Akuapem people

Akuapem

Akuapem

The Akuapem are one of the main ethnic groups of the Akan people living in Ghana. They mostly reside south of the Eastern Region of Ghana, in a state that shares common borders with the Ga, Krobo and New Juaben states to the south, northeast and northwest respectively.

Neighboring Peoples

Dagomba, Senufo, Malinke, Guro, Ewe, Yaure

 

The Akuapem people are an amalgamation of indigenous patriarchal, Volta-Camoe-speaking Guans and matriarchal, Kwa-speaking Akan people occupying the mountainous Akuapem Hills in the Eastern Region of Ghana. The Akuapem people are the most peaceful, respectful and humblest of all Ghanaian tribes. They are only people even when they want to insult you, they start with an apology. For example for doing something silly or annoying an Akuapem will say "mi pa kyew se woye abia" (I am very sorry but you are a fool). Ghanaians refer to them as "Ofie" (Home).

The Akuapem people were originally Guan speaking people which includes Larteh Guan block namely Larteh, Mamfe, Abotakyi, Mampong, Obosomase, and Tutu and the Kyerepong (Okere) Guan block namely Abiriw, Dawu, Awukugua, Adukrom, Apirede, and Abonse-Asesieso. The Akan Twi-speaking towns include  Akropong, the capital, and Amanokurom  who are emigrants from Akyem and Mampong people who are also emigrants from Asante Mampong in Ashanti Region.

The name Akuapem was given to these multi-ethnic group by the famous warrior King, Nana Ansa Sasraku I of Akwamu. The name came from Akan Twi phrase "Nkuu apem" which means "thousand groups." He gave them these name after the people overwhelmed his Akwamu invading army. The name "Nkuu apem got corrupted to Akuapem as we know them today.

Akuapem are famous for being the home base of Basel Mission that metamorphosed to Presbyterian Church of Ghana, when in 1835 the missionaries led by Andreas Riis arrived in Akropong with his Mulatto friend Lutterodt of Osu and laid the foundation of the Basel Missionary Evangelization upon which "the gospel took root and spread to all parts of the country.”

Legendary reggae icon, Bob marley`s wife, Rita Marley is honorary citizen of Akuapem town,Aburi. She has been living here for ages. She owns her recording studios and other businesses on the Akuapem Mountains.

 

Location, Vegetation and Climate

The original inhabitants of the Akuapern Hills were predominantly Guan. The towns of Akuapem are in the Eastern Region of Ghana and situated between longitude 0°15 W - 0°00 and latitude 5°45 - 6°00 N. These towns are located on the Akuapem Ridge, which runs northeastwards across the Volta Region and extends further into Togo. It is bounded South by Ga (Akra), East by Adangme and Krobo, North and West by Akem. The following 17 principal towns form the Akuapem state, viz., Berekuso, Atweasing, Aburi, Ahwerase, Asantema (Obosomase), Tutu, Mampong, Abotakyi, Amanokurom, Mamfe, Akropong, Abiriw, Odawu, Awukugua, Adukrom, Apirede and Larteh. If the latter town is reckoned as two, viz., Ahenease and Kubease, and Abonse is separated from Awukugua, we get 19 towns in the whole. The inhabitants belong to three, or strictly speaking, two different tribes.

The vegetation of the district forest with shrub and semi-forest. Most town and villagers are located on a mountain and visibility is very poor in the morning, because of the tall trees. It has also got deep valleys which makes farming activities very difficult.  Rainfall averages 127ºmm, and the weather reflects the invigorating and salubrious, mild cold mountainous climate.

There are two raining seasons with the major rainfall occurring between May and August the minor rainfal in October.  Average annual  rainfall is about 1,270mm. Mean temperatures range between 24ºC and 30ºC and night is temperature between 13ºC and 24ºC.

 

Language

The Akuapem people are heterogeneous as the illustration below indicates. They comprise both Akan and Guan communities. The Guan Okere (Abiriw, Dawu, Awukugua, Adukrom and Apirede) who occupy the northern parts of Akuapem speak Kyerepong, whereas Late-Ahenease and Larteh-Kubease speak Larteh. Both Larteh and Kyerepong Guan languages, unlike Akan Kaw language, "belong to the larger Volta-Comoe group of languages of the larger Niger-Congo phylum (Dolphyne and Kropp Dakubu 1988: 77-79). Akan Twi represent 51.6% of the population, 42.3% are of Kyerepong and guan extraction while only 6.1%% constitutes Ewes, Northerners, Krobos and ethnic groups. With Akuapem Twi spoken by almost all the residents in the Akuapem mountains; it could be said that the Twi language can be the most effective medium of mass communication and functional education as well as development information dissemination.

To illustrate this diversity further, the people of Abiriw comprise different ethnic origins among which are former Akan including Akwamu, Denkyira and Asante (Gilbert 1997: 511-512). The Akan in Akuapem who speak Twi are the descendants of the Akyem people who live at Akropong and their relations at Amanokrom. The people of Aburi are also remnants of Akwamu (Akan) and speak Twi but have intermarried with other ethnic groups.

