Tag: Caroline N. Mensah


Review: The Future of Ghana Debate

The Future of Ghana Debate

Were you there?

 

As Ghanaians, do we have an obligation to keep our culture relevant within the Diaspora?

 From your perspective, what is the role of the Ghana High Commission in the UK?

 To what extent are the conditions of roads in Ghana an issue for the nation’s development?

With the above three questions put to an audience of people passionate about the development of Mother Ghana the stage was set for a lively debate.

It was incredibly encouraging to witness people (Ghanaian & non Ghanaian alike) turn out in their numbers to support this topical debate.

Upon arrival we were handed a schedule detailing the night’s events in addition to an overview of the panellists.

We had a mixture of young & mature Ghanaians among the distinguished panellists:

Twi Teacher, who has created a platform enabling Ghanaians the world over to communicate. This platform is aptly named ‘Twi Teacher’.

Mr Kobla Mensa-Kuma’ an architect by profession & Chief Executive of Kuma Environmental Design Limited.

Yaa Nyarko, the online editor and blogger the Me Firi Ghana team and host of the debate.

Ben Anim-Antwi, an aspiring writer / journalist extraordinaire.

Between the four of them they helped to field all sorts of questions from the audience whilst offering their invaluable insight into matters surrounding the Ghanaian community.

 

As Ghanaians, do we have an obligation to keep our culture relevant within the Diaspora?

The first question, regarding the obligation to keep the Ghanaian culture relevant as anticipated, created a buzz around the building. It was refreshing to hear young British born Ghanaians admit to the fact that some of them knew very little about the culture or the language but were keen to soak up as much knowledge as possible.

We touched on a common thread which was that for British born Ghanaians of a certain age who were not exposed to the mother tongue or culture that we were assimilated into a British way of life because our parents did not deem it essential for us to know Twi or Ga etc.

This not only created a language barrier between us & our parents as one person put it “We viewed our parents as being Ghanaian but regarded ourselves as being British

So suggestions were made as to how best we could combat this. The emergence of the Cultural Group CIC founded by Ben & Naomi Fletcher has helped to fill this void.

 

From your perspective, what is the role of the Ghana High Commission in the UK?

The second question brought about a very colourful dialogue between members of the audience & the panellists themselves.

It is clear that the High Commission are in need of raising their profile within the Ghanaian community, as only being familiar with them for their work with visa’s & passports is not enough.

On a more positive note, solutions were given as to how the High Commission, our gateway to Ghana could be improved. A member of the audience suggested that the High Commission send out a weekly or monthly newsletter to inform the Ghanaian community of events & work surrounding the Commission.

 

To what extent are the conditions of roads in Ghana an issue for the nation’s development?

Pot holes, failure to adhere to road traffic laws, vehicles that are not road worthy or the refusal by drivers to wear seat belts were all issues that I could see affected just about everyone who attended the debate on some level.

If you have ever been to Ghana, this would be an everyday occurrence.

Without the use of good roads it is increasingly difficult for lorry drivers to transport goods throughout the country. However, lorry drivers themselves have fallen foul of over loaded vehicles this coupled with bad roads leads to lorries breaking down on a regular basis.

With no real equivalent to the AA or the RAC, it is hard to get ‘said’ Lorries back on the road again so that the drivers can deliver their goods. All too often collisions usually involving more than one vehicle are regarded as a common sight on Ghana’s roads.

 

So how do we counter these problems?

Here are selections of the most common answers from the audience:

Lower the speed limit on the roads & motorways; a 100 mph speed limit on Ghana’s motorways is quite simply unnecessary not to mention highly dangerous.

Better road safety campaigns / education for drivers & pedestrians alike.

Here is a novel idea…Instead of the Ghanaian Government pouring money into new initiatives that seemingly never seem to reach their conclusion perhaps pouring some this public money into improving pre-existing roads would be a better idea.

The people of Ghana have a right to feel safe out there on the roads.

Full credit to the Me Firi team for providing assurances that they would take our concerns to the ‘Powers that be’ at the High Commission to bring about change.

Ben Fletcher kindly spoke to us about the Cultural Group, an organisation which enables individuals to learn the Twi, Fante or Ga language.

With closing words, evaluation forms & an opportunity to network Me Firi Ghana’s debut debate went down a storm.

