated among these three Royal Households as the family’s established norm in its customary laws, practices and usage as per the list of successions below.

  1. William Quartey-Papafio aka Zoti Kpakpafio – 1833-1889.
  2. William Quartey aka Owula Kpakpa Blofonyo – 1890-1900.
  3. J. Boi Quartey aka Boi Quartey (Kakadann We) – 1901-1906.
  4. T. R Quartey aka Tsritsriwotsri (Kpakpafio We) –1906-1954.
  5. Nii Kwatei aka Oyotse (Kpakpafio We) 1955-1961.
  6. R. Q. M. Quartey (Regent) aka Asuasa (Kakadann We) 1965-1994.
  7. Benjamin Bamidele William Quartey aka Nii Owula Kpakpa Blofonyo ll (Blofonyo We) 1994 till now.

Of interest is the position of the Principal Head of the family (Weku Nukpa) who according to A. B. Quartey-Papafio traditionally served as both the Akwashon Mantse and the Wolomo of the Gua deity. He, however, noted that it was during the tenures of his late father William Quartey-Papafio and his missionary educated uncle William Quartey, that the office of the Gua Wolomo was separated from that of the Akwashon Mantse due to their Christian faith, beliefs and practices.

In view of this new development and innovation to the age old customs and traditions of Kpakpatsewe Royal Family, it has since 1833 been without a substantive Gua Wolomo.  A situation that was recently rectified in September, 28th 2008 with the confinement, consecration and investiture of John Nii Kpakpa Quartey nominated from Kpakpa Kakadann We; stool named Nuumo Guate Asuasa ll as the new Gua Wolomo.

At the moment, Kpakpatsewe Royal Family in trying to revive its past glory and assume its rightful position in Ga Mashie as well as the Ga State political space, has since 2008 in consultation with the Principal Head of Family Alhaji Suleiman Kasim Kwatelai Quartey instituted a 15 member Djaase Council selected from the three Royal Households to administer the affairs of the family. This arrangement finally culminated into the nomination of Nii John Kwatei Quartey, the Chief Executive Officer of Pegasus Security Company and a member of Kpakpafio We who was confined on Thursday, 30th June; consecrated and out-doored on Saturday, 2nd July 2011.

He was finally invested to the office of the Djaasetse and stool named Nii Kwatei Olemla l after he had sworn the oath of office and allegiance to the Principal Head of Family in the presence of Nii Amarkai lll the Asεrε Djaasetse and acting Asεrε Mantse and other dignitaries in the Gua stool house. Later in the forenoon, he was formally presented to the people of the Ga Mashie community amidst the throbbings of the Obonu drums and firing of muskets at a grand durbar to usher in this historical, memorable occasion and day in the annals of the family’s history.

In addition to all these efforts, the Djaasetse on the assumption of office and in consultation and collaboration with the Djaase Council has set up the Kpakpatsewe Royal Family Descendants Union International to gather data on all Quarteys in Ghana and the Diaspora. This organization has been tasked with the planning of a home-coming ceremony to welcome all its sons and daughters both at home and abroad for the unification of this noble and august family; an event scheduled to take place very soon.


After the destruction of the Ayawaso Township by the Akwamus and the fall of Great Akra, remnants of the Ga-speaking Wo Sagba emigrants, the Aboras and the Obutus felt threatened by the insecurity caused by the victorious Akwamus on their Kplagon hill abode. In view of this, they decided to join their relatives and the aborigines (Kpeshie or Guans) along the coast due to the presence of the Europeans who were offering protection to the coastal villages.

Among the early migrants from Ayawaso to the coast were the Asεrε and Abora groups made up of Saku Olenge, Akotia Owosika, Oshamra, Ayikwei Osiahene, Osu Kwatei (whom I believe established the Kpakpatsewe dynasty in Asεrε), Anyama Seni, Amantiele Akele and others. These were the people that constituted the six sub-quarters of the Asεrε divison of the Ga Mashie community in the Ashiedu Keteke Sub-Metro District of Accra.

