The Konkomba (also known as Komba) people are hardworking agrarian and warlike Gurma-speaking ethnolinguistic group living in north-eastern half of the Republic of Ghana's 'Northern Region and across the border in the adjacent territory of Kara region, north of Kabou in Togo.
Principally about the banks of the Oti river and on the Oti plain north and west of the Basare and Kotokoli hills. The Konkomba are settled in Saboba, Zabzugu and Chereponi areas of Ghana and in Guérin-Kouka, Nawaré, and Kidjaloum areas of Togo (Source: Ethnologue 2010).
The most recently published census data indicates that are approximately 641,000 Konkomba people residing in Ghana and approximately 79,000 in the adjacent border of Togo,making the estimated total population of Konkomba to be 720,000.
Konkomba speak of themselves as Bekpokpam, of their language as Lekpokpam, and of their country as Kekpokpam. They are acephalous group of people,making them a tribe without paramount chief or a tribe without ruler. Their neighbours to the west are the Dagomba. This people is known to Konkomba as the Bedagbam; they speak of themselves as Dagbamba, of their language as Dagbane, and of their country as Dagbon. The country is divided into two regions: Tumo, or western Dagomba, and Naja, or eastern Dagomba. The ancient kingdom of Gonja surround the Konkomba from the south- east. They also have a very good relationship with the Mamprusi. Of all their neighbours the Dagomba are the most important to Konkomba, since it was the Dagomba who expelled them from what is now eastern Dagomba.
The Konkomba have, for almost five hundred years, occupied the Oti flood plain, a region that suffers from flooding and severe drought. Stretching from the ridges of the Gambaga escarpment down into the northern edge of the Volta region. the Oti plain alternates between swampy fields of red-clay soil and flooded red canyons of impassable crimson mud during the rains and arid dust bowls filled with patches of shrub grass during the dry season. During Harmattan, visibility drops down to a few hundred metres as the sky and the air is thick with airborne sand swept down from the Sahara. Shade temperatures during the vernal day regularly exceed 40 degrees Celsius and only occasion ally does one receive a dose of nocturnal relief from a downpour washed in from the Guinea Coast.
The Konkomba apart from occupying the Northern Ghana, are now scattered and are predominantly settled in the northern Volta where in many communities they are more than the indigenous Guans and Ewes.
Konkomba people speak Lekpokpam, a branch of the Gur linguistic stock, which bears considerable resemblance to that spoken by the neighbouring Mole-Dagbani peoples.
Origin and ethnogenesis
The Konkomba natively refer to themselves as Bikpakpaam (plural form) and to their language as Likpakpaln. A male member of the tribe is denoted as ukpakpaanja while a female takes ukpakpaanpii. However, the anglicized form, ‘Konkomba’ has been the term commonly used to refer to both the people and the language. Bikpakpaam are an aboriginal people of northern Ghana. Rattray (1932) talks of Bikpakpaam as an important ethnic grouping in the northern territories of Ghana.
Maasole (2006) also described Bikpakpaam as, ‘aboriginal’ people of Northern Ghana.
Before the arrival of many other ethnic groups in the northern regions of Ghana in the 1400s and 1500s, Bikpakpaam were already settled in the area. Visit Konkomba language to learn more (genetic root, alphabets, phonetic...) about the Likpakpaln (Konkomba language).
Origin and History
The origin of Bikpakpaam has been a subject of research for a long time now. It is on record that Bikpakpaam settled more widely in the eastern corridor before the arrival of many other ethnic groups in the northern regions of Ghana in the 1400s and 1500s,. Bikpakpaam then migrated into other territories in the first half of twentieth century, partly occasioned by colonial pressures and partly in search of fertile farmlands. This opened the door for other tribes to enter and occupy their lands.
The history of where Bikpakpaam came from to settle in Ghana is not well known. What is known, however, is that Bikpakpaam occupied the area called Kyali/Chare (now Yendi) until the Dagombas advanced further east with their expansion and pushed them further away with the support of the colonial masters. Fynn (1971) asserts 'we know that the ancestors of the Dagombas met a people akin to the Konkomba already living in northern Ghana’.
According to narratives by elders of Kikpakpaan, the Gonjas, under Ndewura Jakpa, defeated Dagombas under Ya Na Dariziogo and compelled the latter to abandon their capital (currently believed to be Tamale/Kumbungu areas) and move it to its present site, Yendi, which was then a Bikpakpaam town called Chare. The newcomers pushed back Bikpakpaam and established divisions among them. Despite the assertion of suzerainty, Dagombas seem never to have exercised close control over Bikpakpaam.