Mahatma Gandhi famously said “Be the change you want to see”.

I believe this is happening with the Me Firi Ghana movement. The eagerly anticipated next debate will only serve to help us to grow & move in one direction together.

Nkonsonkonson – In Unity Lies Strength

By Caroline N. Mensah

Boys vs Girls…

Are the Ghana mmaa more in touch with the culture than the Ghana mmarima?


As a proud Ghanaian lady who is passionate about all things Ghanaian I often find myself having witty discussions with my Ghanaian brothers on topics that affect those of us living in the Diaspora.

As a result of these discussions it has become apparent that some British born Ghanaian males have no idea of how to speak their native tongue whether it be Akan, Dagaare, Dagbani, Dangme, Ewe, Ga, Gonja, Kasem or Nzema.

This has prompted me to ask the question:

“Just how seriously do some British born Ghanaian males take their culture?”

Whilst their Ghanaian counterparts, i.e. the Ghana mmaa statistically tend to take learning the language & the culture more seriously with the aim to pass the rich knowledge onto their future children, the lads who I have spoken to tend to make this a back seat priority.

Whilst I realise that this is not true of all males it is an issue that needs to be addressed.

I asked some Ghanaian males what they felt being Ghanaian meant to them. It became apparent that embracing the food or the support of the national football team, keeping abreast of the politics back home, reciting the words to the national anthem or listening to the infectious beats of the ever popular hip-life music made them feel more Ghanaian.

But what about the language?

Where does it factor fit into their lives?

In a typical Ghanaian household most girls can often be found standing by the side of her mother whilst her mother teaches her how to cook traditional meals. They converse on a daily basis in the native tongue. Mum might say something in Twi & the child will respond either in English or Twi.

Thus reinforcing the learning, but what about the British Ghanaian boy? What is his role within the home?

Sure, they might know one or two words, but can they string a proper sentence together?

A male friend of mine told me that:

“It is his belief that some males do not feel fully connected to their roots because their parents did not make it a necessity for them to learn Twi. Therefore they relate to a more British existence”

It is my strong held belief that the education of a child starts at home. With that in mind it is down to our parents to ensure that we receive a balanced education within our ‘fie’

The mindset of the English language being the paramount language spoken at home whilst the native tongue becomes neglected must change. It has been proven in various studies that females are better at mastering languages than their male contemporaries.

Is it a possibility that the Ghanaian ladies will be left to shoulder the responsibility of teaching their young children Twi or Ga to name a few because the males are falling down where the language is concerned?

As I have said before & will continue to say we have a duty (male & female alike) to learn everything we can about our beautiful culture otherwise we are in danger of seeing it die & that is something that we should not make a reality.

What is your opinion?

By Caroline N. Mensah

 

Ghanaian Naming Ceremony…

GHANAIAN NAMING CEREMONY:

When asked “Wo den de sen?”  Translated; “What is your name?” by responding with your name you are easily identifiable as being born on a certain day & also of your order of birth.

Let’s not forget about the all important naming ceremony.

Ghanaian_Naming_Ceremony_Me_FiRi_GHANA_dot_ComAfter an Akan baby is born he or she is kept indoors for eight days. The eighth day is the day of the naming ceremony, ‘Den to’. The first name received is called the Kra den or “soul name”, and is determined by the day of the week that the child was born. This is because Nyame (oun’-yah-may’) and Nyamewaa (oun’-yah-may’-wah), the Great God and the Great Goddess respectively, whom together constitute the Supreme Being in Akan culture, placed seven of their children over the seven days of the week. The child also receives its formal name or good/ideal name, ‘Den pa’, on the eighth day. The formal name defines the function of the child in the world as it relates to his or her specific Ancestral Clan and his or her potential for manifesting wisdom and influence. The den pa carries the vibrations that will empower the individual to properly incorporate Divine Law and restore Divine balance throughout his or her life according to Ancestral protocol.

Ghanaian_Naming_Ceremony_Me_FiRi_GHANA_dot_Com_2Traditionally the naming ceremony begins and ends before sunrise. It is the father that has the responsibility of naming the child, thus the family comes together in the early morning at the father’s house. The Elders invoke Nyame (God), Nyamewaa (Goddess), and pour libation to Asaase Afua (Earth Mother/Goddess also called Asaase Yaa) the Abosom (Divinities, Forces of Nature) and the Nananom Nsamanfo (Honoured Ancestral Spirits) to assist with the proper naming of the child. After the name is acquired, the infant is given to an Elder from the father’s side of the family who announces the kra den and den pa to the family for the first time.