Indeed, the social organization of the Ga Mashie Community made up of the seven quarters or Akutséii of Asεrε, Gbεsε, Sempe, Abola, Otublohum, Akanmajen and Ngleshie is an amalgamation of the emigrant Ga-speaking people of the Wo Sagba tribe, the Kpeshie or Guans (Shitsemεi), the Obutus, Akwamus, Fantis (Ofateufo), emancipated slaves from Brazil, slaves from Allada or the Bight of Benin among others.

However, among these seven quarters or Akutséii, the people of Asεrε division are the known “Ga Kron” or pure blooded Ga-speaking people who migrated from Ayawaso after the fall of Great Akra in the sixteenth century to Little Akra on the coast. Originally, the six sub-quarters of the Asεrε quarters of the Ga Mashie community consists of the following clans:

  1. Abetsεwe and Awirimona.
  2. Amatsewe, Anumsa, Agbon and Frimpong We.
  3. Dzorshishi,
  4. Kpakpatse We and Lamte Djan We.
  5. Tron.
  6. Tsokunaa and Soŋmεsεε.

However, the composition of Asεrε has presently changed with the addition of the following families or clans:

  • Agotetsoshishi.
  • Akramanaa.
  • Anewebii.
  • Krononaa.
  • Odoitse We.
  • Oyeadu We.

These are the known members of the Ga Mashie community whose customs and traditions are akin to that of the Hebrews as found in the Scriptures among which are the Homowo celebration (Exodus 12:1-14), naming ceremony (Kpodjiemo; Luke 2:21-39), circumcision (Genesis 17:10-14, 23-27) and many others which shall be subject of discussion in my next article titled “Religion of the Ga People”.


  1. Reindorf, Carl C. History of the Gold Coast and Asante , 3rd edition, Ghana Universities Press: Accra, 2007.
  2. Henderson-Quartey, David K. The Ga of Ghana, 1 Prince Avenue: Kingsbury, London, 2001.
  3. Quartey-Papafio, A. B. Native Tribunals of the Akras, 1926.


The celebration of this year’s Lante Djan We/Kpakpatse We Homowo festival on Saturday 30th July was marked with pomp and pageantry, when the newly enstooled Djaasetse of Kpakpatse We Royal Family sprinkled kpokpoi, the traditional food in and around the various principal stool houses and streets of Asεrε in the Ga Mashie community.

The procession led by the Djaasetse Nii Kwatei Ole Mla I and the Asafomlinbii (Asafo Company) took off from Gua We after libation had been poured and prayers said for the blessings and protection of God for the family and for the participation of the ancestors in the Homowo celebration as customs demands. The first port of call was the palace of Kpakpa Kakadaan We where kpokpoi was sprinkled amidst the sound of the Osrama and Bintim drums as well as the firing of muskets by the Asafo Company.

From Kakadaan We, the entourage continued to Pepeepe We the palace of the Ga State Akwashon Mantse where kpokpoi was also sprinkled in the compound. Amidst drumming, dancing, firing of muskets and display of acrobatic skills by the Asafoiatsemei, the procession moved on to Shuno and through some of the principal streets of the Ga Mashie community and to the stool houses of Lante Djan We Fio and Agbon Kwatei Villa all in the Korle Wonko Electoral Area of the Odododiodioo Constituency.

Nii Kwatei Ole Mla I in his Homowo message reiterated his call to the people of the Ga Mashie Community to live in peace and harmony in order to ensure the rapid socio-economic development of the community for the benefit of the present and future generations of children yet unborn. He also called on the various feuding factions in all chieftaincy matters in the Ga Mashie community and the Ga State to resort to dialogue instead of litigations in the courts of law for amicable settlements.

On behalf of the Kpakpatse We Royal Family of Gua We Asεrε, the Djaasetse Nii Kwatei Ole Mla I wish all members of the Lante Djan We/Kpakpatse We clans of Asεrε quarters of the Ga Mashie community, “Afioo afi, afi aya nieba nina wo. Wosee afi bene wo ye wala mlin. Happy Homowo celebration, and may we all live to witness yet another Homowo festival.”