According to Martin (1976), the Dagombas pushed back the Konkomba and established divisional chiefs among them. The main towns had the character of outposts, strategically located on the east bank of the River Oti but Bikpakpaam were by no means assimilated. Relations between them and the Dagombas were distant and hostile. There was little, if any, mixing by marriage. Part of the oral history of the creation of Dagbon suggests that the Dagombas conquered Bikpakpaam when they moved into the eastern part of the Northern Region. Bikpakpaam however have vehemently and consistently refused the claim that they were in the battle against Dagombas. The Konkomba have often insisted that they voluntarily moved away, in search for fertile lands and greener pastures for their livestock, when Dagombas arrived. David Tait (1964) quotes an elder of Bikpakpaam as saying “When we were growing up and met our fathers, they told us they (our forefathers) stayed in Yaan/Chare (Yendi) with the Kabre and Bikwom. The Dagombas at the time lived mainly in Tamale and Kumbungu from where they rose, mounted their horses and moved towards Yendi”. We saw the horses and had to move further east.
Bikpakpaam pre-colonial political organization was centered on districts inhabited by clans whose status and autonomy were represented through the presence of ubor (chief) and an earth-shrine tendered by a religious leader, utindaan (the earth priest). Ubor is the administrative and judiciary leader of Bikpakpaam communities. The main duties of ubor include (but not limited to) maintaining peace, unity, order, justice and liaise with other chiefs to maintain harmony and settle conflicts and disputes. Utindaan, is an important figure not only among Bikpakpaam, but also among the other tribes of Ghana, especially among ‘Gur’ ethnic groups. This term Utindaan means the keeper of the land, to some and to others, it means the first settler on the land. Literary it means the “land owner.” The utindaan had and continues to have overlordship of an entire settlement, more in the exercise of spiritual duties and powers over the place. Ubor and utindaan work together to sell or apportion land to individuals. Historically, the earth priest (utindaan) first settled in the ancient town of Kyali/Chare, present Yendi in the Northern Region.
In modern days, the duties of ubor have been extended. Ubor is the mouth piece of the people, giving authorization and approval for development activities. Ubor works hand-in-hand with the political, non-governmental, and religious leaders to ensure the welfare and development of the entire community. The chief's palace (kinakok) is the first point of call for any government agency or development partner visiting the community for development or any other purpose. Kinakok is a highly respected and prestigious office having a linguist ubonabr a.k.a. (wunlaan), a scribe (ugbangmeer), a chief priest, council of elders, foot soldiers, body guards and servants. Ubor is the head and chief executive officer of kinakok. Kinakok also serves as a traditional court yard for settlement of conflicts and disputes. Fines are often imposed on guilty individuals for a peaceful settlement of conflicts and disputes. Culturally ubor is polygamous because many women are betrothed onto him from various clans.
Next to the authority of the utindaan was the uninkpel, a clan head. The position of uninkpel is almost invariably reserved for the most elderly man of a clan. Each Bikpakpaam clan has an uninkpel who also oversees the affairs of his clan. Uninkpel and utindaan work hand-in-hand and report to ubor who is the boss.
The developmental social structure of Bikpakpaam boast of youth leadership known as KOYA (Konkomba Youth Association). KOYA functions mainly in uniting Bikpakpaam, promoting peace and development among Bikpakpaam, educating Bikpakpaam on the importance of education and also on the need to do away with outdated cultural practices. KOYA also mediate inter and intra-tribal conflict resolution. KOYA has many branches across Bikpakpaam settlements in Ghana and foreign branches in U.S.A. and United Kingdom.
Bikpakpaam also have a leader for the youth and young adults called unachiponbor (young chief). Unachiponbor coordinates and promotes peace, unity and communalism among the youth. He ensures that all young men and women get adequate support from other youth during marriage ceremonies, He also leads the young men to plow farmlands for parents-in-law (as part of dowry) in the form of communal labor. Unachiponbor also leads his fellow youth to dig the grave of a parent-in-law, and offer a befitting kinachung during the funerals of a parent-in-law.
The konkomba are hardworking farmers. They engaged in large scale production of yams. the farm is the centre of interest in rites and in labour. Within the territory occupied by each Konkomba village there exist a number of different types of farmland known by the crops and the type of agriculture worked on them. A region between two compounds might seasonally be known as yam-land, guinea-corn-land or sorghum-land. The Konkomba allow no land to go uncultivated and village boundaries will extend as far as the closest field of the neighbouring village. Only on the rocky outcroppings that extend into Komba territory From the Gambaga escarpment can one see a break in the land that has been tilled by Konkomba hands.
Some konkomba are into fishing on the Volta lake. They successfully cross other northern natives when the Volta lake gets flooded.