There are two cups ritually utilized during the ceremony. One cup contains water and the other Nsa (strong drink). The Elder dips his index finger into the water and places it on the mouth of the infant saying, “When you say it is water, it is water.” He dips his index finger into the nsa and places it on the mouth of the infant saying, “When you say it is nsa, it is nsa.” This is repeated three times. This is done to instil within the infant a consciousness of morality-the necessity of always living in harmony with the truth for all of her/his life.

After this is completed gifts are presented to the newborn, after which the remainder of the nsa in the bottle is shared with members of the community. The full name of the newborn is spoken to each member of the community, and each member sips some of the nsa as a show of respect for the child and as a gesture towards the newborn’s health.

A meal is then shared by all followed by music & dancing – Azonto Style!

 By Caroline N. Mensah

Ghanaian Names: What does your’s mean?

Yewoo da ben?

What day were you born?

Adwoa, Kwadwo, Abena, Kwabena, Akua, Kwaku, Yaa, Yaw, Afua, Kofi, Ama, Kwame, Akosua, Kwesi

The Akan people of Ghana and the Ivory Coast frequently name their children after the day of the week they were born and the order in which they were born.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This tradition is shared throughout West Africa due to Akan Influence, from Benin/Dahomey (Fon) and Togo (Ewe), to the Ga, to other West Africans and throughout the African Diaspora. For example, in Jamaica the following day names have been recorded: Monday, Cudjoe; Tuesday, Cubbenah; Wednesday, Quaco; Thursday, Quao; Friday, Cuffee; Saturday, Quamin; Sunday, Quashee. Most Ghanaians have at least one name from this system. Ghana‘s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, was so named for being born on a Saturday (Kwame) and being the ninth born (Nkrumah). Also, the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Atta Annan, was so named for being born on a Friday (Kofi) as part of a twin (Atta).

Monday born children are aptly named: Adwoa & Kwadwo

Tuesday born children are named: Abena & Kwabena

Wednesday born children are named: Akua & Kwaku

Thursday born children are named: Yaa & Yaw

Friday born children are named: Afua & Kofi

Saturday born children are named: Ama & Kwame

Sunday born children are named: Aksoua & Kwesi.

If you did not already know just what Adowa, Kwadwo etc means look at the meanings below. Do they relate to your personality?

Kwesi & Akosua – Born leader, guide, protector

Kwadwo & Adowa – Calm,peaceful

Kwabena & Abena – Warrior, fierce, compassionate

Kwaku & Akua – Advocate, controlling

Yaw & Yaa – Confrontational, aggressive

Kofi & Afua – Adventurous, creative, innovative

Kwame & Ama – The ancient wise one.

As previously mentioned, birth order names have equal relevance within Ghanaian (Akan) society.

Males are given the equivalent names of their female counter parts.

First born: Piesie

Second born: Manu (M) Maanu (F)

Third born: Mensa (M) Mansa (F)

Fourth born: Anan (M) Anane (F)

Fifth born: Num (M) Anum (F)

Sixth born: Nisa

Seventh born: Ason (M) Nsowaa (F)

Eighth born: Botwe

Ninth born: Nkroma (M) Nkroma (F)

Tenth born: Badu (M) Baduwaa (F)

Eleventh born: Duku

Twelfth born: Dunu

Last born: Kaakyire

 

By Caroline N. Mensah

Christmas in Ghana: My Journey…

My West African Experience December 2011

Picture the scene:
“The bags are packed, you give your house the ‘once over’ to make sure that you have not left the iron on & then the only thing left to do is await the cab to transport you to the airport.”

 

Well this is exactly what I did. Once I arrived at Heathrow then got through the formalities of checking my luggage in & going through security I was more than ready to start my Ghana 2011 adventure. Suffice to say, Ghana our beautiful homeland did not disappoint.

 

Upon landing at Kotoka International Airport an overwhelming sense of being ‘at home’ came over me. I had truly returned to my roots.