, , , , , , , , ,

Nii Kwatei Ole Mla IHistory was made at Gua We, Asεrε on Saturday 2nd July 2011, when the 15 member Djaase Council from the three Royal Households namely; Kpakpa Kakadaan We, Kpakpa Fio We and Kpakpa Blofonyo We in consultation with the Principal Head of the Family Alhaji Kasim Kwatelai Quartey nominated, approved, confined, consecrated, enstooled and outdoored a new Djaasetse stool named Nii Kwaatei Ole Mla I to steer the affairs of the family.

This became necessary as a result of the absence of a Djaase Council and Djaasetse for over a century or more to guide the family in the nomination and installation of a successor and occupant to the Gua war stool and also to the office of the Ga state Akwashon Mantse as Ga customs, traditions and usage demands of the Kpakpatse We Royal Family. The Kpakpatse We Royal Family is a sub-quarter or lineage of Asεrε, which controls the office of the Ga State Akwashon Mantse for the administration of the Ga Mashie community and the Ga State as a whole.

Indeed, since the demise of the  Ga State Akwashon Mantsemei T.R. Quartey aka Chichiwachi of blessed memory who reigned from 1906-1954 and Oyotse Kwatei from 1955-1961, the Gua war stool which then became vacant was occupied by the late R. K. M. Quartey aka Asuasa (died in 1997), who in his capacity as the Principal Head of the family, acted as the Ga State Akwashon Mantse for a period of thirty-six years. As a result, the laid down procedure and rules of rotation for the succession to the office of the Ga State Akwashon Mantse and occupancy of the Gua war stool among the three recognized Royal Households of Kpakpatse We Royal Family were ignored for all these years.

To rectify this anomaly, a prospective candidate from Kpakpa Blofonyo We was nominated, confined and consecrated without the consent and approval of the then acting Ga State Akwashon Mantse R. K. M. Quartey. This led to an internal conflict, wrangling and opposition from the then regent Asuasa because the current Ga State Akwashon Mantse Nii Owula Kpakpa Blofonyo II known in private life as Benjamin Bamidele William Quartey was not a royal of the family.

However, due to intervention by some elders from the Asεrε quarters of the Ga Mashie community especially, the Shippi, Asafoiatsemei, the late Oblo Afia the then Gua Wonyo and others led to the settlement of this impasse, before the installation and investiture of Benjamin Bamidele William Quartey as the current Ga State Akwashon Mantse; whose regime has witnessed numerous chieftaincy disputes in the Ga Mashie community and the Ga State even, presently.

To forestall the re-occurrence of such conflicts in future, the nomination and approval of the prospective candidate for the vacant position of Djaasetse by the Head of Kpakpa Fio We, the Principal Head of Family and members of the Djaase Council which begun in May this year reached its climax at 6.00 pm on June 30th 2011. On this memorable day, the Nii Djaase to be was “ambushed and captured” (as expressed in the local parlance) by the Asafomlinbii (Asafo Company) of Kpakpatse We Royal Family led by Asafoiatse Kwatelai, Awon Kwaley of the Ghana Fire Service, Awon Kwarley Bibio aka Kwarley Cutex, Awon Oblo Afia aka Nii Gua, and other ritualists amidst jubilation and firing of musketry to signify the success of their mission.

The rituals for the confinement of the new Djaasetse began when a sheep was slaughtered upon the arrival of the Asafomlinbii (Asafo Company) with their “captive” at Gua We (Stool House) according to Ga customs, practice and usage. However, Nii Djaase being a Christian of the Roman Catholic Faith was anointed with holy oil by Pastor Nii Kwatei Owoo of the Rejected Stone Church International instead of being sprinkled with the sheep’s blood before his confinement in the stool room where he was taught his roles and functions as Djaasetse of the family.

The dawn of Saturday July 4th, ushered in the consecration ceremony at the James Town beach where the confined Djaasetse assisted by the religious officiants of the family had a spiritual bath in the sea to cleanse him of all impurities. This was to purify, fortify and to prepare him spiritually for both his new office and status in private as well as public life. Nii Djaase was finally out-doored and presented to the Ga Mashie community as the newly installed Djaasetse of the Kpakpatse We Royal Family of Asεrε.

