The Bono, also called the Brong and the Abron, are an Akan people of West Africa. Bonos are normally tagged Akan piesie or Akandifo of which Akan is a derivative name. Bono is the genesis and cradle of Akans. Bono is one of the largest ethnic group of Akan and are matrilineal people. Bono people speak the Bono Twi of Akan language. Twi language, thus the dialect of Bono is a derivative of a Bono King Nana Twi. In the late fifteenth century, the Bono people founded the Gyaaman kingdom as extension of Bono state in what is now Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire.
In the 12th century when Bonos discovered gold at the Twi river and Prabom across the Tain river, Bonos became very powerful owing to its wealth in gold at Bonoman. Bonos used the gold dust as a measure of currency in Bonoman and at the various market centres of Djenne, Timbuktu and North Africa .
In most cases, gold weighing (abramboo) were used to determine what quantity of gold should be exchanged for a commodity. Bono people were dexterously noted for brass casting, weaving of cloth (gagawuga, kyenkyen and kente), pottery and so on. Around 1471 when the Portuguese arrived in Gold Coast, Begho of Bonoman was one of the largest ancient city in West Africa at then with an estimated population 12,000.
Bono Manso, another historic city, played a noteworthy role in the Atlantic slave trade, and in contemporary times Africans in diaspora visit to learn more about their history. Traditionally, Bono is the hub of Akan culture and most aspect of Akan culture emanates from Bono, for instance clans (abusua), ntoro, Akan drums (fontomfrom, atumpan), Akan nomenclature, umbrellas used for kings, adinkra symbols, fly whisk, ivory trumpets, head gears, swords of the nation, and many more. Bonos perform many Akan traditional dances such as Kete, Adowa, fontomfrom and other dances.
Bono means "pioneer" or the "first born on the land". In the olden days, among the Bonos if a woman gives birth for the first time this is referred to as her abonowoo.
The kingdom of Gyaman was founded by Gyamanhene Tan Date in west-central Ghana, stretching into the eastern Ivory Coast, in around 1690. The Ashanti took control in 1730, and maintained power for the next 135 years. Revolts were staged in 1750, 1764, and from 1802 to 1804, but all failed. In 1875, the English defeated the Ashanti, and Gyaman achieved its independence again (1p1). “Between 1875 and 1886, [the kingdom of Gyaman] underwent a period of serious internal troubles. Invaded by Samori’s sofas in the spring of 1895, it was occupied by the end of 1897 by the French in the west and the British in the east”
Bonos concept of Bonoman (Bono State)
Traditionally, a state could not be founded without a queenmother in the olden days, although many states were founded without a king. As the succession was and still is, in the female line and as only the maternal ancestors were and are, venerated, it was very essential that a female royal blood gave birth to a state. That is why a queenmother owns a state, as a mother owns a child. The queenmother is always seen as the daughter of the moon by Bonos, who symbolizes the female characteristics of Nyame, the Supreme Being who created the universe by giving birth to the sun (Amowia). The sun is therefore regarded as the son of the moon and personified in as the Sungod. The queenmother therefore represents the great Mother-Moon-goddess, the king as the Sungod, and the state as the Universe. Silver representing moonlight as the colour of the queenmother, just as gold the colour of the sun is the king. Perceiving from another angle, seven heavenly bodies Moon, Sun, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn rule the heaven. Seven abusua or matrilineal clans represent them on earth and rule the state.
The introduction of cash crops has caused the reduction of fallow to a point where the land cannot regenerate fast enough. Their environment contains both savanna and forest land, and they are able to grow a wide variety of cash and subsistence crops.
Diet. Main carbohydrate staple(s): “In addition to subsistence crops – yams, taro, and to a lesser extent maize, dry rice, and millet, as well as a wide assortment of vegetables ranging from tomatoes, cayenne pepper, and eggplants, to onions and lentils – the Abron of today raise three important cash drops and collect a fourth”
Diet. Main protein-lipid sources: “The Abron value meat for its taste and would eat it in larger quantities if they could afford it. On the other hand, there is no real shortage of protein, and those families that have little meat make up for this lack with beans and lentils” (3p43). Chicken, beef, pork, antelope, and smaller game animals.
