Kwahu People - The mountain-dwellers

  • Kwahu area

    Kwahu or Kwawu people are hardworking and famous business-oriented Kwa-speaking people that forms a subset of the larger Akan ethnic group living in the south-central Ghana, on the west shore of Lake Volta. Kwahu people who speak a dialect of Akan language called Twi and live specifically in the mountainous Eastern Region of Ghana in the towns such as Abene, Abetifi, Pepease, Atibie, Nkwatia, Obo, Bepong, Tafo, Akwasiho, Obomeng, Twenedurase, Nteso, Mpraeso, Asakraka, Aduamoa, Pitiko, Sadan, Burukuwa, Nkantanane, Ahinasie and Donkorkrom. Macmillan and Kwamena Poh (1965) described the wonderful climate of their mountainous town, Abetifi as “… the Switzerland of West Africa, with nights as cool as May nights in Europe”. According to an associate professor at the Folklore Institute of Indiana University, the Kwahu are mountain-dwellers who are considered to be “wealthy …. very successful traders,.., who reside at the top of a mountain, a location which is somewhat removed from the other Akan groups” (Associate Professor of Folklore 5 Sept. 1999, 6, 10 Oct. 1999).

    In the past, most parents betrothed their daughters before they were old enough to marry. Nowadays, parents who choose partners for their children seek the children‟s consent first. In some cases too, the young people make their own choices and inform their parents. It is the customary practice for a man to seek the hands of a woman in marriage. In most communities it is a taboo for a woman to propose love and marriage
    to a man.

    In our traditional set-up, marriage involves the man and the woman concerned as well as their families. Before the marriage, most families try to investigate each other‟s family background. They do this to find out if there is anything that will prevent a successful marriage. They investigate to find out answers to questions such as these:
    a) Are they not relatives or from the same clan.
    b) Are there any communicable or hereditary diseases like tuberculosis (T.B.), leprosy, insanity or epilepsy in the family?
    c) Had there been any criminal record, e.g. murder or stealing?
    d) Is the family quarrelsome?
    e) Is the woman lazy?
    f) Can the man look after a wife?
    It is only after both families are satisfied with their investigations that the marriage can be allowed. In all communities in Kwahu, there is the custom of giving gifts to the bride‟s family, especially the girl‟s mother. There is also a presentation of drinks and an amount of money, but the money involved differs from community to community.
    The gifts to the bride‟s family by the bridegroom show his gratitude for allowing their daughter to be part of his, the bridegroom‟s family. The customary drink, the ti-nsa(head wine) of the Akan which is presented by the bridegroom seals the marriage. When there is a divorce, arbitration decides whether a bride-wealth paid by the bridegroom should be returned to him or not.
    · Types of Marriage
    Traditionally Recognised Marriage (Adehyeware): This is a type of marriage that is mostly recognized by Akans. Here, the man goes through the proper channel and performs the customary rites to get a woman as
    his wife. In this type of marriage, if one goes outside the marriage to have sex with other people, the other partner can claim compensation for such an act. This is known as ayefare.
    Suitor/Courting (Mpena Warε): This is also a type of marriage where a man has not gone to see the family of a lady to perform the necessary customary rites but lives with her as his wife. This is not endorsed by Akans but some couples in this category go to the extent of having children. If a partner dies, the other will not be made to go through a rite known as Kuna (widowhood rite).
    Next Of Kin’s Marriage (Kuna Aware): This is a situation where a next of kin (the dead person‟s relative) marries a woman whose husband has died. The next of kin can marry his brother‟s wife and take
    responsibility of the woman and her children if he so wishes. If the widow has already gone through such a thing twice, the man (next of kin) would not be permitted to perform the customary rite. The next of kin can only marry the widow after she has mourned her husband for a year, but if the widow does not want to marry again, it is permitted. If the widow agrees to marry, the next of kin performs fresh customary rites to nullify the old marriage and seal the new one.
    Slave Marriage (Afena Aware): This kind of marriage is no longer in existence and it faded over a century ago among Akans. This is a type of marriage that takes place between a rich person or a chief and his slave or house-help.  In this marriage, the man does not perform any customary rite to the slave‟s family but they continue to have children and they are called ofie nnipa among Akans. Such children are sometimes used for sacrifices if the need arises. If the lady/slave goes outside the marriage to have sex with another man, the chief /the husband may claim compensation from the slave but if the man does the opposite, the slave cannot claim any compensation.
    Awowa Aware: If a family owes somebody heavily and cannot pay the money, they can give their daughter to such a creditor to marry till they are able to pay all the money. If it happens that the man finds this servant attractive, he can marry her without performing the customary rites. But if her family is able to pay off the debt, the man may be asked to perform the customary rites to make it a proper marriage. The lady can leave the man if she does not love him and takes the children with her
    Bethrotal Marriage (Asiwa Aware): This is a type of marriage where a grown up man proposes to a young lady or a child (girl). Here, the man spends his time and resources on the girl. He buys clothes, gives her money and virtually does everything for her. When the lady comes of age, the man goes ahead to perform the necessary rites and takes the lady as his wife.
    Ayεtε/Nsiananmu: It is also a type of marriage where a lady from the deceased wife‟s family is given to a man to marry as a replacement if his wife dies. This may happen if the family of the lady finds some special qualities in the man. This normally takes place if the wife of a chief or a paramount chief of Kwahu dies. Another situation that can warrant this type of marriage is where the wife of a chief becomes an old lady.