To crown this all important and historical occasion, the investiture ceremony of the newly enstooled Djaasetse of Kpakpatse We Royal Family took place at the fore court of Pepeepe We, the Palace of the Ga State Akwashon Mantse on Saturday 9th July at 1.30 pm amidst the throbbing of the Obonu (Fontomfon drums), firing of muskets and merry making. At exactly 10.00 am, Nii Djaase swore oath of office and allegiance to the Principal Head of Family Alhaji Kasim Kwatelai Quartey and the entire Djaase Council in the presence of Nii Amarkai III, the Asεrε Djaasetse/acting Asεrε Mantse at Gua We, Asεrε.

In his inaugural speech, the Djaasetse Nii Kwaatei Ole Mla I known in private life as Nii John Quartey; the Chief Executive Officer of Pegasus Security Company indicated that the various chieftaincy disputes that has bedeviled the Ga State is a source of worry to him and therefore, is ready to assist in finding lasting solutions to these disputes should the Ga Traditional Council and other stakeholders call upon him.

He also appealed to people from other ethnic groups residing in the Ga Mashie community and the Ga State to tolerate and respect the customs and traditions of the Ga-speaking people, because as individuals or persons they also have customs and traditions that govern them in their respective hamlets, communities, villages, towns and cities across the country. He further appealed to the government through the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to ensure that Accra and its environs are rid of filth.

This he noted, breeds mosquitoes, flies, etc, which results in sicknesses such as malaria, cholera and other allied diseases. The effect of which he believes is the high cost of drugs importations for the treatment and cure of these preventable diseases that are a drain on the national economy, as well as waste of our scarce human resources through premature deaths.

Besides, he called upon the various market queens to ensure that the markets in the city are kept clean so as prevent their customers from contacting any form of sickness from the products they buy from them and also to have value for money. Finally, he admonished the people of the Ga Mashie community to invest in the education of their children and wards so that they may not be a burden to society in future but rather, become assets to the Ga State and the Nation as a whole.


Quarteys’ all over the world are descendants of the Royal Family of Kpakpatse We clan of the Asεrε group of the Ga speaking people, which is one of the seven quarters (Akutséii) that constituted the Ashiedu Kεtεkε District within the Odododiodioo Constituency of the Ga Mashie Community in Accra. The Asεrε group of people comprises of five different clans which relocated to the coastal settlements of Little Akra (Ga Mashie) after the destruction of Great Akra (Ayawaso) by the Akwamus in the early Sixteen Century. Among them is the Kpakpatse We Royal Family, whose history we shall discuss in this discourse.

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.

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. He postulates that since there was no existing written record of the Ga language prior to the Eighteenth Century, it would be difficult to know the difference between the forms of the language spoken now and say 2000 years ago. He, however, argued that from the archaeological point of view of the stages of human development, it is reasonable to assume that some form of evolution has taken place in the Ga language; either through migrations, conquest, trade, cultural assimilation or contact with speakers of different dialects has caused considerable modification of the Ga language. This in his opinion is the case of “the coastal town of Kpone, once Adangme, is now Ga speaking.”

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.

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 Gamεi Ashikwέi (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 (Asafoiatsεmεi) that played prominent and important roles in the maintenance of law and order, as well as governance of these towns.

Ga is the name applied to a particular ethnic group of people living along the shoreline of the Gulf of Guinea. This Ga settlement areas is bounded on the East by the Tshemu 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 Lanŋma (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.

Corroborating Reindorf assertions, Field (1937, pp.1-2) and Kilson (1971, pp.9-10) discussing the geographical locations of the Ga described the areas they occupied along the coast; with the sea and the sharply rising Akwapem mountains as its Southern and North boundaries. While, they asserted that the Densu River and the Laloi lagoon with their tributaries coming down from Aburi in the Akwapem range, served as the Western and Eastern boundaries respectively. They further indicated that the coastal towns established by the wandering Ga tribes from west to east are Accra, Osu, Labadi, Teshie, Nungua, Tema and Kpong.

