Tag: Ewe


Pɛpɛɛni, ntaafuo, eblutor and the prejudices we have of each other

A few weeks ago, there was an interesting discussion on Ghanaweb following Charles Agbenu’s article in which he castigated all Ghanaians who regard themselves as not being northerners for looking down on people of “northern extraction” in Ghana. Agbenu’s article was a politically motivated one but the issues it raised concern us all as Ghanaians and the way we think of each other.

One of the points of contention in Agbenu’s article had to do with the true meaning, or otherwise, of the Twi terms PƐPƐƐNI and NTAAFUO. This follows another ghanaweb columnist, Kofi Ata’s argument that the two terms did not, originally, have any negative connotations. Kofi Ata had written an article in which he said his mother had told him that PƐPƐƐNI came about as a result of Akans who perceived Northerners who had come south in search of employment as people who were truthful and did things “pɛpɛɛpɛ” (exactly or fairly). He added that they were referred to as NTAAFUO because they always moved in pairs like twins”.

regions of Ghana

regions of Ghana

Many commentators saw this explanation as very illuminating. This led to a rejoinder to Agbenu’s article that appeared the day after. Kofi Ata’s explanation of how the two terms came about was, indeed, interesting. But it had a few problems. In the first place, there was no way of establishing the fact that what Kofi Ata’s mother told him (Kofi Ata) constituted the unvarnished truth and was, indeed, how the terms came about. Other commentators said their mothers and grandmothers told them different stories. Some said pɛpɛni came about because these migrants were perceived as miserly (“pɛpɛɛnfuo”) and they were called ntaafuo because they bought similar items in the market as you would buy similar dresses for twins. What this shows is that it is only a properly conducted research work that can establish the correct etymology of the terms. The only thing we can be sure of is what their current usages denote in Ghanaian society.

Another fact is that no matter how the terms originated, they came about as nicknames for a group of people who never called themselves by those names. These people, having lived long in their new areas, came to know the names by which their hosts called them. They either did not like these names or did not care. Then there is this thing about nicknames. Even though they can be given to denote positive traits, they are most often given to denote negative traits.

Agbenu Charles also equated the terms “pɛpɛɛni” and “ntaafuo” with what he termed as their

Ewe dancers

Ewe dancers

equivalents in the other major Ghanaian languages. He said the Ewes call Northerners “dzogbedzitor” and the Gas say “senu”. The Ewe commentators went up in arms against Agbenu arguing that the Ewe term was not equivalent to the Akan terms. They said the Ewe term only denotes people who come from the grasslands or Sahara or a dry place and no abusive connotations are involved.

The Akans have a word for Northerners that can be said to be neutral: ESREMFUO (ESREMNI singular). The literal meaning is the same as the Ewe equivalent: people from the grasslands. Nobody who uses the term “esremfuo” can be accused of trying to look down on people from the North unless the person intentionally gives it a twist that makes it so.

The Ga term for Northerners, “Sanu” is said to be the shortened form of the Hausa greeting: “Sanu kede?” (How are you?) It is not, exactly, neutral.

13616_2014_12_MOESM1_ESMThe thing to be noted here is that any term used to denote some other people as different from us can, very easily, degenerate to a notion of “different and inferior”.  This is often so when it is the dominant and more powerful group that is marking the difference. That is why people have fought segregation (separate development) everywhere. And that also explains why the whites who come to live among us in Ghana do not quite like it when we call them “obroni”, “blofo” or “yevu” until they come to realise that we do not mean anything offensive by those terms. Even so, the supposed original meanings of the terms may not exactly be complimentary to the white man. The Twi term “obroni” begun as two words “(a)bro ni” (wicked man) and the Ewe term “a-yevu” means a cunning dog “the one who feigns niceness and bites you”, as Yaa Gyasi puts it in her much praised debut novel (HOMEGOING). I have not been able to find out how the Ga “blofo” came about. But, as with pɛpɛɛni and ntaafuo, the true origins of all these terms may have been lost.

There are other terms we all use to refer to each other whether for good or for bad. In Kumasi, there is Anwona. This is a corruption of the correct pronunciation of Anlo which is beyond most Twi speakers. The “nw” is a nasal sound as in the Twi “anwanwado” (amazing love). It has no negative connotations…

The Ewes call all Twi speakers “eblutorwo”. I have not been able to find out how this term came about. It seems the Ewes themselves don’t quite know how they came to call all Akans “eblutorwo”. If you ask any Ewe if the term is derogatory, they are quick to say it is not. But, again, from the contention of denoting otherness explained above, any term a people use to denote another people can easily degenerate to the regard of those other people as inferior. But, surely, Ewes do not regard Akans as inferior! Or, do they?