    Kwahu Traditional Wedding
     A man, who wishes to marry, first discusses his intentions with the girl concerned. He has to make sure the girl will agree to marry him before he informs his parents. Finding out through secret meetings if they will marry is known as kasasie. The man then tells his mother or an elderly person about his intentions. His mother or the elderly person will in turn inform his father. If the mother feels that the marriage
    will not be possible for some reasons, she will discourage him. When the father agrees, an investigation will immediately start into the girl‟s conduct and family background.
    When the boy‟s parents are satisfied, the father through a delegation, informs the girl‟s parents about his son‟s intention. It is the boy‟s father who contracts the marriage. This information is known as kokooko (knocking ceremony). The announcement is made with a pot of palm wine or a bottle of schnapps. Some amount of money is added to the drink. The amount paid differs from community to community. The man may add some extra money to whatever custom demands. This is usually to impress his-in-laws that he can really look after their daughter. In some communities, this money is regarded as a (token gift) for the girl‟s

    The girl‟s parents ask them to go back and come later for an answer. This enables them to find out if their daughter agrees to the marriage. They also investigate the boy‟s conduct and family background. When they are satisfied, a word is sent to the man‟s family to come forward. It is the custom for a father to pay for the marriage expenses of a son. But these days, most young men give the money to their fathers for the marriage rites.
    The father sends a message to the girl‟s parents to inform their maternal relatives to send their representative to the ceremony. On the appointed date, the man‟s father sends a delegation to perform the rites. The important part of the ceremony is the offering of drinks known as tiri nsa (head drinks). In the past, it used to be palm wine, but now it is schnapps. The tiri nsa traditionally seals the marriage. Some money is added to the drink. The amount of money given differs from community to community. There is also a customary fee charged to be given to the girl‟s mother. Her brothers too are given some money known as akontagye sekan. Before the payment of the customary drinks and the fee, the girls formally called before the gathering to give her final consent to the marriage.
    After accepting everything as custom demands, the head of the girl‟s family pours libation asking for protection an d blessings for the new couple. He also prays that the marriage should be blessed with children. The rest of the drink is shared among all the people present to signify that they all witnesses to the marriage. Pieces of advice are then given to the couple. The man can then fix a day to take his wife into
    his house.
    Another important rite which can be performed on the same day or at any time in their married life is the amount of money which is known as ti-aseda or ti-ade paid to the girls family. This is what might be showing the man‟s appreciation to the girl‟s family for giving their daughter to him. In the past, the girl‟s family used
    this amount to pay any debt in the family. They believed that using that money to pay such a family debt would give her the peace of mind to enjoy her married life. Where there was no such debt, it was used to buy some property, e.g., a land or a farm for her and her future children. If there was divorce, the husband could claim the ti-aseda or ti-ade from the wife‟s family.
    The bridegroom sends a pot of palm wine or a bottle of schnapps to the bride‟s father for permission to take away his wife. The head of family pours libation with it and blesses the couple again. On reaching her husband‟s home, the husband provides her with food items to prepare a special meal for relatives, friends and other dignitaries present. This special meal is known as csεnka or aduane kεse (wedding feast). It is a marriage feast which is followed by jubilation. Traditionally, the csεnka was prepared in the bride‟s home and sent to the bridegroom‟s house where it was shared among relations and friends.
    · Divorce
    When one wants to divorce one need to sit down with the elders of both families and say the reason why that person wants to break/stop that marriage. The elders of both families meet to find if it is necessary for them to settle the issue that brought the misunderstanding in the marriage. When it fails the person who will refuse
    to marry will pay compensation. But mostly the men do not allow the women to pay; rather, they say let her go if she wants to go.
    Grounds for divorce are adultery, fighting, quarrel and accusation of being a witch. The person who breaks the marriage will provide the Kεtεasehyε (money) then the male representative will collect sand or ash and throw it on the feet of the woman. This is locally known as wagu no hyire.