Henderson-Quartey on his part observed that, prior to the Ga domination of the Accra Plains the Guan settlements within these areas might have been considerable. Since most of their towns scattered along the coast from Lanŋma (Mt. Cook Loaf) to Tungma (Ussher Town) and other places, were taken over by the various wandering Ga tribes. Examples of these are Tema, which absorbed an old Kpéshi town, Nungua annexing Lashbii lands, La founded partly by both Ga and La Boni people. While Akuŋmadzei one of the seven quarters of Ga Mashie community was of Guan origin.

In view of this, each of these towns were independent from one another; had its own strip of territory which begins from Legon, Okaikoi, Lanŋma, Adzangote, etc. These areas stretched northwards to the boundaries of the plains of Accra and were under the control of their own governments and administrations.  Confirming the extent of the Guan settlements, Reindorf noted that, the aboriginal race all along the coast and inland were nearly all of the Guan, Kyerepong, and Ahanta tribes, speaking different dialects of the Ahanta, Obutu, Kyerepong, Late and Kpéshi languages. According to him, these indigenes seem to have extended from Asini down to Tema, thence to the Volta.

This assertion has been upheld by Kilson (1971, p.24) in her ethnographic study of the Ga, and had indicated that the shikwεεbii (aborigines) of the Ga countryside were the Kpéshi people, whose dialects have survived only in the Kpele religious songs of worship and festivals. Thus, the arrival of the refugee emigrant families changed the landscape when the people of Wo Sagba, Wo Doku, Wo Krowor and Wo Kpele  established the coastal towns of Ga Mashie, La Boni, Nungua, Tema and later on Osu and Teshie respectively.

The above historical narrations by these scholars points to the fact that the Ga coastal towns were established through the amalgamation of different tribes comprising of both indigenes and emigrants, with the sole aim of protecting themselves from extinction by invaders from the hinterland. Although the Ga ethnic groups spearheaded the establishment of these six coastal towns, each has its own system of government and administration as well as social structures and organizations, without control from any central authority as found in other places. However, despite the independence of these towns they unite in times of war to protect their common interest.

The Ga Mashie community of the Ashiedu Kεtεkε 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 Shitsε mεi (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 Shitsε mεi (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: Wọlọmεi 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 Tuŋmatε, 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 assertion 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) 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 (Asafoiatsεmεi) played crucial roles in the administration of these towns. Nonetheless, the Nai Wọlọmọ remained the senior Wọlọmọ 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 Ga Mashie community as it is known today comprise of the seven Akutséii (quarters) made up of Asεrε, Sempi, Abola, Gbεsε, Akuŋmadzei, 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 Mantsε 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 Asεrε and Abora groups to the coast were Saku Olenge, Akotia Owosika, Oshamra, Ayikwei Osiahene, Osu Kwatei (whom I believe 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.


[1] Carl C. Reindorf, History of the Gold Coast and Asante 3rd Ed., 2007.

[2] D. K. Henderson-Quartey, The Ga of Ghana: History and Culture of a West African People, 2001.

[3]  J. H. Greenberg. ‘African Linguistic Classification’ in General History of Africa 8 Vols. (UNESCO) Vol. 1.

[4] J. M. Bruce-Myers, “The Origin of the Gas” Journal of African Society, Vol. 27, 1927.

[5] Margaret  J. Field, Social Organization of the Ga People, 1940.

[6] A. A. Amartey, Omanye Aba, 1991.

[7] F. K. Buah, West Africa and Europe, 1967.

[8] G. T. Stride and Ifeka, C. People and Empires of West Africa: West Africa in History 1000-1800, 1971.

[9] Margaret  J. Field, Religion and Medicine of the Ga People, 1937.

[10] Marion Kilson, Kpele Lala: Ga Religious Songs and Symbols, 1971.

[11] P. Ozanne, “Notes on the Early Archaeology of Accra”, Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana, Vol.VI, 1962.

[12] T. A. Astley, New Collection of Voyages and Travels, Vol. 2, (Lon), 1968.

[13] Marion Kilson, African Urban Kinsman: The Ga of Central Accra, 1974.