“Eblutorwor” seems to be the counterpart of “ayigbefuo” which many Akans will tell you is not

derogatory. Ga legend has it that when they were migrating to the present day Ghana, the chief

Homowo festival of the Ga people

Homowo festival of the Ga people

who had the royal stool in his keeping lost his way and gradually settled in what is now Anecho in present day Togo. When the Gas realised this, they sent emissaries to the “lost tribe” to retrieve the stool. But the chief of the “lost tribe”, known as Ayi, refused to hand over the stool. The emissaries came back to report this as “Ayi gbe” (“gbe” being the Ewe word for “refuse”). They said Ayi said “megbe” (I refuse). The combination of “Ayi” and “megbe” came to be used to refer to Ewes as “ayigbe”. Since the chief refused to hand over something that did not, technically, belong to him, he was said to have stolen it. This gave rise to “ayigbe dzulor” – a negative epithet that clouds all Ewes in the imagination of some non-Ewes. Whether this story is true or not, today, Akans join Gas to call Ewes “ayigbe”. Indeed, and one is more likely to hear “ayigbeni” or “ayigbefuo” than “ayigbenyo”. Perhaps it may be that the Akans, finding it almost impossible to correctly pronounce the word “Ewe”, took to the relatively easier to pronounce “ayigbe” even though the sound produced by “gb”, common in many West African languages, does not naturally occur in Twi.

Today, it is more politically correct to refer to the people of the Volta Region as “Voltarians” in an

Northerners of Ghana

Northerners of Ghana

effort to prevent the mistake of regarding all citizens of the region as Ewes when only about half the population are Ewes. The term also clouds the myriad differences among the Ewes just like pɛpɛɛni and ntaafuo disregard all the differences among the peoples of the three northern regions of Ghana. The use of the term “Anlo-Ewe” to refer to the coastal Ewes does seem to be of recent origin and employed mainly by non-Ewes. The Anlos call themselves “ANLOS” (nothing more) and their fellow Ewes also call them ANLOS (nothing more). Even so, there are still many Akans who think Ewes are a homogeneous group all of who eat “akple and fetri-detsi”. But many Ewes are aware of the broader differences among the Akans – Asante and Fante in particular but also and Kwahu and Akuapem.

An instance of the majority laying claim to what is normal can be found for the term that Akans have for minority (?) languages they do not understand. The people who speak them are said to “potor” and the languages known as “potorkasa”. Some people say the term is not derogatory and refers to all non-Twi languages including even English. Others say there is a derogatory tinge to it as it originally referred to Northerners who had come to Ashantiland and who spoke poor Twi– “wonmo potor kasa no”.

There is an Ewe equivalent, especially among the mid-Volta Ewes. The speakers of the minority languages there (Likpe, Buem, Akpafu, etc) are called “fiafialawo”. These people do not speak: they “fia”. The Ewe term is somewhat derogatory and is not used for major languages like Twi, Ga or English. There is a historical example in the ancient world. The Roman and Hellenic civilisations regarded non-Greek languages as unintelligible. They sounded “baaa baaa” to “civilized” ears. This is how “non-civilized” tribes became known as –  barbarians!

Ashanti Chief at Akwasidae Kese celebrations

Ashanti Chief at Akwasidae Kese celebrations

There are other prejudices the various ethnic groups hold of each other. Akans think Ewes like juju, they have low self-confidence, and they are envious of Akans. Ewes think Akans (especially Asantes) like money too much and like to boast of it. But the Asantes think it is the Kwahus who worship money and will do anything for it. Ewes frown on the display of wealth and will prefer the rich to keep a low profile. Akans say Ewes hide their wealth because they are afraid of being “jujued” by their fellows. The two prejudices fit each other and give rise to some cyclical reasoning. If Ewes dislike the way Akans boast of, and flaunt, their wealth, it stands to reason that they (Ewes) should keep a low profile with their wealth. And if the Akan prejudice about Ewes is that the latter like juju, then the only reason why the Ewe person will not flaunt his wealth is the fear of being done in. Of course, times have changed. Everyone likes material wealth and wants to boast of it when attained. Who lights a lamp and puts it under a bed?

Prejudices, psychologists tell us, are ready made schemas we employ to meet what we do not know. They are normal to the human race and found in all societies. Since they are often formed prior to any supporting evidence, they can lead us astray. It is when we base our behaviour on them that things can go wrong. And using them for political advantage can be detrimental to the effort of building a strong nation that benefits all of us.
By Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads.

*I want to express my deepest sense of gratitude to my Ewe friend who provided immense information on the Ewes during the writing of this piece.*

The Future of Dolls…

A Girl Like Me……and oh speaks like me too!

 

My little nephew once sketched a pretty impressive image of himself. A young artist in the making I thought to myself. But something else caught my attention on his drawing. He had drawn himself with a mop top hairstyle. I asked him why he had a Mohawk hairstyle while his picture had a mop top. I already knew what his answer would be, but I just wanted to hear it from him. “Because I want to look like Ben 10” he said. He grew up watching Ben 10 all the time. He would not watch anything else. On his birthdays, he would not appreciate anything more than a Ben 10 watch or pyjamas. Anything that did not have a Ben 10 picture on it would not have much of his attention. He once asked his dad to call him Ben!