    Traditional Authority structure in the Kwahu traditional area
     Kwahu Traditional authority structure follows the Akan (Asante) traditional system where each town within the state play administrative and conflict/war roles. The seat of paramountcy is from Abene, where the capital is located and they are from the etena/ bretuo clan. Hweehwee and Dwerebeas are newly created Towns; they stay with the chief and offer the necessary assistance.
    Twafo of the Asona clan in Kwahu guarded by Kwahu Tafo, serves as scout and are in charge for planning activities for the various wing chiefs. In times of conflict or war with other ethnic groups, it is Twafo who mount or map up strategies and direct the groups as to where and how they are to move. Administratively, if there is any message to be carried across, it goes directly to the Twafohene.
    The Adonten Division is the first group to protect the paramountcy. Twafo division, which is lead by Kwahu Tafo then informs Adontenhene and directs the Adonten Division which is from Abetifi, followed by Bokuruwa, Aframanso and Sadan respectively. They are from the Agona clan.
    If there should be any conflict or war, which requires the protection of the paramountcy, the Twafo division is the first group to act by carrying instructions and directions to the other Divisions. They then go with Bokuruwa, Aframanso and Sadan. But if there should be any message or administrative role, the Adonten division which is lead by Abetifihene will receive the message and send it to Bokuruwa through Aframanso, thence to Sadan group.
    Sanaa Division is from the Asona clan and is led by Nkwatia. It is mainly in charge of treasury and finance activities. If there should be any contribution or any financial matters about the Kwahu Traditional Council, the Sanaahene becomes directly responsible. He keeps the treasury of the Omanhene.
    Nifa Division which is an aspect of the wing chief is led by Obo, followed by Obomeng, Bepong, Asakraka, Pitiko, Dantey, Nkawkaw, Kwahu Praso in that order and are responsible of the right hand side of the throne. They constitute the Aduana clan and have a dog with fire emitting from the mouth as its totem. They are mandated to protect the right side of the paramountcy base on the instructions and directions issued from the Twafo Division.
    Gyaase Division which belongs to the Oyoko clan is also been led by Atibie.Administratively, they take care or protect the Omanhene and receive messagesdirectly from the chief or from someone who has been sent by the Omanhene to deliver a message. After receiving the message the chief of Atibie then passes it on to
    the chief of Jejeti.
    The next division is led by Pepease followed by Twenedurase, Nteso, Ahinase and Nkwantanang in that order who all constitute the Kyidom division and are from the Ekona clan. They protect the seat of paramountcy that is the Omanhene of Kwahu Traditional area when Benkum Division, Nifa Division and Adonten Division are away. They take cover and also send re-enforcement to help the three divisions.
    Kyidom is referred to as the supply unit. In terms of administration and relay of messages, the kyidom division receives information through the Pepeasehene who is the head of Kyidom Division. He then passes the information on toTwendurase, Nteso, Ahinnase and Nkantang chief respectively.
    Akwasiho is also under Kyidom division according to information gathered.
    They support the Gyaasehene to help protect the Omanhene and all who assist the Omanhene. Administratively the Akwasiho chief who has been raised to the same level as Gyaasehene helps to supply information to the rest of the wing chiefs who later send it to their subordinate chiefs.