Commercial activities. Most konkombas are yam sellers apart from growing it. They are well-known for their "Yam markets" in the big cities. Konkomba markets are not simply economic ventures but are important social events. Much as people visit the market to buy and trade goods they also visit to meet friends from nearby villages. to drink pito beer and generally enjoy the company of fellow Konkomba. Markets are typicaIly held on a cleared patch of land next ta the road which runs through the village and in addition to the agricultural produce sold by Konkomba farmers to visiting Tchakosi and Bimoba villagers who also set up butcher stalls for the Konkornba to purchase meat products. Other merchants include clothe sellers, foam
mattress salesmen and general vendors of household sundries. Tait notes there are few trade specialists in Konkomba.
Ghana`s capital Accra, has its Konkomba Yam Market at the Central business. As deeply earth-deity worshiping, people Konkombas have earth deity in their markets too. The market has an earth shrïne, a small and somewhat defoliated Baobab tree, located in the residential area of the market.
The Accra market has an earth elder or Utindaan, who oversees all offerings made to this shrine. He also provides approval to a new trader or broker of they wish to set up a new stall in the market. The market Utindaan is the ultimate authority within the market in all matters concerning layout of the market, residential issues, and trader disputes.
The market chairman or Onekpel fixes prices in the market and costs paid by farmers for yam transportation The chairman, assisted by the cooperative board, which is composed of influential and wealthy négociants, sets a standard price for each type of yam according to the supply and demand for particular varieties. The market Onekpel also oversees relations with the numerous Dagomba women who work in the market as
porters for the Konkomba, acting essentially as a liaison between the Konkomba and the Dagomba who are in the employ of market négociants. The position of liaison in the market however, is much changed from the role occupied by the Onekpels co-opted by the Dagbani in times past.
The konkomba society is an acephalous one. There is no chief. The ‘clan’ and its territorial ‘district’ were the largest Konkomba political units. Clans are made up of major lineages (of five generations) which splintered in minor lineages (three generations) and households and ‘each order of segmentation has its own ritual symbol.’ The Konkomba clan is ‘a morally conscious body’ based on ‘ritual and jural activities’ of an egalitarian gerontocracy of family elders-unikpel (plural:bininkpiib).
Konkomba political clan autonomy was based on territorial earth rituals to local spirits in territorial ‘districts’: Descendants of the first settlers were eligible as earth priest (otindaa, better spelt utindaan). Konkomba were not capable of organizing on a supra-tribal level, so when Dagomba, with their centralized state structure, invaded the Konkomba territories in the seventeenth century, they picked off the Konkomba ‘clan by clan.’ Because inter-tribal relationships were usually marked by a tense state of reserve, and intra-clan violence was tabooed (tensions were neutralised in joking relations or witchcraft accusations, most Konkomba communal violence were inter-clan feuds. Such feuds could be ceremonially ended between ritually obliged clans (timantotiib).
Many tribes, but not all, are distinguished by different face marks. Clans of the same tribe stand in ritual partnership and kithship to each other, both relations of ritual assistance. Clans of the same tribe accept the rite of Bi sub tibwar to end a feud. Finally, clans of the same tribe come to each other's assistance in a fight against members of another tribe and there is no end to inter-tribal fighting. We may therefore speak of feud between clans and of war between tribes.
The Konkomba system is one of small, segmented, agnatic clans. Four kinds of group relation unite clans and serve to mitigate hostility between them. At the level of personal relations ties of amity, like those of matrilateral kinship, serve to reduce hostility and help to obviate fights. The relations are: naabo, that between children of one woman; taabo, that between children of one man ; nabo, that between children of the women of one clan ; nato, that, between men married to clan‐sisters ; and dzo, man speaking, or nakwoo, woman speaking, friend.
The naabo tie is stronger and warmer than taabo but both imply reciprocal rights and duties while nabo and nato do not. The basic relation is seen to be naabo which is extended on the principle of the unity of the lineage to give rise to those of nabo and nato. The relation of friendship is the only voluntary one though it is linked with the lover relationship, bwa, the only voluntary relationship between men and women. Friendship often gives rise to marriages and so creates kinship ties which in turn give rise to the relations of amity. All these relationship range widely to cross the boundaries of lineage, clan and tribe.
It is not always possible to distinguish a tribe by the face marks alone. Some of the outlying Konkomba refer to those of the Oti plain as the Bemwatib, the River people. Of these the Betshabob, Bemokpem, Nakpantib and Besangma have the same mark.
No Konkomba knows all the other tribes but most Konkomba know of the Betshabob, the Bemokpem, the Benafiab, the Begbem, the Besangma and the Bekwom. Of these the Betshabob and Bemokpem must each number more than 6,000 and of each some 3,000 live in Ghana on the west bank of the Oti. These are the two largest tribes. The Nakpantib and the Kpaltib number not more than 2,000 each.