The other southern Guan towns of Tutu, Obosomase, Mamfe, Mampong, Aseseeso, Abonse and Abotakyi are predominantly Guan with some Akwamu, who have assimilated different ethnic groups including Ewe and Krobo, who all now speak Twi. There has also been a great deal of inter-marriage with Ga, Shai and former Ewe captives and several others (Gilbert 1997: 504) in the Akuapem towns. This mixed group of people lived in small independent towns ruled by priests until the Akyem arrived and were given the mandate to rule in 1733.

 

History

Akuapem are one group of several Akan peoples living in southern Ghana and southeastern Côte d'Ivoire. Akan is a generic term which refers to a large number of linguistically related peoples. The largest and best known ethnic groups include Asante and Fante peoples, who live in southern Ghana, and Baule and Anyi peoples in southeastern Côte d'Ivoire. The rise of the early Akan centralized states can be traced to the 13th century and is related to the opening of trade routes established to move gold throughout the region. It was not until the end of the 17th century, however, that the grand Asante Kingdom emerged in the central forest region of Ghana, when several small states united under the Chief of Kumasi in a move to achieve political freedom from the Denkyira. The Asante confederacy was dissolved by the British in 1900 and colonized in 1901. Although there is no longer a centralized Akan confederacy, Akan peoples maintain a powerful political and economic presence.

 

Types of Art

Woodcarving includes stools, which are recognized as "seats" of power, and akua ba (wooden dolls) that are associated with fertility. There are also extensive traditions of pottery and weaving throughout Akan territory. Kente cloth, woven on behalf of royalty, has come to symbolize African power throughout the world.

 

Economy

Early Akan economics revolved primarily around the trade of gold and enslaved peoples to Mande and Hausa traders within Africa and later to Europeans along the coast. This trade was dominated by the Asante who received firearms in return for their role as middlemen in the slave trade. These were used to increase their already dominant power. Various luxury goods were were also received and incorporated into Asante symbols of status and political office. Local agriculture includes cocoa cultivation for export, while yams and taro serve as the main staples. Among the Fante who live along the coast, fishing is very important. The depleted forests provide little opportunity for hunting. Extensive markets are run primarily by women who maintain considerable economic power, while men engage in fishing, hunting, and clearing land. Both sexes participate in agricultural endeavors.

Farming is the major occupation of the populace.  Major crops grown are cassava, maize, yam, plantain, potatoes, fruits and vegetables.  Non-traditional products, particularly snails and mushrooms, are also being produced and their production is rising providing avenues for investors to exploit emerging export markets and reap significant foreign currency earnings.

The agricultural sector is made up of three main sectors – food and cash crops, livestock and fisheries.  Beside these, we have the non-traditional, post harvest, storage facilities processing units, and markets as well as programmes and projects being undertaking by the people. 67% of the employee population are engaged in agriculture production and live in the rural areas of Akuapem. 

The main crops grown in the district are maize, cassava, vegetables, plantain, citrus, oil palm and cocoa. The District also produces a lot of vegetables both on the ridge and the lowland areas.  These include tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, pepper (legon 18), local pepper and sweet pepper as well as squash.  Vegetable production is irrigated.  Major vegetable producing areas are Mampong, Aseseeso and Kwamoso.

The Government has introduced a Youth in Agriculture Programme that is creating some employment for the youth in the Akuapem North District.  It has contributed to expanding food production and improving the standard of living of persons within the catchment areas in the district.  The agriculture extension services have distributed fertilizers to investing farmers in the district.

Live stock farming is quite encouraging, poultry and piggery are undertaking intensively on the ridge and extensively down the ridge in the villages. There are over 60 fish ponds in the district, however good fishes are being identified for support by MOFA.  And mass cocoa spraying programme has taken place in the Akuapem Ridge.

 

Political Systems

Royal membership among Akan is determined through connection to the land. Anyone who traces descendency from a founding member of a village or town may be considered royal. Each family is responsible for maintaining political and social order within its confines. In the past, there was a hierarchy of leadership that extended beyond the family, first to the village headman, then to a territorial chief, then to the paramount chief of each division within the Asante confederacy. The highest level of power is reserved for the Asanthene, who inherited his position along matrilineal lines. The Asantahene still plays an important role in Ghana today, symbolically linking the past with current Ghanaian politics.

 

Religion

Akan believe in a supreme god who takes on various names depending upon the particular region of worship. Akan mythology claims that at one time the god freely interacted with man, but after being continually struck by the pestle of an old woman pounding fufu, he moved far up into the sky. There are no priests that serve him directly, and people believe that they may make direct contact with him. There are also numerous abosom (gods), who receive their power from the supreme god and are most often connected to the natural world. These include ocean and riverine spirits and various local deities. Priests serve individual spirits and act as mediaries between the gods and mankind. Nearly everyone participates in daily prayer, which includes the pouring of libations as an offering to both the ancestors who are buried in the land and to the spirits who are everywhere. The earth is seen as a female deity and is directly connected to fertility and fecundity.