    Customs and Tradition
     The Family (Abusua)
    The family system is very wide, that is the extended traced through blood relation. It includes the living, the dead and those who are yet to be born. This usually forms the family genealogy. This has made it possible for an individual to become a social being. The family system among Kwahus include: children (mma), parents
    (awofo), grandparents (nananom) and great grandchildren nanakansua, uncles (wofanom) and aunties (nakuma), napayin and nephews (wofaasenom). The family system in Kwahu controls societal relations between people in a given society. It does not allow one to marry a close relative.
    Local chiefs

    The head of the family in Kwahu is called Abusuapanyin and his spokesperson is called Abusua Kyeame. Fathers are known to be heads of families when it comes to the nuclear system. In Kwahu one‟s father‟s brother is also considered as his or her father. The children call their father‟s sisters as sewaa, on the other hand the mother‟s brothers are known as uncles wofa. The mother‟s sisters are known as napayin. Napayin is the eldest mother and Nakuma, youngest mother.
    When one gets married to a person in a particularly family, the parents of the spouse then become in-laws (nsew). The man‟s brothers call their brothers‟ wives as their wives and call the wife‟s brother as akonta. The sisters call their brothers‟ wives as nkuma.  The system made it possible for a person to literally have many fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters. The kinship systems even extend to cover the “living–dead” and the yet to be born children.
    The family/kinship system has made it possible for the prevention and solution of conflicts, disputes between members of the same family which is usually presided over by the family head. The family acts as an insurance system to support/assist the individual in times of need. When one suffers one does not suffer alone but with the entire family. When he rejoices he or she rejoices with his kinsmen.
    Kwahu Totemism
    The clan system in Kwahu has some common features like any other ethnic groups. The family has a vertical system which stretches vertically to include the totemic spirits, family spirit and the likes. In this way the family performs rituals to maintain the relationship with their deities (spirits). The clan has some animals or plants which are regarded as having special relationship with the clan. The totem is a visual symbol that mostly unifies the clan. Members of the clan usually regard these totems.
    · The Totem of the Bretuo Clan: The leopard is a visual symbol that is used to represent the Bretuo clan. It is believed that a leopard once turned to a man and got married to a woman. The leopard did not settle permanently with the woman. The woman then complained of frequent movements (mabrε ne otuo). This was corrupted to Bretuo. Another saying was that, the name originated as a result of people who were fond of picking mushrooms which became mire tufuo which was also corrupted to Bretuo.
    The Bretuo family were Akusiase Agosum and his sister Asiama Nyame. Other elders include Tutu Kwa and Antwi Kurufa Daaduam. The Tena siblings later joined this family at Kububiase (Ahensan in the Ashanti Region). Initially they settled at Pra, Ofe, Oda river Basins, Ayaase and later settled at Mampong and Seniagya. In Kwahu, the Bretuo clan settled at the following areas: Abetifi, Twenedurase, Pepease and Nteso.

    * The Totem of the Aduana Clan : The totem for the Aduana clan is a dog, with fire in its mouth or emitting fire from its mouth. It was this animal (dog) which led them to their settlement. They highly regard the dog, and anything that they say often comes to pass. It is believed that their mouth is supposed to carry fire (won ano yε gya).
    The following are curses when it is performed or done by an Aduana. That is when they go naked before an ant hill and also when an Aduana squats and sneezes three times against an ant hill.In Kwahu the Aduana settled at Obomeng, Pitiko, Obo and Bepong. The Aduana hold the office of Fotosanfoc hene in the Kwahu traditional area.
    *The Totem of the Asona Clan: The totem for Asona is the crow (kwaakwaadabi) or (Anene). It was mentioned that a gongong was beaten to announce the death of Nana Onyankopcn and they needed someone or a clan to go and wake him up. The crow went to where Nana Onyankopon was and started shouting Kwame, Kwaame! (God‟s name). Another clan said to the crow, let ears rest (momma or ma aso nna) which was corrupted to Asona.