Weapons: During a hunt, boys armed with clubs and slingshots accompany their older brothers and fathers. Some of the men, who can afford them, hunt with guns
Food storage: Food is stored in pots made of clay and iron, and is cooked outdoors during the dry season. On rainy days, food is cooked on an indoor stove.
Sexual division of production: “Young men participate in house building, planting, and hunting”. “Girls learn to help their mothers clean the houses, fetch wood and water, weed the garden, plant lesser crops, and cook”
Land tenure: “Villages as units are said to hold land. Thus Abron villages have their land and Kolongo villages theirs. Title may pass to individual kinship groups (lineages in the old days, families today) if they are resident in the village, but such title is based on use: land, to be retained, must be worked. Strangers who move into a village must obtain permission to use free savanna. Permission is usually granted, for there is no shortage of this type of land used for the production of subsistence crops. Forest, however, is relatively scarce and valuable. This has been true at least since the introduction of cash crops. The Abron recognize that forest land belongs to Kolongo groups and, by their own rules, must ask permission of the Kolongo chiefs to work it”
Ceramics: Clay pots used for food storage
Food taboos: “Leftover food is rarely consumed later. Instead, it is either thrown out or given to the animals”. Women may not eat oranges while pregnant
Marriage: Men may marry multiple times, and women seem to have an average to large number of children. A man must be able to pay his bride’s family for her. Some men marry young, but there doesn’t seem to be an average age for marriage. Proportion of marriages ending in divorce: No percentage given, but divorce may be sought by either the husband or wife. After a divorce, the man loses the rights to his children, and, if the divorce was initiated by the woman, she maybe required to pay back the bride price. Polygynous marriage is common, and men are allowed to marry as many women as they can support. Men are expected to pay their wives’ families an amount agreed upon before the marriage takes place. Marriage is prohibited between brothers and sisters, and half brothers and sisters. Post marital residence: Men and women live apart even after marriage, and continue to live with family members of the same gender
Inheritance patterns: Abron ideology does not allow a man to receive an inheritance from his father, but it is common for fathers to give their sons their wealth before death. Titles and goods are passed down matrilineal lines
Parent-offspring interactions and conflict: “A newborn baby is the focus of attention for all the female members of the mother’s household”. “After a child has learned to walk, it begins the painful process of separation from close personal contact with the mother”. “With the exception of infants, young people are disfavored in Abron society”. “Intolerant of anger in children, parents punish aggressive acts with a fury rarely seen in Abron society”. “A child who has been fighting, for any reason, is not only beaten by its parents but is also humiliated before its peers and subordinates”. “Parents ignore children once they begin to talk. They are cared for by their elder siblings, and join them in learning the daily round”. “Contact between parents and children for the purpose of training is confined to gardening. Even here, the child is not taught what to do, but learns by watching and helping”. “Early contact between father and son is minimal, because infants are limited to the mother’s house. During infancy, the male parent will spend little more than one hour a day with his child” (3p160). “When a younger sibling joins a men’s house, the father’s attention may shift to it”. “While all adults can punish children, the father has the most contact with his sons. Also, he is responsible for their behavior” (3p161). “From birth to adulthood, a girl remains in her mother’s household and is a basic part of it”. “A warm relationship exists between a woman and her father throughout life, but she has less contact with him than do his sons”
Pattern of exogamy (endogamy): Men may marry within or outside of their community
Role of males in conception: The child is recognized as only having one father
Do females enjoy sexual freedoms? Women are expected to remain virgins until marriage
If mother dies, whose raises children? Married couples live in separate houses. Daughters go to live with their mother and female relatives, and sons go to live with their father and male relatives. If a girl’s mother dies, the other women in the house will raise the daughter. Older children help raise their younger siblings, and, as the older child, demand the respect of those that are younger (3p161- 162). “During infancy, the male parent will spend little more than one hour a day with his child”
Formal marriage ceremony. There are 10 days of traditions involving the bride, groom, their families, and the village (3p105-106). 4.28 In what way(s) does one get a name, change their name, and obtain another name? “There are only seven first names for males and seven for women- one for each day of the Abron week”. “When a marriage has been decided upon between two families, the groom’s parents and the other relatives provide the bride price, which is paid to the bride’s kinship group”