 

Akuapim Odwera festival

The Odwira Festival is celebrated by the people of Akropong-Akuapim, Aburi, Larteh and Mamfi in the Eastern Region, 30 miles from the capital, Accra.

The Akuapem Odwira festival was initiated by the 19th Okuapimhene of Akropong, Nana Addo Dankwa 1 (1811-1835) and was first celebrated in October 1826. It's significance is to celebrate their victory over the invincible Ashanti army during the historic battle of Katamansu near Dodowa in 1826 and also to cleanse themselves and ask for protection from their gods.
Due to its hilly terrain, the temperature there is very conducive considering the high temperatures in some other areas in Ghana.

Odwira Festival is a week long series of traditions and rituals performed to purify the town, the people and most importantly, the ancestral Stools of the Chieves. It is also a festival to celebrate the harvest of "new Yams".

Six weeks prior to the occasion, some activities are forbidden and hefty fines or serious punishment are given to people who violate this ban. Some of these activities include, no loud music, no drumming, no whistling after dark and most of all NO EATING OF YAMS.

Odwira Festival is broken into six days and each day has a significance and a purpose. This starts from Monday and ends on Sunday. Below is a break down of what actually happens on each day;

• Monday
Men from the three royal families in the town go and clear the path to their ancestral burial grounds. This is the sacred cemetery or "Ammamprobi". This is done to let them know they are invited to join in the festival. 

• Tuesday
In the morning, the men from the royal family return to the sacred cemetery to get the ancestors' permission to perform the festival. As they return, guarded by the "Executioners" or Abrafo(sing. Obrafo) chanting and firing guns, the entire village gather along the streets and cheer these men. A message is given to the chief that the festival can proceed. The ban of all the activities mentioned above are lifted. Yams can now be enjoyed. This day is the Splitting of the New Yam and there's a lot of merry making. But before the yam ban is lifted and the new yam is introduced to the people, people gather in front of the palace cheering and clapping whiles the strongest men in the town "battle" against each other to grab one of the new yams and take it to his house to cook. One yam is introduced at a time until all six of them have been exhausted.This yam game shows who the strongest man is in the village and its also fascinating, exciting and incredible. Trust me, its only in Ghana you can experience festivals of this calibre.

• Wednesday
This is the day reserved to Mourn the ancestors and all loved ones who passed away. This is also the day all those who died during the six week ban are buried. This is a sad day and usually people wear red or black or both. This is the usual attire Ghanaians wear when there's a funeral. 
They fast throughout the day to remember dead relatives. Basically, they wail, drink and drum.
Caution: This is the day in the year alcohol consumption has been reported to be the highest in the town, so please be careful and drink responsibly on this day. The good thing is guests never buy drinks, its the other way round.

• Thursday
This day on the Odwira calender is for Feasting. People exchange foods and other gifts. Some people also pay homage to the chief and queen mother and give them presents of all kinds.The royal families prepare mashed yams with eggs to be sent to a shrine for the ancestors to eat. This food is carried on the head by women guided by men through the principal streets to the shrine. These women look drunk and tired, walk in an uncontrolled manner, stager sometimes, run occasionally and stop abruptly. Some believe that these women are "possessed" by the ancestors as they parade down the street.There's other forms of activities like eating and cooking competitions.

• Friday
This is the day of Celebration. The climax or the peak of the Odwira Festival. The Grand Durbar is held on this day and not only the inhabitants participate, but many dignitaries, chiefs and queen mothers from all over Ghana and in fact, anybody interested come to celebrate with the principal chief and queen mother of Akropong. On this day, the Okuapimhene and Queen mother wear their full traditional regalia and display a lot of gold on their heads, necks, wrists, fingers... you name it.This is a very colourful event.They are carried by their attendants above everybody in a palanquin(a boat-like chair) and they dance bouncing in the air, whilst there's drumming and singing going on, on the packed street. There's also  lot of gun firing by the scary looking Abrafo. After a couple of hours being "airbourne", the chief is sent to a gathering square or the durbar grounds to be seated. More drumming, dancing and rituals are performed. This is another wonderful thing that can't be seen in any where on this planet but Ghana.
The chief and queen mother receive homage from all the sub chieves and queen mothers and other dignitaries. The paramount chief gives his speech after which the celebration continues into the night. There is an Odwira state dance in the evening, raves and many events in the night. Miss Odwira is one beauty contest you don't have to miss.

• Saturday and Sunday
These two days don't really have any thing special going on. There are a few gigs here and there but nothing official. These include soccer matches, scrabble competitions, etc.. etc.. 
The ‘Krontihene’ of Akuapem holds a special durbar on Sunday as part of the Odwira Festival. The Odwira Festival is one of a kind and there isn't anything like that anywhere. You'll be amazed, electrified and on top of it all, you'll be glad you took part of a rich cultural heritage in the Ghana.

 

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