There are very wide dialectal variations in Konkomba language. The dialects of the neighbouring Betshabob, Bemokpem, Begbem and Nakpantib are close enough so a speaker of one of them may communicate easily with a speaker of another. Speech between a Betshabob and a Benafiab is difficult even though the tribes are separated at the nearest point by only sixteen miles. Speech between the River people and the Bekwom of northern Gushiego is so difficult that they communicate, when possible, in Dagbane.
KONKOMBA practise the betrothal of infant girls to young men in their early twenties who thereafter give bride service and pay bride corn to their parents-in-law, until the girl is of an age to marry. The infant girl is known to the man as his 'wife' (pu); there is no distinction in Konkomba between a 'betrothed girl' and a 'wife'. By 'wife' I shall mean a girl who has joined her husband in his compound and when I use the verb 'to marry' it is as the translation of the Konkomba phrase which means 'to go to the husband'.
When a girl child is born, her parents are approached and given presents of pots of beer and fowls by the parents of a young man of between twenty and twenty-four. Often the parents of the girl receive several offers amongst which to choose. Sometimes the first step is taken by the young man himself who sends a gift of firewood to the mother of the child, who is confined to the room in which the child was born for a week after the birth.
The approach to the parents of the girl is made as soon as the sex of the infant is known. There is often competition between those seeking wives who try, by making large gifts, to persuade the parents to betroth the child to them. There is also competition to send the gifts to the parents as quickly as possible; to this end a young man's sister, herself married into another clan, will not only send speedy word of a female birth to her brother but will even warn him of expected births, so that he can have firewood ready to send to the mother should the child turn out to be a girl.
If the first gifts be accepted then the sender knows that he is being considered as a prospective son-in-law. The gifts should not otherwise be accepted. Some weeks later, in effect when it is clear that the child is likely to live, another pot of beer is sent. When the child is several months old the decision should be made and a son-in-law chosen from among the contestants. An elderly man with children can also be a contestant. The younger brothers of a man may refer to his wife as m pu or “my wife” and she in turn may refer to him as n tshar “my husband.”
To be born into Konkomba society meant following a set of rituals and ceremonies that were an integral part of tribal life and survival. There was no distinction between sacred and secular, spiritual and material, or body and soul. The ‘religious’ was present in every expression of life: work, food, wars, procreation and rest. Atheists were non-existent. Everybody believed in the spirit world and in the fetishes (mountains, trees, rocks and even man-made objects) that represented the various spirits. They also believed in totems: animals or birds that were sacred to the clan.
According to Konkomba religious belief, Uwumbor is the Supreme being, creator of spirits, cosmos and people: the source of all life and moral lawgiver. Man`s soul (nwiin) comes from Uwumbor and after death, it returns to him. Uwumbor is etymologically connected to the word ubor (Ruler). More often Konkomba appealed to beings of a lower other which are close to them.
There are other spirits which are evil too. One of such spirits is Kininbon (Satan), lord of all the evil spirits. The spirits also included the souls of the ancestors who demanded respect and sacriﬁces in return for withholding punishment.
In the religious life of the Konkomba, as with many other Guinea coast peoples, earth shrines and the cult of the earth play a crucial role. The earth is the essential medium through which the people of West Africa, people to whom the spirits of the ancestors play a supremely important role in quotidian life, commune with the past and those who went before. The earth is a vital symbol of fertility in the home and in the fields and the ancestors, the ultimate source of sanction for social life for the people of the Northern Territories of Ghana.
The Earth Kitik is mother of heavenly god Uwumbor. The personified divinity Kitik is a universal deity of all the Konkomba. It is manifested in the multitude of Earth spirits, protectors of particular clans. The Earth spirits are male or female. Each clan has its own Earth shrine called litingbaln which symbolizes and personifies the local Earth spirit, the protector of all members of a given clan. The Earth shrine is the most important sacred place of the clan and the main center of the Earth cult.The author of the paper presents the names, places and kinds of Earth shrines and provides an interpretation of the ritual performed in the shrine of Earth spirit Naapaa in the village of Bwagbaln. The purpose of the study is to show the social and religious meanings of the Earth shrine in Bwagbaln as the main cult center of five clans of the Bichabob tribe. The source basis was provided first of all by the author's field work conducted among the Konkomba people in the area of Saboba between July 1984 and January 1985 as well as between September 1990 and August 1991.