Political system: (chiefs, clans etc, wealth or status classes): Local kingdoms have no real power. “The king has one or more ochamé (talking chiefs), who speak for him. In former times these were usually slaves. It is their duty to accept responsibility for royal judgements that go astray: “It is the Ochamé who has spoken, not the King.” Other officers include royal drummers, trumpeters, sword and umbrella bearers, court dwarfs, and, until recently, a state executioner, who dispatched those convicted of such crimes as murder, theft, adultery, and gossip”. “Under the king are the chiefs of five cantons, known as Penongo, Achedom, Anenefy, Fumasa, and Ciagni. These chiefs are charged with the handling of local maters and succeed to office according to patrilineal rules”. Most political power is held by the national governments of Ghana and the Ivory Coast
Territoriality. “Strangers who move into a village must obtain permission to use free savanna. Permission is usually granted, for there is no shortage of this type of land used for the production of subsistence crops. Forest, however is relatively scarce and valuable. This has been true at least since the introduction of cast crops. The Abron recognize that forest land belongs to Kolongo groups and, by their own rules, must ask permission of Kolongo chiefs to work it. In addition, mineral rights are, or were, held by Kolongo, and the extraction of gold was undertaken with permission from Kolongo titleholders”
Social interaction divisions, (age and sex): Men and women live divided into separate houses by gender, even after marriage, with their families. “When a man wishes to sleep with his wife, he invites her to join him in his room after dark. If she agrees, she will come to his house after the other men have gone to sleep. She will leave before dawn. If a man has more than one wife, and this is true only of the richer, older men, he will sleep with each of them on a rotating basis during the week. The Abron have a Crow kinship system
Special friendships/joking relationships: “Sexual joking is allowed between brothers and sisters, providing a non-relative is the object of the joke
Social organization, clans, moieties, lineages, etc: “As in most African states, kinship among the Abron is an overlay on a social organization that depends upon lineage segmentations.” “All members of the ethnic group are related to a founding ancestor, but with each succeeding generation, the number of lines multiplies, each taking off from one son or, in the case of matrilineal systems, nephew (eldest sister’s eldest son) of the founder, and in turn the founder’s children’s children, and so on. Each member of the ethnic group is a member of a minimal lineage (the smallest number of unilineally related kin who form a corporate unit) and more inclusive lineages up at the largest united recognized, which is usually the entire group.”
Trade: “Abron of today raise three important cash crops and collect a fourth. These are coffee, cacao, oranges, and kola nuts.” (3p59) “The Abron have already become consumer oriented. The government has encouraged the construction of standard cement rectangular houses with corrugated-iron roofs. Motor bikes are becoming more and more common. Even automobiles have made their appearance, although not yet in Diassenpa. I have already mentioned the advent of the transistor radio. In addition to such basic but recently created needs for industrially produced goods (fuel, sugar, and salt), the Abron have become almost exclusively dependent on manufactured cloth.”
Indications of social hierarchies. Slavery – The Abron captured slaves from neighboring peoples to work their lands in the past, but slavery is now outlawed.
Ritual/Ceremony/Religion: “Mourning relatives cover their heads for six days and wear old, dark-colored cloths. The wife of the deceased stays in her husband’s house and eats only once a day.” “When a priest or a member of the royal family dies, the funeral is more elaborate. The ceremony lasts for seven days and nights, and several villages participate. When the king dies, the entire nation mourns and everyone tries to get to the funeral.”“Funerals are the major events in Abron society. They constitute the single most important social activity in the entire culture.” “The Abron are pragmatic. Religious observances do not occupy much time in an individual’s daily life. There are few ceremonies, and the gods do not bother those who do not have a specific obligation to them.”
Specialization (shamans and medicine): “But Abron culture is witch-ridden. Most villagers actively fear the attacks of witches.” “Deresogo (witches) are supernatural beings. Unlike gods, they live with people but are unknown to them. Deresogo fly in the night and eat the souls of their victims. Like the witches of medieval Europe, they gather to celebrate their own Sabbath. They kill at night through magic and are able to change into animals at will.” “Ranged against deresogo are kparesogo, or priests. Only kparesogo know which individuals are deresogo and they can only combat witches. Kparesogo never reveal which villagers are deresogo. This would bring them into general combat with the entire community of witches – a great risk.”
