Book Review: Traditions and Customs of the Gadangmes of Ghana: Descendants of Authentic Biblical Hebrew Israelites by Joseph Mensah (Houston: Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co., 2013.)
By Gyau Kumi Adu (firstname.lastname@example.org/ https://joewykay.wordpress.com/)
The thesis of the book is to demonstrate that Gadangmes are of Jewish origin. A careful distinction is made in the book between Jews (from the tribe of Judah) and Israelites (all the 12 tribes). Although, all Jews are Israelites, not all Israelites are Jews. Mensah writes “Most people have come to incorrectly to associate the term Jew with Israelite… an Israelite is a descendant of Jacob… The term Jew (Hebrew)… means a descendant of Judah.” This distinction is important since in the history of the Israelites, Judah became the southern kingdom, and Israel the northern kingdom. The central theme of this book is that the Gas hail from the Jewish stock.
One of the important discussions that no one studying the Ga culture can ignore is the whether they are from the Jewish stock or not. Mensah agrees with Ga oral history that the Gas are of the Hebrew stock. He further advances this perspective by pointing out that Gadangmes could possibly be from the “Gadites” tribe of Israel using linguistics. He writes.
They [i.e. the Gas from oral tradition] believe they are descendants of ‘CUSH’ or perhaps, Gad and Dan from the twelfth tribe of Israel. It’s fascinating to note the name of their King who led them to Ayawaso in Ghana is Ayi Kushi (Cush); and this lends support to their claim that they are Jews… It will appear that the letter “d” became omitted from the word Gad over several centuries. What we now refer to as Ga people is rather GAD people or people from the tribe of Gad.
In other words, the Ga are Gadites as the word Gadangme suggests. Probably, during interactions between this Gadite stock of Jewish Gas and other cultures, a transformation occurred within the culture. Eventually, a suffix was added to the word Gad: “angme”, making it Gadangme.
Another interesting thing about this linguistic historic analysis of Mensah is that it seems the meaning of Gad and Ga has a strong semblance. The Ga historian, Rev Carl Reindorff notes that the word “Ga” is coined from the expression gaga, “connoting black-ants or a marching army of termites which form military troops devouring everything that comes their way. History tells of a similar conquest by the ancient Gas. They destroyed armies that crossed their path.” Hence, the meaning of the word Ga connects to a military soldier. Interestingly, the Hebrew word ‘Gad’ can be also translated as fortune or soldier.
This position is further confirmed by the similarities between the Jewish culture and the Ga culture. For example, both the Gas and Israelites circumcise their male children on the eighth day. Again, both Jews and Gas count the year according to the lunar calendar of 12 months. The Ga writer, Hubert Abbey shares this same view that the Gas originated from Israel. Nevertheless, according to Addo, neither do these similarities tell us exactly where the Gas originated from, nor are there historical documents to fill up the missing link.
Nii Sowah, an elder of the Nungua Township, in a consultation I had with him on the Ga culture shed light on what I term the “language expression theory.” The language expression theory as he proposed, explains the possibility of the origin of the Gas from somewhere in North Africa based on the foreign languages the Ga deities speak when they manifest through human intermediaries. During festive occasions, a number of Ga divinities occasionally communicate to the local people in unfamiliar ethnic dialects ranging from North African countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan. Sowah believes that the ability of these human mediators to instinctively communicate in these languages point to the fact that these were foreign gods brought by the ancient Gas who once settled in those locations. For if it was not so, their devotees would not have had the ability to speak those languages. He maintains that it was during the resettlement of the Gas from these places that they carried away these gods. Therefore, he concludes that the Gas emerged from somewhere in North Africa where they had contact with the Jews.
Conversely, there are two inherent problems that this point of view posses if held to be true. One is the recurring problem of the lack of historical documents to fill the missing gap between the points in time where these particular gods were carried away by the ancient Gas to their present abode. Thus, if it can be verified by any archeological findings or historical documents that some deities from any North African country like Egypt who had contact with the Jews, were added thousands of years ago to the Ga pantheon of gods, then the probability of such a historical connection is strengthened. Furthermore, though there are foreign divinities that have been incorporated into the Ga pantheon of deities, there is still no record of any of them originating from North Africa. The consequent dilemma is that there have been reported cases such as the Acts of the Apostles in the Bible where people received the ability to speak foreign languages which they had no earlier contact whatsoever. Thus having the ability to speak any foreign language does not establish ancestral ties.
Nonetheless, this area still remains open for anthropologists to research into the linguistic connection between the language spoken by the devotees of the gods when possessed and the language as spoken by the people found in the areas of North Africa. More significantly, we cannot completely rid of these indigenous accounts as superfluous, since extensive research involves presenting a balance between the views of the adherents of religious traditions and erudition of academic work.
- Overview of Book
The book is divided into nine sections: (1). Origin of the Gadamgbes (2). Political System of the Gadangmes (3). Ga naming structure (4). Marriage, death, and funeral rites of the Gas (5). Ga festivals (6). Religious traditions of the Gas (7). Concept of Traditional Medicine, health and illness (8). Notable contributions of some Gas (9). A critique of the Ga culture. These nine sections can be regrouped into four areas: Politics, History/Biblical history, Sociology, and Religion.