This sort of behaviour is admittedly common in growing children. This is when they begin to develop concepts and ideas of what is right and what is wrong, that which is acceptable and that which is not, what is beautiful and what is not. And they do so by watching and observing what they see other people do. They also learn from the books they read, the things they see on TV and the toys they play with. These are the things that influence the way our children see themselves and the world they find themselves in. Children between the ages of 5 and 8 have been found to have a concept of beauty based on the kind of dolls they play with. Beauty for them is the tall, slender, long straight hair, icy blue eye doll mummy and daddy bought for them. That is what they play with day and night. And that is how they want to look! That little girl will have no other hair style but the ponytail her doll has. And can you blame her?! She spends hours caring for her precious little doll. She bathes it, styles its hair and clothes it. She sleeps with it and would carry it everywhere if mummy lets her. She loves it and loves the look of it. That for her is the pinnacle of beauty!

This issue is even more complex with black children. They are caught up in a perplexity of how their skin and eye colour and their hair look so different to that of their elegant dolls. In 2006, Kiri Davies, a black teenage girl recreated the famous Clarke’s doll experiment and documented it in a film called “A Girl Like Me”. This experiment sort to explore black children’s idea of beauty in relation to the colour of the skin. The children were presented with two dolls. Both dolls were identical except for the skin and hair colour. One was brown with black hair while the other was white with yellow hair. These children were asked questions like- which doll they would want to play with, which one they thought was nicer and which one looked bad. 15 out of the 21 black children questioned in this experiment preferred the white doll.

The result from this experiment is quite surprising. But why is this the case? This is why- Children turn to stick to what they are used to and have grown to like. If daddy teaches him to tie his shoe laces in a double knot, that is how he will do it, and he would not have it any other way! If uncle tries to tie it in a different way, he will let uncle know that is not the way to do it! If a child grows up watching Ben 10, that is what he will choose if he is asked to make a  to choice between that and SpongeBob SquarePants. Likewise, if a black child grows up playing with a white skin doll, that is going to be her of standard of beauty. And if asked to tell which one is prettier, a white doll or a black one, she will inadvertently choose the white one! So how do we as a people try to get our children to appreciate the beauty of their own skin colour? How do we make sure at an early age they appreciate and become comfortable in their skin?


Now will you please step forward Rooti Dolls! Created by Mr. Chris Chidi Ngoforo, these dolls are the answer to our problem. They are created as a real image and identity of us as black people- African, African Caribbean and African American. They have wider noses, fuller lips, long curly hair and they come in various shades of black. And these Rooti Creations Ltd dolls also come dressed in a mix of elegant African fabric and western fashion styles. So from an early age, we are getting our children to appreciate the beauty of African products and fashion trends as opposed to all the negative images we see in the media about Africa.

The genius of this product, however, lies in the fact that it speaks, and it does not just speak. It speaks a wide range of African languages! Its interactive! This doll is like Siri and Barbie moulded in a black skin. The children of many African parents are growing up with very little or no knowledge of their parents’ mother tongue. This is even more horrifying in cases where children grow up in Africa but do not speak any local dialect! They can only speak English! This product is the potential solution to the danger of the demise of Africa’s ethnic languages. Children can pick up words and phrases from playing with these dolls and this will serve as a building block to learn to speak and preserve our rich and beautiful African languages.

Rooti Creations Ltd have a range of dolls for every African country and can teach your children words and phrases in the ethnic languages of each particular country. So Ama, the Ghanaian doll can speak words and phrases in Twi, Ga, Danmgbe, Ewe, Hausa and many other dialects. If they demand is high enough, they may make one that can azonto! And the Afro Caribbean dolls can also interact and teach your child Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch and other European languages. Eastern European parent can also have dolls that can teach and interact with their children in Polish, Romanian, Russian and a host of other languages.

Now the solution is before us, so let’s start putting things right! Let us as a people save and preserve our identity as well as our rich and diverse languages. Let’s all root for Rooti Dolls!!

By Maclean Arthur

Edem is back again!!!

EDEM “Over again” Track Hits the Airwaves IN Ghana!!

 

EDEM’S latest single receives Massive Hype in GH..

Edem is known for his popular  hits such as: ‘U Dey Craze’, ‘Bra Fremi Fremi’, ‘Nyornuviade’, ‘Give It Up’ and many more. Edem has done massive collaborations with other Ghanaian acts such as Ghana’s pride Samini, the tongue-twisting Sarkodie, the ‘mad’ artist Kwaw Kesse and many more.

However his fresh new track ‘Over Again’ is receiving massive hype everywhere in Ghana – Tema, Takoradi, Kwahu, Accra. This tune was played and played, especially during the Easter festivities. There have been rumours that the official video for this song is yet to be shot again due to the quality, however that is yet to be confirmed.

The rapper uses pidgin dialect in the song which gives it that fierce sound, making it easy to relate to. I love the fact that Edem does all his music in the local Ewe language and he is the most notable rapper in the dialect at the moment. Yess! “ The most notable rapper”

Check it GUYS

 

BY CLOUDIA

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