The Earth shrines among the Konkomba usually consist of baobabs and groves. Under the trees and in the groves there are sacrificial stones fulfilling the function of an altar on which offerings are made. The Earth shrines are usually situated in the vicinity of the homesteads or on the border between the arable land and the bush.As opposed to other clan Earth shrines of the Konkomba people, the Earth shrine in Bwagbaln is of clan and supra clan character. As the symbol of the unity of five clans from the Bichabob tribe, it is the most important Earth shrine and the central place of cult the members.The Earth cult of the Konkomba is first of all connected with such seasonal agricultural activities as making preparations for yam planting, corn sowing and for the harvest. The ritual in Bwagbaln was performed on 24 March, 1991, that is in the dry season, before the field work. Its principal aim was to ask for the rain. The ritual performance in Bwagbaln is a condition for beginning the field work in the new agrarian season and it precedes the rituals connected with Earth in the homesteads and Earth shrines in the villages of Nalongni, Kumwateek, Kiteek and Bwakul. The ritual in Bwagbaln had the greatest supra clan range and in that ceremony over 20 elders participated who were representatives of major lineages and clans from Bwagbaln, Saboba, Tilangben, Nalongni, Kiteek, Bwakul (Ghana) and Yoborpu and Lagee (Togo). The participants of the ritual are connected with each other by means of clan community bonds (unibaan), ritual bonds (mantotiib) as well as friendship and neighborhood bonds.
For the Konkomba land is intimately connected with fertility, and the number of pots used in a land rite is always greater than two. Two of the pots are always separated and regarded as the shrine of the twin spirit; twins are seen as symbols of fertile land and of a bountiful harvest to come throughout Gur territory.
Among the Bimotiev one often encounters square clay posts, approximately twenty centimetres in width and half a meter high, in the central yard of a hilly compound or placed in a bush. Upon these posts, calabashes filled with medicine, typically the leaves of germinated seed yams, are placed. These shrines are granted therapeutic and curative powers, they are protective shrines, intended to ensure the well being of village member.
A Stone placed among the boughs of a tree located on the right side of a family compound is thought to symbolize the protective earth spirit of a homestead. A red rooster is sacrificed to this shrine whenever the compound head requires the intervention of a bush spirit whether it be for greater prosperity or increased yields from his yarn mounds (Zimon 1992: 1 1 8)
Both animal and human spirits interact with the living. Kenjaa are good spirits, kesou are evil. Kesou that plague the living may become kenjaa by being captured at which point they serve as advisors. Typically, the dead join their ancestors, regardless of their crimes, with the exception of sorcerers who’s kin must make sacrifices on his behalf.
Bikpakpaam Beliefs: The Bikpakpaam have many beliefs just as other tribes. Bikpakpaam believe in the existence of a Supreme Being ‘Uwumbor’ (God) who is upheld as the uncreated creator of everything. Uwumbor controls all things and delegates power to other smaller gods and spirit beings under Him to take care of prescribed creatures. Bikpakpaam also believe that Uwumbor gives each individual his own destiny and no one has powers to change his or her own destiny or the destiny of another person. God the creator is the only one who knows one's destiny.
There is also the belief among the Bikpakpaam that God created every person and it is God alone who can direct the trajectory of life of the individual or determine his or her life span. If one has not completed the assigned purpose for him or her on earth, God would never take him back i.e. God will not let the person die, but if it happens, God will let the person reincarnate to complete the assignment. Such reincarnated persons have special identifiable names such as Jagri (a reincarnated male), Piigri (a reincarnated female), N-ya (my grandmother), for reincarnated female, N-yaja (my grandfather) for a reincarnated male.
Bikpakpaam believe that there are evil spirits which torment people in the form of sickness, poverty, conflicts, drought, still births, deformities, deaths, mental disorders etc. They also believe in the existence of counter spirits (good ones), which counteract the attacks of the evil spirits. Furthermore, Bikpakpaam believe in ancestral spirits (the existence of the spirit of the dead), which they call Bitekpiib. They are of the view that these ancestral spirits take vengeance on enemies, protects the rest of the family and care for the general well being of the surviving relations. They, thence, pour libation and perform sacrifices to appease the ancestral spirits.
These indigenous Bikpakpaam beliefs are fading out and giving way to Christianity and Islam. Most Bikpakpaam of post-colonial era have embraced Christianity and believe in the Triune God (the Father, Son and Holy Spirit). As such, Saboba and other Bikpakpaam localities are home to many denominational churches including the Catholic Church, Orthodox, Pentecostal and Charismatic churches. About 5% or less of Bikpakpaam are Muslims.