I think the book is very revealing. It uses an interdisciplinary approach to provide a broad overview of who the Gas are, and various systems that the Gas have adopted up to date. I shall limit my review to only sections: (8) and (1).
(1). Origin of the Gadangmes:
I really enjoyed reading this chapter as it highlights very significant aspects of the Ga culture which relate to the Jewish heritage. For instance, both the Gas and the Jews have a civil and a religious calendar. This is something many young contemporary Gas my age do not know. I recently read a book by E.A Ammah, Kings, Priests, and Kinsmen, who also argued about this using the names of the Ga months and its linguistic similarity to the Jews. He writes that “Some old Ga names of the months are Adani, Abisani, Eluni, Bulani. Jewish names are Adar, Obib, Edul, and Bul; all are parallel. In English they are March, April, September, and November.” However, my difficulty with this analysis is that there is still a huge historical gap that has to be filled. For instance, the Historical timelines of events that puts the pieces together about the connection between the Gas and the Jews. This will strengthen the historical connection.
(8). Contributions of some notable Gadangmes to Ghana’s History and Development
This work is a very extraordinary one. It brings to bear very notable people in Ga history. I never knew that Dr. Ako Adjei was a Ga, and again I was very excited to read the profile of Azumah Nelson. These are some of the things I think the youth of Ghana should hear to inspire them to higher heights that it is not just leaving outside of Ghana that you can make it or that you don’t have to be a “blofonyo” to be successful in life. Many youth know don’t of these great feats of Gas. All we know of is heroes outside Ghana, not to even speak of Ga heroes. I my opinion, the Ghana Education Service have done a very great disservice to the youth of this nation by not letting the youth know of these great things done by Ghanaians. I will be happy that this section of your book be used as a primal text book to educate the youth on such great feats.
(2). Conclusion: The book seems to have a sharp and an abrupt end. The last discussion on the critique on the Gadangme culture is not linked to the main thesis in the book. In my opinion, it leaves the reader surprised if there is more information to be provided in the book as the pages are flipped. There are also many grammatical errors that made reading a bit cumbersome. However, the book is one I will recommend to anyone who wants to learn about the Ga culture.
Watch out for my other book reviews and writings on the Ga culture. My next review shall be on Kilson’s book Dancing with the Gods: Essays on Ga Rituals.
Gyau Kumi Adu – I am a sincere, self-motivated, versatile and creative young gentleman, who has extensive knowledge in philosophy and religion, particularly in relation to the African experience. I aspire to use my knowledge and academic experience to assist in developing and shaping the continent of Africa, and for that matter Ghana, through my writings on the Ga culture, Biblical doctrine, and other practical issues in life.
Abbey, Hubert N. Homowo in Ghana. Accra: Studio Brain Communication, 2010.
Addo, Emmanuel I. K. Worldview, Way of Life and Worship: The Continuing Encounter between
the Christian Faith and Ga Religion and Culture. Zoetermeer: Boekencentrum Academic, 2009.
Adu, Gyau Kumi. “The Concept of ‘Affliction’ in the Religious Context of the Indigenous Ga
People of Ghana”, MPHIL Thesis. Department for the Study of Religions: University of Ghana, Legon, 2016.
Ammah, E.A. Kings, Priests, and Kinsmen: Essays on Ga culture and Society. Edited by Marion
Kilson. Accra: Sub-Saharan Publishers, 2016.
Henderson-Quartey, David K. The Ga of Ghana: History & Culture of a West African people,
Hubert N. Abbey, Homowo in Ghana. Accra: Studio Brain Communication, 2010.
Mensah, Joseph N. Abekar. Traditions and Customs of Gadamgmes of Ghana: Descendants of
Authentic Biblical Hebrew Israelites. Houston: Strategic Book Publishing and Rights
Reindorf, Carl Christian. History of the Gold Coast and Asante Ghana University Press, 2007.
Nii Sowah, Interview, Tema, Sunday 5 July 2014.
 Joseph N. Abekar Mensah, Traditions and Customs of Gadamgmes of Ghana: Descendants of Authentic Biblical Hebrew Israelites (Houston: Strategic Book Publising and Rights Co., 2013), 4.
 Mensah, Traditions and Customs of Gadamgmes of Ghana, 8-9.
 Carl C. Reindorf, History of the Gold Coast and Asante, Third Edition (Accra: Ghana University Press, 2007), 24.
 Gyau Kumi Adu, “The Concept of ‘Affliction’ in the Religious Context of the Indigenous Ga People of Ghana”, MPHIL Thesis (Department for the Study of Religions: University of Ghana, Legon, 2016), 44.
 Henderson-Quartey, The Ga of Ghana, 58.
 Henderson-Quartey, 60.
 Hubert N. Abbey, Homowo in Ghana (Accra: Studio Brain Communication, 2010), 5.
 Nii Sowah, elder of NunguaTownship, Interview Sunday 5 July 2014. During this interview, Nii Sowah explained the way these language expressions of the gods through people they “mͻ” (i.e. Ga word for catch or seize) and spontaneously communicated through supports that the Gas originate from somewhere North Africa.
 Acts 2:1-6.
 E.A. Ammah, Kings, Priests, and Kinsmen: Essays on Ga culture and Society, ed. Marion Kilson (Accra: Sub-Saharan Publishers, 2016), 73.