Plantain_Chips_Ghana_Me_FiRi_GHANABeing as it was Boxing Day, Ghana possessed that ‘Buronya’ vibe which was cultivating in the air. Much has improved since my last visit to Ghana but there is still work to be done. The vast numbers of Street hawkers appear to be a big problem throughout Central Accra. That being said they are one of the most convenient ways to grab some plantain chips & other items whilst on the go. The main roads have had a much needed make over. However, once you come off the main roads you’re met with the familiar dust & pot holes.

Anyone who has ever been to Ghana will be familiar with the dreaded ‘light off’ situation.

Taxi_in_Ghana_Me_FiRi_GHANAIn my own personal experience this has certainly improved, having only been subjected to it on two occasions during my stay. Negotiating fare prices with taxi drivers was always entertaining. This is where the ability to speak Twi comes in handy. It is proven that taxi drivers are less likely to rip you off if you can communicate with them in the native tongue. Once inside the cab the incessant beeping of the horn to alert other drivers that the cab is approaching coupled with the inability to actually slow down would have you comparing your experience to that of being on a roller coaster. Complain as much as you want………….  These features give Ghana their charm. It is all part of the West African experience!

However, this is only half of the story.

It was so refreshing to meet other British born & American born Ghanaians who have moved back home to create a life for themselves in Mama Africa. The emergence of shops such as Bow Boutique located within the capital (1st Floor, Movenpick Hotel Ridge Accra to be exact) set up by British born Ghanaians shows that with determination & hard work one’s dreams can be realised if settling back home looks like an attractive option to you.

Ghana’s economy is growing at a rapid rate. The rest of the world has been taking notice of Ghana & our commodities for a long time now.

 

Asamoah_Gyan_Azonto_DancingIt has been ranked as one of the best countries to conduct business within West Africa. Not to mention the third best country to live in Sub Saharan Africa & the best in West Africa. The Azonto dance has gained huge momentum with hip-life stars such as Sarkodie, Guru & Buk Back producing songs to enable you to dance the Azonto. This has contributed to raising Ghana’s profile. Lest we forget that the success of the Black Stars has also helped to raise Ghana’s international platform. Ghana along with Botswana, are two of the safest countries within the continent to visit.

We’re making great strides where education is concerned but more can be done.
There is still hardship in our beloved country. The rich/poor divide is self evident. However, I couldn’t help but take away many positives from my visit.

My Ghana 2012 experience awaits me………………Mama Africa is calling.

By Caroline N. Mensah

Ghanaian Culture: Respect Your Eldest…

The importance of Elders within the Ghanaian community


Africans show a lot of respect for age & seniority. Typically within the Akan culture it is extremely common for a young person to address a senior male as Papa (Father) even if the elder gentleman is not his biological father. Equally, a senior female would expect to be addressed by a younger person as Maame (Mother).

Other names which signify respect toward an elder male or female would be:

Owura (Sir /Mr)

Awuraa (Mrs / Madame)

Opanyin (Elder male)

Obaa panyin (Elder female)

Nana baa / barima (Grandma / Granddad)

N.B.

Nana is also a title for a male / female chief.

When greeting an elder it is customary for one to be polite and ask how they are as an opener to any conversation.  Here is an example of a typical greeting:

Obaa panyin, maakye oo. Wo ho te sen?” Translated this means “Good morning, elder. How are you?”

Elders_Me_FiRi_GHANA_dot_ComIt is important to remember that quite often ‘oo’ is added to the normal greeting as a sign of respect, especially if the person is some distance away from the speaker. In a traditional Akan home it is not uncommon to have the grandparents living with the rest of the family unit. Elders are not placed in care homes, the responsibility of taking care of the elder members of the family are assumed by the extended family.

Each family unit is usually headed by a senior male or headman who might either be the founding member of the family or have inherited that position. He acts in council with other significant members of the family in the management of the affairs of the unit. Elderly female members of matrilineal descent groups may be consulted in the decision-making process on issues affecting the family, but often the men wield more influence.

Elders_in_GhanaFamily elders supervise the allocation of land and function as arbitrators in domestic quarrels; they also oversee naming ceremonies for infants, supervise marriages, and arrange funerals. As custodians of the political and spiritual authority of the unit, the headman and his elders ensure the security of the family.