Bikpakpaam hospitality:Bikpakpaam are friendly and welcoming people. Renowned for their hospitality, a typical Bikpakpaam family will take in visitors, offer them water to drink, and slaughter a domestic bird or small ruminant to prepare a meal for the visitor. They make visitors feel at home and part of their family. They also give souvenirs and livestock for keeping to their visitors. Bikpakpaam relate cordially with their neighbors and show great respect to everyone without discrimination. They often treat visitors or guests better than they treat themselves. Bikpakpaam boast of a rich diversity of art works and traditional costumes. The art work and colorful and fancy indigenous costumes of traditional dances (kinachung, njeem, ichaa, tibaln, nbanba etc.) make Saboba and other Bikpakpaam settlements and environs a thrilling and rewarding tourist destination to explore.
Inheritance among the Bikpakpaam: Bikpakpaam inheritance is patrilineal. Every child of Kikpakpaan belongs to the father's lineage and will inherit properties of his/her father. The patrilineal inheritance, however, shows great reverence and respect to the maternal relationships, which is mainly seen and used as a second home for the child and also as a place of asylum in times of patrilineal hostilities. Mothers and children also use the maternal families as a prolific ground for investments. The paternal family pays great homage to the maternal family by plowing one of their fields into farmland every year for free. In addition, the maternal families are entitled to a lavish and honorable parent-in-law funeral sponsored by the paternal family.
The Ingenuity of Bikpakpaam: Bikpakpaam are clever and innovative in their traditional settings. Inventions by the forefathers of Bikpakpaam include farm implements/tools, musical instruments, hunting tools/weapons such as liluul, butom, ilopiin, kakpola, kitaln etc. Their architectural and construction prowess and techniques led to domestic structures like libubul, lipil, kachala, kikpawung, and n-yaam (for painting), tinabin (cow dung) (for plastering houses) etc. Some musical instruments are liwul (flute), kibeek (guitar), ligangaln (drum), kiwujabik (type of flute), lidabuln (type of drum) and ukpiihn (horn). Cultural costumes include unaa (decorated horns), tangana (traditional cloth), tanbena (dancing cloth decorated with beads and pearls), tibaan (jingles) etc. Household utensils/detergents include libuul (clay coolers), nkin (clay pot), sagbo (jar), kiyiik (calabash), bukpakpaankiib (traditional soap) among others.
Bravery and hardwork of Bikpakpaam: The core values of Bikpakpaam include: bravery, hard work, determination, generosity, hospitality, courage, and collectivism, love of family life and support for family members. This hard working attribute evolved as a component of their culture which requires every adolescent to work hard enough to plow their own farm land and that of their parents in the same season in order to become economically independent and raise their own families. In their hay days, typical Bikpakpaam farmers will plow their own yam farm manually, boasting of 15,000-20,000 yam mounds yearly. This is evident in the fact that Bikpakpaam are the major yam producers in Ghana and Togo. In Ghana, Bikpakpaam are proud to feed the nation and even export yam through the Konkomba Yam Market in Agbogbloshie, Accra. In addition to yam farming, Bikpakpaam farmers also boast of maize, guinea corn, and millet and rice farms. Bikpakpaam women care for the men as they plow the fields, but also plow their own fields where they grow mainly vegetables and legumes (groundnuts, and beans). Women also gather fruits for economic gain namely shea nuts (used to make shea butter) and dawadawa fruits, which have a diversified use. Bikpakpaam women are also excellent in harvest and post harvest processing and marketing of foodstuff. Gathering of firewood and charcoal production for both domestic and commercial use are integral part of Bikpakpaam women duties. The brewing of a local drink known as ndamam (“red drink”) popularly known as pito is a natural gift and preserve of women. Animal rearing is also practiced by Bikpakpaam for domestic consumption and commercial purposes. Such animals include birds (fowls, guinea fowls, ducks, and doves), ruminants (mainly goats, sheep, and cattle) and pigs. In recent times, some farmers have delved into guinea pig, grasscutter and rabbit farming for commercial purposes. Bikpakpaam farmers also now boast of large plantations of fruit trees, mainly mango and cashew trees. The practice of collective solidarity in the form of communal labor termed as nkpawiin depicts hardwork, unity and collaboration among Bikpakpaam communities. Here, individuals seek help from the entire community to meet labour needs (farming, construction and other forms of work) and this occurs in turns. Bikpakpaam are swift, brave and security conscious.
Bikpakpaam foods and drinks: Bikpakpaam eat what they grow/farm/rear. Bikpakpaam foods are very healthy and reflect in their healthy conditions. Their staple foods include “Bisatom” (literarly, “hot food”) commonly known in Ghana as “tuo zafi” (TZ), “sakɔla” commonly known in Ghana as “fufu” made with pounded yam, “likaal/kalaa/tubani” made with beans flour, millet and a combination of many other foods. In their quest to achieve a balanced diet, the forefathers of Bikpakpaam discovered a wide range of healthy vegetables; some of which are indigenous but others are well known and common in other areas. These include but not limited to: “imuan” (okra), “tinyangban” (hibiscus), “kijuuk(English name not identified)”, “timonfar” (okra leaves), “likpakajul” (sesame leaves), “litukal” (baobab leaves), “kikotumok (English name not identified)”, “tignaafar (English name not identified) “inangbanatun (English name not identified)”, tigbufar (kapok leaves), “suwaka”, (bitter leaves), “unaa” (spinach) and many more. These vegetables are used to prepare soup, stews or as sides in combination with the staple foods.
