Tag: Ga


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.*

Twi, Ga, Fanti or Ewe – lets learn!!

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Lost In Translation, an investigative documentary which aired a few months ago on OHTV highlighted a predicament in the British-Ghanaian community in the UK – we were at risk f losing our rich cultural heritage and identity due the decline of Ghanaian languages. The documentary highlighted a growing trend of British born Ghanaians unable to speak any of the local languages primarily due to their parents or older generation failing to pass on the languages.

So if you’re in that category – a British born Ghanaian unable to speak you mother tongue such as Twi, Ga, Fante or Ewe, then fret not because  help is at hand!

The Ghanaian Language School in London offers classroom-based adult language courses in various Ghanaian languages such as Twi, Fanti, Ga and Ewe. The courses are offered on a part time basis and you have the option of a 10 or 20 week course. The lessons last two hours and takes place once a week, so it won’t cause any major interruptions of you have a busy schedule. Alternatively, the Ghanaian Language School also the Coffee Shop course – where classes are limited to just 5 people per session.

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However if the classroom setting doesn’t appeal to you, the school also offers private tuition for a more personalized individual learning experience.

For those of you who have businesses in Ghana and wish to learn the local languages, the school also offer corporate courses and interpretation services for businesses, charities, government bodies and private clients.

So if you’ve always wanted to learn how to speak a Ghanaian language then this is the perfect opportunity for you. There are still a few spaces left so head to their website to register your place on the course now!

http://theghanaianlanguageschool.com/our-services/adult-language-courses/

 

Yaa Nyarko (@yaayaa_89)

Ghanaian Language School Hosts Workshop’s on 7 &15 February

Whether its Twi, Ga or Fante you want to learn this workshop is for you

Are you Ghanaian but can’t speak any of the languages? Are you Ghanaian who can speak some of the languages but want to learn more? Are you a non Ghanaian emigrating to or have an interest in Ghana and would like to speak the language? or are you simply someone who wants to learn a new language?

Whatever your reason any there is always a good one to learn the language(s) of a country with a rich culture and heritage.

The Ghanaian Language School (GLS) was founded by a husband & wife; Ben & Naomi Fletcher who both have a passion for celebrating their cultural identity. They run the school alongside three senior language tutors with a similar passion of the culture and languages of Ghana and bringing these to life.

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On the 7th and 15th February the GLS will be hosting Interactive Language Workshops. These fun and informal Work Shops will teach the basics of Twi, Ga or Fante  and inform participants about the services they provide. There will also have plenty of opportunities to network and sample some Ghanaian delicacies.  The Twi Worskshop will take place on the 7th from 6.30-9pm at Derbyshire House, St Chad’s Street, London WC1H 8AG. For those who want to learn Fante or Ga a workshop will be taking place on 15th from 10am -1pm and 2pm-5pm respectively at OneKX, 120 Cromer Street, London WC1H 8BS

All are welcome! You do not need to speak the language/s to attend.

Tickets are £32. To find out more or to register for this event please click here using the code MFGFEB14 to receive £5 OFF. Or alternatively call 07985 142 949 or email info@theculturalgroup.com . There are limited spaces, and payment is not accepted on the door, so register now while you still can!

To find out more about the Ghanaian Language School’s courses and events please visit their website: www.theghanaianlanguageschool.com.

Ben JK Anim-Antwi (@Kwesitheauthor)

 

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 Culture: No Vernacular…

KFCHow would you feel if you walked into KFC one day to order a chicken wrap only to be told they will serve anything but chicken?! Or you go on an aeroplane to fly to your dream holiday destination, only for the pilot to announce the aeroplane will not fly but taxi all the way to its final destination?! I will tell you how I would feel – I would feel conned, disgusted and disappointed. KFC without chicken and a plane that cannot fly?! Chicken is the core essence of KFC and so is flying for an aeroplane.

It’s the same sort of feeling of disbelief and disappointment I get when I come across a Ghanaian who has lived in Ghana all their life and yet speaks better English than any Ghanaian language. I have two nephews and a niece just like that. Speaking to them the other day, I realised they speak fluent English but struggle to hold a conversation in Fanti or Ga. Their knowledge or Fanti or Ga – which is their mother tongue – is only rudimentary. It does not go past “How are you”, “I’m fine” and “my name is”… Shocking huh? And they’re not the only Ghanaian kids living in Ghana who speak better English than their supposed mother tongue. There are many like my nephews and niece and this is deeply worrying.

A couple of generations down the road we will have a society that cannot speak its own language but can we blame these kids? They speak English when they are at school and when they are at home. All the literature they read is in English and all their favourite TV characters speak English too: Ben 10 speaks no Fanti or Ga and neither does Hannah Montana! The only time they get to speak Fanti is when their maternal grandmother visits or Ga when their paternal grandmother comes around and they also get a few hours of local language lessons a week at school and that’s about it.

Tom_and_JerryWe cannot pretend this problem just crept up on us out of the darkness, we should have seen it coming. I remember in primary school we had a sign on the chalkboard which read “No Vernacular”. Anyone caught speaking Fanti during school hours were punished, but I was lucky not to end up like my nephews and niece. Unlike them, I had a safe haven. I could go home and speak Fanti all I like. These kids on the other hand have no one to speak Fanti or Ga with on a regular basis, so uncle is going to do his bit to help them. Next time I speak to them on the phone, I will be speaking Fanti and nothing else but now let’s address this problem in a wider sense. Those in charge of drawing up the Ghanaian school curriculum have to take another look at the system. Local language lessons should be given more teaching hours or we can be brave and start teaching a subject – I would suggest History – in local languages. It makes much sense to teach the history of a society in its own language. It gives a better understanding.

Now let’s take a look at the TV stations in Ghana. Do not scrap Ben 10 or Tom & Jerry or Hannah Montana but work some magic with it. It would be nice to hear some of these characters speak Fanti or Ga or Ewe or Twi or Hausa, it can be done. I’ve seen Scooby Doo speak fluent Hindi.

Finally, I have a few words for Ghanaian parents. Please do not speak English to your kids at home. It will not make them any clever than the kids who speak Fanti or Ga or Ewe or Hausa at home.

Funny… I just tried counting 1 to 20 in Fanti and I am ashamed to say I’m stuck at 10! And I would think there would be a load of people reading this who cannot count from 1 to 20 in any Ghanaian language. It’ s a disgrace! We need to do better.

By Maclean Arthur