To ensure that such obligations and privileges are properly carried out, the family also functions as a socializing agency. The moral and ethical instruction of children is the responsibility of the extended family. Traditional values may be transmitted to the young through proverbs, songs, stories, rituals, and initiations associated with rites of passage.

A typical scenario would be the grandchildren sitting around the feet of their beloved grandma whilst she shares with them her wealth of knowledge & experience.

Land is ordinarily the property of the lineage. Family land is thought of as belonging to the ancestors or local deities and is held in trust for them. As a result, such lands are administered by the lineage elders, worked by the members of the kinship group, and inherited only by members of that unit.

A network of mutual obligations also joins families to chiefs and others in the general community. Traditional elders and chiefs act for the ancestors as custodians of the community. Thus, in both patrilineal and matrilineal societies, and from the small village to the large town, the position of the chief and that of the queen mother are recognized.

The phrase “Respect your elders” goes a long way within the Ghanaian community and as such the elders should be revered for they laid the way ahead for us to follow.

By Caroline N. Mensah

Ghanaian Wedding Procedure

STEP 3

The background inquiry is made when the bride’s family knows nothing or knows little of the groom’s family. If they are satisfied and pleased with what they find out, they will send a list of things to the groom and his family to provide before they can marry the bride. This list is commonly made up of, but not limited to, the following:

a) Dowry /or bride price – often an undisclosed sum of money, 2 bottles of whisky or gin

b) Money for the bride’s father, 1 bottle of expensive whisky & a piece of cloth

c) A pair of sandals and money for the bride of the mother

d) Jewelry for the bride

e) At least 6 pieces of traditional wax print cloth for the bride

f) Engagement ring

g) Engagement bible

h) Shoes, headpieces, other gifts for the bride

j) Drinks, money and food for the guests that will be present to witness the ceremony

k) Money for the brothers or male cousins (if bride has no brothers)

STEP 4

Ghanaian_Marriage_CeremonyOn the set date the groom and his family, along with invited guests show up early at the bride’s house. The groom’s family sits on one side, while the bride’s family sits on the other side facing each other. Elders from both families begin the marriage ceremony with a prayer and introductions. The groom’s family begins by presenting the dowry and all the other items on the list one, by one. At each stage, the items are checked to make sure everything asked on the list is being presented. Negotiation is possible if the groom’s family feels too much is being asked of them. The bride is not present in all of these proceedings. The groom, although present, is not required to speak in all of these proceedings as all the speaking and negotiation is done on his behalf by the designated spokes person from his family.

Once everything has been presented to the bride’s family, the bride would then be brought into the gathering (she can usually be found sitting in her room awaiting her cue to come downstairs).
A decoy can be used to “tease” the groom, the groom is then asked to verify if this is indeed his bride.

Once he confirms, she is asked three times by her father if she agrees to marry the groom. She is asked if they should accept the dowry and accompanying gifts from the groom’s family. When she agrees, then the groom will slide the ring onto her fingers and kiss and hug her.

An elder presents a bible to both the groom and bride as a symbol of how important religion should be in their married life.

Ghanaian_Marriage_The_KnockingPrayers are said and blessings are given. The married couple is then congratulated and each elder in the room offers marriage advice to the new couple. Once all of this is done there is a huge celebration/reception where food & drinks are served. Music and dancing feature heavily till nightfall.

N.B. This can be a costly affair for the groom so should not be entered into lightly! The parents of the bride can make heavy demands of the groom to bring as much money as he possibly can to assure the bride’s parents that he is capable of looking after his woman before the father of the bride will even agree to give his beloved daughter away.

This event is steeped in our cultural tradition and such cultural traditions should be observed. However, cultural engagements can easily be turned into a circus, with the emphasis being placed on how little or how much money the groom gave to the bride’s brothers or male cousins. Not forgetting how many items of cloth or lace he brought to be presented to the bride. In some cases a sewing machine will be given as a gift from the groom to his bride.

In the days of old, the traditional engagement was a small affair with the event being witnessed solely by the immediate family only. These days the engagements are more like wedding receptions with just about every member of the family plus friends being invited along to share in the experience of the bride & groom.

Lest we forget that as previously mentioned the happy couple have not even made it to the altar! The idea of wanting to “Keep up with the Jones’” can take things too far in some Ghanaian households. Mum wants to invite everyone from Akosua studying in Ghana to Uncle Ofori living in America.