The ingenious, original and authentic Bikpakpaam drink is called “Pito”. Pito is a delicious traditional beer brewed from scratch using organic guinea corn with natural ingredients and no artificial flavors and no preservatives. Pito is brewed fermented or non-fermented. The fermented Pito is excellent for “happy hour”, funerals, parties and other celebrations. Non-fermented Pito is consumed as a beverage for various purposes. The rich diversity of Bikpakpaam foods can also boast of tubers like yam, cassava, potato and grains like maize, millet, guinea corn, “ipui”, and rice, sesame seeds (“kpaka” and “jam-jam”) melon seeds (“inabe” and “keer”) and many more.
Bikpakpaam names: Bikpakpaam believe the name one bears influences his/her life. Good names bring success and prosperity to a person. As such, great care is taken in choosing names for children. Bikpakpaam naming world is vast as it incorporates all categories of names-circumstantial, positional, proverbial, ironical and rhetoric as well as flora and fauna names etc. Some of the names given to children are indicative of special event(s) associated with a child's birth or inspired by special thought or wishes by relations. Names among Bikpakpaan can also be proverbial or insinuative in response to surrounding situations and/or circumstances or conveying a message to neighbors/relatives. This rich naming system render Bikpakpaam names very unique and attractive in appellation.
Culturally, the mother's parents/family choose the name given to the 1st born of every woman and the man's parents/family, or the husband and wife choose the name given to subsequent children based on mutual consent. When a child is born, a fowl is sent to the woman's family as a gift to announce the birth of the child. A male poultry indicates the child is a male child and vice versa. The essence of this gift is to start an investment for he child's future. Few days-weeks later a special day is set aside to name the child, amidst merry making (eating, drinking, singing, and dancing…..).
Bikpakpaam Housing: Since the pre-colonial era, many Bikpakpaam families live together in their traditional family houses. When the young men and women are grown and get married they leave the family house to establish their own families. The houses are made of round or rectangular rooms built, from laterite (clay) and roofed with thatch. Bikpakpaam women boast of invention of the traditional paint known as n-yam made from Dawadawa fruit pod and used for painting and decorating interior of rooms. Post-colonial developments led to the introduction of cemented brick and block and cemented houses, roofed with zinc sheets.
Marriage rites: Bikpakpaam marriages have evolved along several pillars. The traditional betrothal and exchange marriage types have made way to a more open and unrestricted marriage system. Nonetheless, the customs accompanying these marriages have remained. In the current marriage system, the groom's family farms and contributes severally in the form of dowry to the bride's family. These numerous contributions have now been reduced drastically to just a simple dowry paid to the bride family subject to the financial strength of the groom's family. The bride's family also submits a list of items (clothing, kitchen and household items) to the groom's family to purchase for the bride. In the betrothal system, females at infancy or childhood were betrothed to, sometimes, aged adult men who wait for them to grow for marriage. This practice is outdated and no longer in use because betrothed women who did not like their betrothed husbands deserted the marriage and absconded and sometimes committed suicide. The marriages of today are constructed between individual lovers who after falling into a relationship introduce the prospective spouses to their families for assessment and acceptance. Before marriage, the lady also usually visits the man's home temporary (to study and in turn, be assessed by the man's family) and later, permanently moves to the home when the marriage has been contracted. Christianity has influenced this modern trend in current marriage system among Bikpakpaam.
Another prominent phenomenon that is waning in Bikpakpaam marriage system is polygyny. Formerly, a typical ukpakpanja could marry more than one wife, depending on his social and financial strength. Now due to Christianity, economic hardship, rivalry and modernity, the polygamy is fading out and most men now marry just one wife and a maximum of two except biborb (chiefs) who still marry many wives betrothed onto them by clans and well wishers. In a typical Bikpakpaam community today, one may still find cases where a woman may marry a relative of her deceased husband.
