CULTURE AND CHRISTIANITY – A Public Lecture by Rev. Dr. G. N. N. Odonkor

This lecture was delivered under the auspices of Gadangme Nikasemo Asafo in London by Reverend G. Nii Noi Odonkor, Chairperson  of the Ga Presbytery on 18th October 2014

ChristianityandGaCulture

Introduction:

Thank you so much for the invitation to share some ideas on culture and Christianity with you. For starters I want to admit that the topic is a bit broad and so narrowing it should be the way out. Culture is a way of life of a people and religion is one of the pillars of culture of a people. Since the context is that of GaDangme I will narrow the reference to Ga Culture. The Christian faith may have its different strands but I will be making general references to it.

Topic:

For me the topic is an attempt at reflecting on –Being African (Ga) and Christian at one and the same time.

How can we be truthfully Ga Christians? To answer this I think we should be guided by two verses in the New Testament:

  1. Paul’s admonition in 1Thesslonians 5:21-22. ‘Use your judgment, hold on to whatever is really good; steer clear of evil in any form’
  2. The Great Question/Confession: when Jesus asked the disciples the question of their life, i.e. ‘Who do you say that I am?’ (Matthew 16: 15)

I am sure God is posing this same question to all people at every turn of life and He expects an answer from all, the English, Americans, Japanese, Hausas, Scots, Ewe, Ga, etc.

Obviously, because of our common humanity there are things that we share with all the people but there are many things that are unique to each group. It is only by bringing our unique experiences of God together that we are able, to some extent, to appreciate what God is like?

Continue reading “CULTURE AND CHRISTIANITY – A Public Lecture by Rev. Dr. G. N. N. Odonkor”

Sixty Years of Ga Politics[1] – E. A. Ammah

I have been posting articles by E.A. Ammah, one of the foremost 20th century authorities on Ga culture and traditions over the past year.  This article, written almost 50 years ago, puts the present wrangling on who must be the Ga King in better perspective for most of us and explains in part some of the difficulties facing the traditional leaders in modern day urbanised Ga.

I do not know what the contestants and the many chieftaincy ‘eaters’ agents would have made of this article if they had read it when it was first written, at the start of the late Boni Nii Amugi II reign in 1965.  But i have learnt a lot reading it now and will welcome whatever comments that people would want to make on this  blog.

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Sixty Years of Ga Politics[1]

By E. A. Ammah

 The internal and external political struggles of the Ga people from the time that they left Nubia until they settled at their resting place of Ayawaso or Kplagon are unknown.  Ga history in Ghana probably dates from the latter part of the thirteenth century (1275).  Critical and comparative study of the history of Ghana suggests that if Ga people were not the first to arrive here, then they were among the first peoples who settled here in the 13th century.  The names of the Ga sovereigns from 1275 until the time of Ayi Kushi are not known.  Ayi Kushi is reputed to be the first Ga monarch at Kplagon.

Before discussing the past 60 years of Ga politics, we shall review briefly Ga political history from the time of King Ayi Kushi to the death of King Taki Tawia II.  The dynastic name of the Ga kingdom is Tunma We.  This House has provided the Ga kingdom with sovereigns down the centuries.  It is a great credit to the elder statesmen of Tunma We that the Royal House has never changed.

Apart from aggressions from neighbouring tribes in which Ga was always victorious, the internal history of Ga is one of incessant political upheavals, well-calculated intrigues, and treachery of the highest order, which were contrived sometimes by different branches of the royal family and sometimes by people outside Tunma We.

The first known stool-dispute in Ga history was the attempt of the Asere to take the Ga throne by force which compelled King Ayi Kushi to retire to the place from whence he came (1452).  We do not hear of any political turmoil until the reign of Manpong Okai.  From the time of Mangpong Okai to that of his grandson King Ofori, the political upheavals were so intense and callous that three monarchs were tragically killed; they were King Mangpong Okai, his wife Queen Dode Akaibi, and his son King Okai Koi.  After the sack of Great Accra at Ayawaso, King Ofori, the son of King Okai Koi, fled to the coast and established the capital on the coast at small Accra.  King Ofori eventually went to Little Popo and established Tugba Dynasty there.  It is important to state here that after the death of Mangpong Okai, one Dua Kwei championed the cause of the Royalists, he crowned Dode Akaibi; he acted after the queen’s death and enthroned King Okai Koi.  But for this strong man and the intrepid Awutu elements in the royal courts, the infuriated terrorists might have put an end to Ga monarchy.  The political history of Ga closed at Ayawaso with the migration of the remainder of the people to small Accra.