Stimulants: “Some of the medicines used by Abron contain active agents of one type or another and do have a real effect on symptoms. Others are magical and cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, have other than a psychological therapeutic value.”
Passage rituals (birth, death, puberty, seasonal): “Mourning relatives cover their heads for six days and wear old, dark-colored cloths. The wife of the deceased stays in her husband’s house and eats only once a day.” “When a priest or a member of the royal family dies, the funeral is more elaborate. The ceremony lasts for seven days and nights, and several villages participate. When the king dies, the entire nation mourns and everyone tries to get to the funeral.” “Funerals are the major events in Abron society. They constitute the single most important social activity in the entire culture.” “The Abron have, or at least had, puberty ceremonies for both males and females. I was never able to uncover any details of these ceremonies. Willing to talk about birth, weddings, and even funerals, the subject of puberty was blocked by a wall of silence.” In addition to life-crisis ceremonies, the Abron celebrate three major fixed religious events. These are the great yam festival (Odiwera), in October, the Adae, or tribute to the ancestors, and the Fofye, or tribute to local gods and the punungo of dead priests.”
Other rituals: “The Abron are pragmatic. Religious observances do not occupy much time in an individual’s daily life. There are few ceremonies, and the gods do not bother those who do not have a specific obligation to them.” 6.5 Myths (Creation): Nyame is the creator, but no specifics were given. 6.6 Cultural material (art, music, games):
Sex differences in RCR: “A woman’s status as a full adult does nothing to change her restricted role in village affairs, and most women are content to run things in the microcosm of their own households, where they may dominate if and when they become senior females.” (3p159) 6.8 Missionary effect: Missionaries have introduced the Abron to western medicine. (
Death and afterlife beliefs: “According to those informants who practice Abron religion, when a person dies the soul (ngose), as a distinct from spirit, breaks into two parts. One of these, the punungo, goes to heaven, and the other, the punungo bo bokogo (stool spirit), goes into a stool that was carved for the person during his or her lifetime. Other informants said that there was only one soul, which lived in heaven but visited the soul stool on sacrificial occasions.”
Religion (animism, ancestor worship, deism, magic, totems etc.) Abron traditional religion is very magical, with witches similar to European beliefs of the past, and priests which fight witches and heal with the power of their own personal deity, a gbawkaw. “The Abron pantheon is divided into good and evil gods. The high god, Nyame, stands alone as the Creator and Prime Mover. Although he is responsible for epidemics and some other manifestations of disease, he has little to do with the affairs of men. Below Nyame is Tano, the river god. He is often appealed to in time of need. After Tano there is a wide range of gods, or gbawkaw, who inhabit various natural areas such as mountains, rivers, or even trees and objects such as specially prepared gin bottles and crudely carved statues.”
Body paint: Priests may cover themselves with white clay.
Haircut: “Abron men keep their hair short and many shave their heads.” “Women let their hair grow long, but wear it in a tight brain coiled close to the head.”
Ceremonial/Ritual adornment: “The mask worn by the chief priest is itself a powerful gbawkaw. Other participants wear black anthropomorphic masks with antelope horns carved at their tops.”
Sibling classification system: “Children’s dress has been described. Its poorness is a demonstration of the general poverty of children in Abron society. Even thought they are loved, they are deprived. This is the result of the heavily age-ranked status system in which people attain certain rights as they mature and come to occupy responsible positions in the social system. Children sit on chairs only when there are enough for all the adults present; they eat food considered inferior for adults; and they are dressed in ragged insufficient clothing. They sleep several to a room or even on the porches of houses, and must give prized possessions to any older sibling who might demand them.”
Sororate, levirate: “A man may have several wives, but since he cannot marry women who are sisters, all his spouses will come from different women’s houses.”
Other interesting cultural features: Men and women live in different houses almost their entire lives. As children, boys move out of their mother’s house at age 8, and will spend the rest of their life in their father’s house, unless they leave the village. Even after marriage, the couples do not live together.