Burial rites: Bikpakpaam traditionally bury their dead within a maximum of 24 hours post death (aside the recent introduction of keeping corpses in the morgue and burial with coffin). When a person, whether a child or an adult dies, messages such as verbal, horn/flute sound and explosive gunpowder (for older people) are sent to neighbors in the surrounding communities and to relatives far and near. For adult men and women (married and having children), kinachung always accompanies the burial services. Infants, children and adolescents receive a similar burial without kinachung and, many a time, without a coffin. The deceased is laid in state and burial rites are performed. There is mourning (ikpowiil), ikpolahn (dirges), njeem, etc. based on the cause of death or status of the deceased. The corpse is bathed by a large number of women, dressed and may be coffined. The corpse (coffined or not) is carried by men on the shoulder or head and one of the traditional priest invokes ancestral spirits to identify the cause of death. The corpse is then sent to the gravesite, which is usually in front of the house for adults and far away from home for kids and adolescents. Causes of death like drowning, bush fires, death in pregnancy, death of a twin all have special rites. Males are buried facing the sunrise (east) to remind them of daybreak and onset of farming activities whilst females face sunset (west) to remind them of end-of-day to do household chores and prepare diner for the whole family. As indicated both burial positions have cultural connotations. A few farewell tributes including the gift of money, valuables and verbal messages are said to the deceased before interment. Kinachung and other funeral rites continue after the burial ceremony.
Funeral rites: Bikpakpaam have two main forms of funeral rites. Just as the burial rites, these are also primed on the cause of death and status of the deceased. There is a three days (males) or four days (females) post-burial funeral rite during which the clothes of the deceased are washed by female relatives. This is seen as a minor event. The first funeral rite is called Lisaatong (literally -putting food on table) is performed for only adults. It is characterized by converging of relatives, neighbors and sympatizers at the funeral grounds to serve food to the spirit of the dead. A four-legged animal (usually a cow) is slaughtered and a sumptuous meal (bisatom) is prepared for all but a plate of the meal is served and left in the room of the deceased person overnight to feed and calm his/her spirit, which otherwise is believed will pester the living by scavenging the kitchen for food every night. For hospitality, many other animals can be slaughtered, including cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and fowls and food (bisatom) is served to all visitors and sympatizers. Night and day kinachung and ichaa, ngben dances are performed. During these dances, food and drinks (Pito, soda, tea....) are served to all visitors and accommodation provided where need be. The last and final funeral rite is what is termed Likpuul (funeral proper). This can be after a few days or weeks or months for a kid or after several years for adults, especially utindaan. Just like Lisaachↄng, likpuul involves convergence of relatives and sympathizers. The Bikpakpaam pito drinks are prepared and served, and many animals (more than during the lisaachↄng) are slaughtered to cater for the masses of funeral attendants. This usually takes 5-7days and is performed for an accumulated number of deceased people. On the 3rd day, ubua (a soothsayer) consults the deceased as well the ancestors of the deceased to speak to the relatives about the cause of their death and other family/communal issues that need spiritual redress. Kinachung and other dances are performed over the entire likpuul program. Additional rites like the widowhood and orphan hood rites as well as inheritance are usually performed in the last few days of likpuul. Christianity has influenced all these funeral rites simplified and reduced to a burial church service in 3 days (men) or 4 days (women). At the bereaved family's discretion, a date is set aside for the final funeral rite. Usually there is wake keeping on Friday, a funeral church service on Saturday and a thanksgiving church service on Sunday marking the end of the funeral.
Ndinpondaan festival Ndipondaan (literally meaning; new guineacorn drink) Festival is currently the most widely celebrated festival among Bikpakpaam. Others like the fire festival (naminsee) and the new yam festivals (n-nidak) are less celebrated today due to foreign cultural influences and modernity. Currently, efforts are underway to revive and bring back the celebration of these festivals. Ndipondaan festival is celebrated by Bikpakpaam to thank almighty God, ancestors and the gods for a bumper harvest of guinea corn and other food crops. This festival is recently attracting public attention. This is an annual event during which there is homecoming for all Bikpakpaam in the world over to Saboba, their capital. During Ndipondaan, many events, including games, dancing competitions and other cultural rites are revised and performed. Opportunity from this event is used in tracing ancestral lineages of individuals, visits to major Bikpakpaam landmarks, tourism activities and re-union of families. Other educational and sensitization programmes and projects are initiated or delivered during Ndipondaan celebration. Issues that affect Kikpkakpaan are addressed and communities or their representatives advised accordingly. Ndipondaan also serves as a time of mediation of internal differences and settlement of outstanding conflicts. One consistent ritual, however, has been an opening prayer to almighty God, a word of exhortation from the clergy, the performance of libation and sacrifice to ancestors, traditional dance, and the sharing of food and drinks with visitors and relatives. Many Bikpakpaam delicacies, including bisaatom, and sakↄla are prepared and eaten. Pito, the favorite guineacorn drink is also brewed in large quantities and enjoyed by all.