This is a growing trend in the modern day, one that I have witnessed on more than one occasion. Not just within the Ghanaian community, I have been to lavish Nigerian engagements where the feeling of being at a state dinner would be forgiven! That being said, the notion of love & unity between the man and his sweetheart should not be forgotten as it is the only thing that matters.

As the old adage goes:
Love conquers all

By Caroline N. Mensah

Ghanaian Culture: Wo Te Twi?

The importance of Ghanaian parents teaching their British born children their mother tongue

Wo ho te sen? Wo te Twi ?

Wo ka Twi?

Are all popular Twi phrases used in everyday speech for the average Twi speaker. Translated into English, the above phrases mean the following: Wo ho te senHow are you? Wo te TwiDo you understand Twi? Wo ka Twi – Do you speak Twi?

Jollof_Rice

Jollof_Rice

Speaking to fellow British born Ghanaians it has emerged that within many traditional Ghanaian households where Mum makes the sacred Jollof rice with chicken & salad as a traditional Sunday meal & Dad sits down to watch the football cheering on his team. They will strike up a conversation between themselves. Where they will speak in Twi. “Akua, aduane abene anaa? Ekom de me paa!” to which the wife will reply “Aane, aduane abene!” When the children ask mum the same question “Mum is the food ready? We’re hungry!” mum replies in English “Yes, the food is ready” The problem with this scenario is that our mother tongue does not seem to be spoken to the children.

Yet the parents will talk to each other in our native tongue. Being a Ghanaian encompasses many things, from knowing what your traditional name is based on the day of the week that you were born, to understanding the cultural rites that are performed during funerals, naming ceremonies and traditional weddings. Having an understanding of the language is equally as important. If Ghanaian parents are failing to teach their children Twi on the basis that they may get confused whilst trying to master English as well as Twi is wrong. After all, the children will learn to read, write & speak English throughout school, college & university so surely the ‘mother tongue’ should be practised at home. In the long run if the parents only speak the native language between themselves it:

1. Alienates the child from the parent when the parent is speaking Twi to their wife / husband

2. Leaves the child at a disadvantage (when interacting with peers who can actually speak their native language)

3. When entering into adulthood still not having fully grasped the Twi / Fante / Ga language successfully means they may not be able to pass the language & culture onto their children.

A group that has been successful in teaching their language to their young is the Asian community. I often see children as young as three talking to their mothers in their mother tongue. To have the capacity to speak another language is to have the confidence to speak to other Ghanaians without your parents having to speak for you on your behalf.

This also helps when visiting Ghana. It is a common occurrence that a taxi driver will know that you’re not a local and then charge you an extortionate amount of money to take you to your desired destination.

Ghanaian_Taxi_Driver

Ghanaian_Taxi_Driver

If one has the confidence to negotiate a price when conversing in Twi / Fante or Ga it is likely that you will not be ripped off! Thankfully the opening of Twi/ Fante & Ga speaking schools certainly helps with teaching young British born Ghanaians their language. However, the need for these schools has arisen due to the fact that young Ghanaians are perhaps not speaking the language at home disabling them from interacting with their parents and other elders within the family unit.

“The demand for these schools indicates that there is a movement within the young Ghanaian community to want to gain a better understanding of their Ghanaian identity.”

When attempting to communicate with the beloved Grandparents in Ghana over the phone (who may not speak English) parents can quite easily talk to Grandma or Grandad but when the phone is handed to the Grandchild to “Say hello to Gran” the language barrier is such that they cannot communicate with each other. One speaks in English, the other in Twi, Fante or Ga with both parties misunderstanding what the other is saying. Ghana has such a rich culture and should be celebrated as much as possible.

The UK is a cultural melting pot of different ethnicities, creeds & religions. That being said it is fair to say that not all UK born young Ghanaians will choose another Ghanaian as their soul mate. Whether their partner is of Caribbean or European descent it is important that the children they bring into the world have an understanding of both parents’ cultural identities.

If English is the sole language spoken within the home where one parent is Ghanaian and the other is of another nationality this may contribute to the death of the Ghanaian culture. They say that charity begins at home well the same goes for the education of our children…

By Caroline N. Mensah

What’s YOUR opinion? Have YOUR say below…