    It is claimed that part of the Asona came from the Buno kingdom, Adanse Ayaase, Mankessim and Abuakwa (Akyem Ahwenease). In Kwahu, they settled at Mpraeso and Pepease. The Kyidom stool has been in favour of the Asona clan that is the post of the chief spokesman of the Asona clan. This has always been to the Asona clan from Pepease.
    *The Totem of the Asakyiri Clan: The vulture (cpεtε) is the totem for the Asakyiri. It is claimed that Asakyiri and Asona were brothers and sisters siblings and were known as Asona ne Akyiri which was corrupted to Asakyiri. Asakyiri followed Asona and settled at Bono Manso. The women adopted the vulture as their totem and the males (men) also adopted the vulture as their totem as they were calm, peace-loving. Later they accepted the vulture as a symbol for the whole clan.

    The Asakyiri is said to have migrated from around Lake Chad to the Bono state, and then founded Akyerεkyerε state with the capital at Fomate. The leader was Asone Nyansa. He made his people learn craft. They were defeated and annexed by Dankyira.
    *The Totem of the Agona Clan: The totem with which the Asona clan is associated is the parrot (Ako) which is noted for its fluency. Probably that might be the reason why Agonas are fluent in their speech. It is highly difficult to see an Agona who is dumb/ cannot talk.It is noted that Agonas hailed from Dankyira during the reign of Ntim Gyakari and also from the Ayokoc of Asante. There was a war between Agonas of Dankyira
    and Ayokoc of Asante as a result of Osei Tutu who was the Ayokohene, cut off an ear each of the toll- collectors of Dankyira.
    Kofi Agyei, who was popularly known as Okomfo Anokye, was then the chief priest (traditional) who commanded Ntim Gyakari to sacrifice a fair lady as a sign of victory over the Asantehene (the King of Asantes). Unfortunately the woman (fair lady) that they sacrificed was later discovered to be ckomfo Anokye‟s own mother who was used for the ritual. Okomfo Anokye then turned against Dankyiras and supported the Asante state. This time he said a leader or a general should offer himself to be shot as a sacrifice. The man who offered himself was Tweneboa Kodua. Because of the sacrifice, there is a saying that Kodua de ne ti agye Asante-man.
    Ntim Gyakari was unaware and thought victory was almost his so he was released and was playing a draft (oware) with his wife Gyamea when some slaves used to entertain them. These slaves had part of their bodies chopped off particularly their noses, eyes, ears, flesh of their arms and their haunch backs removed. They played music and danced to entertain the King.
    It was there that the King was attacked and beheaded. The head was taken to Kumasi as a sign of victory. The Asante king stepped on the head as a footstool. This saw the decline of the Dankyira state and the consequent rise of the Asante Kingdom. The Agonas are the occupants of the Banmu stool. Through marriage some Agonas of Asantes and other ethnic groups and Bukuruwa, which is now a state at Kwahu came to settle at Kwahu.

    *The Totem of the Asene / Asenie Clan: The totem associated with the Asene clan is Apan (the bat) which is their totem. According to Koranteng (1997:45), the Aseneε clan was founded at Amakom. They were the next second group that got settled at Kwahu after the Aduana. As warriors their appellation is Aseneε kodi Adcnten. In times of wars the Aseneεs are the scouts, they follow the Twafo group. They are always at the left and right wings at wars.

     Aseneε migrated from the Northern part of Burkina Faso and built Peminiase and other part founded Amakom. Some of the Aseneε clan in Kwahu first settled at Kεsepcn, Tutuso and Abetifi. Others went to
    settle at Aboaso, Baman and Agona. But through marriage and migration the Aseneεclan can now be found in other parts of Kwahu.
    *The Totem of the Ayokuo/Oyoko Clan:  The totem that is associated with the Ayokoc clan is the Hawk (csansa) which is noted for its rapacity. There is an adage which says that Osansa fa adeε a כּde kyerε
    amansan. It tries to exhibit its braveness by showing whatever it picks to the public by lifting it high. The Ayokoc clan is forbidden to eat Buffalo (εkoc) but in the past, during a severe famine, they were compelled to eat it. They were been laughed at for eating buffalo, which they were not supposed to eat. The people used to say Awe-εkocfo which has been corrupted to Ayokofoa. The Ayokuo clan from Kuntunasi in Kumasi during the war were the first to settle at Atibie Kwahu.

    Koranteng (1997:45), further stated that another group from Kumasi also migrated from Juaso to Pepease in Kwahu. There was a misunderstanding between the then Asante King Nana Opoku Ware I and Nana Frimpong Manso of Dampon who ruled part of Kwahu, Akyem and Asante. The people got married and also migrated to other parts of Kwahu. In Kwahu the Ayokuo hold the office of Gyaase.
    *The Totem of the Ekuona Clan: The totem for Ekuona clan is Buffalo εkoc. It simply means Massiveness. Once again Koranteng (1997:47) wrote that „it was a hunter who discovered a herd of buffalo εkoc which turned themselves into human beings‟.The hunter became interested in one of the female buffalos and took its hide. When they were about to return, one of the females could never discover her hide. The hunter finally came out from his hide-out when the animals left, and took the animal woman for a wife. The descendants therefore called themselves Εkocnafo
    It is believed that the Εkocna clan originated near Libya and also Kokofu at Bugyeikrom. The Εkocna clan founded Fomena during the reign of Nana Ntim Apau and Bantua who was then the queen mother of Fomena. The Εkocna clan founded Asckcre, Otikrom, Kwaaman, Faabaware, Sekyerεand Mampcnten. Amoakoa who was the ancestress of Εkuona arrived at Pepease from Fomena. The rest from the Tena Bretuo family at Kwahu and other members migrated and got married to other Kwahu citizens.
    Totems are sacred emblems symbolizing common identities. Totems which are visual symbols that represent plants, animals and sometimes natural items are carved or sculptured on a monument as a representative of a particular image of told stories about ancestors, animals and spirits. These are also associated with ceremonies. In totemic rites, people gather together to honour their totem. In so doing they use rituals to maintain the social oneness that the totem symbolizes.

    In terms of kinship the paramount seat in Kwahu is from the Etene Bretuo clan who is in a person of Daasebre Akuma Boateng is the Omanhene of Kwahu. The same thing applies to wing chiefs, sub – chiefs, elders as well as citizens of Kwahu. Apart from the Bretuo clan which form the paramouncy (Omanhene of Kwahu) the rest of the clan are Aduna clan, Agona, Asona, Asakyiri, Asene, Oyoko/Ayokuo, ekuona and
    each clan has it own Totem.
    Benson Nana Yaw Oduro Boateng, popularly know as Funny face, SWAGGON PAPA” others as CHEMU. He hails from Kwahu Abetifi, but was born and bred in Jamestown (British Accra).

    Religious Belief
    Kwahu people like all Akans in Ghana and Ivory Coast believe in the Supreme Being and a creator God called Nyame, Onyame kokroko. A lot of names and appellations have been assigned to him such as
    Omnipotent ,Onyame kokroko (Almighty God), Omniscient Ahuntahunu Nyame (The All-Knowing God and the All seeing God), Omnipresent (God is everywhere), Onyankopon (Great Friend). He is the creator and sustainer of the universe. As a creator they call him Oboadae. God is invisible therefore the people worship him indirectly through the lesser gods and other spirits and this led to the introduction of traditional religion in Kwahu Land.
    In traditional religion, there is a strong belief in the existence of divinities and lesser gods. They are called abosom by the people of Kwahu. Some of the gods and shrines in Kwahu Land include:

     Bruku Shrine

    Bruku is a mountain that is located at Kwahu Tafo and Kotoso. Because of its peculiar nature some of the Kwahu people worship the spirit believed to reside in it. It is a high rock projection which looks like a spine of volcanic eruption. Bruku komfo stands on the shoulders of men when performing possessive dance. This attracts people to visit the site. Apart from that, people go there to seek spiritual assistance in times of sickness.  Bruku komfo (priest) interacts with people. The chief-priest of Kwahu also consults it on important occasions. Bruku abhors water yam (Afase)