Among the significant political events which occurred after the Ga capital was moved to the coast and before the beginning of the twentieth century were the following:  After the death of King Ayi a great constitutional change was made when a female line was introduced with the enthronement of Ayi Kuma Tieku Bah son of Mangpong Okai’s daughter Okaile (1700-1733).  After the death of King Ofori, there were two claimants to the Ga stool, Okaidza and Tetteh Ahene Akwa; the latter was enstooled and reigned from 1740 to 1784.  This action of the vigilant elders of Tunma We had a devastating effect in Ga; the Gbese area was founded, Tetteh Ahene Akwa took the original Ga ivory stool to Little Popo, and Princess Momo married a Nai priest which created Amugi We.  In 1782, there were again two claimants to the Ga stool: Teiko Din and Teiko Tsuru; Teiko Tsuru was enthroned.  A civil war (Agbungtse) broke out between James Town and Ussher Town in 1884.  Taki Tawia closed the line of old Ga sovereigns (1482-1902).

Continue reading “Sixty Years of Ga Politics[1] – E. A. Ammah”

Essays on Ghanaian Philosophy – EA Ammah – Essay4 – Summing Up

Conclusion

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Summing Up
To sum up: morality or ethics means custom or customary.  It is interesting to note that our tradition and culture have indicated all the ethics involved.

About kple hymns, the main course which constitute the gist of this thesis, Dr. M. J. Field comments, “Some songs are in Ga, some in Obutu, some in a mixture of both.  Many of the songs are in the extinct Obutu language.  It is the Obutu songs which betray the greatest number of the dead gods, and it is the Obutu songs which show the greatest interest in nature—lagoons, rivers, trees, rain, and win.  The songs which are in Ga are hardly interesting or worth recording” (The Religion and Medicine of the Ga People, [1937] pp.16, 18, 19).

The excerpts above [by Dr. Field] represent the accepted views of many Europeans.  But from what we have demonstrated in the preceding times, it can be realized that those views are not factually and wholly right or true or not applicable to Ghanaian thought.

Dr. Field’s invective view or comment on [the] Ga form of Kple songs is unfounded—based on hasty and wrong estimation—or lack of proper information.  She, like those who had maliciously spoken against the Ga people and the language and are still spitefully doing so, has done a great disservice to the Ga people.

This is nothing less than ‘persecution.’  But as the ideal of the Ga people is towards peace and unity, they by nature “take pleasure in persecution” (2 Corinthians, 12.10); “and being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it” (1 Corinthians 4.12).  And the satisfying and concrete point is that most of the hymns which expound Ghanaian thought are in the Ga language.

It is a source of pride and satisfaction and a great credit to our thinkers that their thought is reflected or mirrored in the view that “the unity of all life, the mysterious harmony of the least and the nearest with the greatest and most remote, the conviction that life of the Universe pulsated in all its parts were so familiar to that ancient cosmic consciousness as to modern biology and psychology” (Samuel Angus, The Mystery Religions and Christianity, p. x).

Metaphysics is defined as the science of the first cause, of a cause which has no other causes behind it, or the science of the ultimate principles independent of other principles.” (The British Ency. Vol. 7, p. 161) or “The one unlimited substance” (Spinoza).  This reminds us of the Ghanaian notion of the sea.  A yearly recital on the feast of the god Blafo in honour, praise, and eternal bountifulness of the sea (Bosrobo) is:  The year has come round, “the sea is not dried up (Bosrobo nke ye da).”  

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Essays on Ghanaian Philosophy EA Ammah – Essay3 – More Beyond

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More Beyond
They knew that there is more beyond.  Those who were inclined to dispute about things beyond human capacity were admonished to “go slowly and not to doubt” (naa bleoo kaadze wane).

Those who persisted in doubting or disputing in vain were sharply reminded of the destructiveness of doubt as “Old doubt is killing us entirely (blema wanedzee, no nonn gbeowo kworaa).”

About the incomplete knowledge of the beginning of God, our thinkers were unanimous.  As to the origin of the earth they attempt at equaling God with the earth or in the words of the Yoga system, “He stands in an eternal connection with the most refined constituent of matter and is endowed with supreme power wisdom and goodness” (Ency. Brit. Vol. 12, p.25).  But on further reflection, they affirmed that “God speaks, Earth has no lip.”  In connection with the origin of the gods they were conceived to be guardian angels, messengers and sons of God.

But the process of the creation was to all the various schools of thought an eternal enigma, a seated mystery; no human reason could grasp or piece it; all that is known is that, the universe was created by God through his Son (the word or wisdom), Awi Tete.  When, where and how man with all his scientific knowledge is ignorant and shall ever be ignorant of these.

The process is known to God alone (see Job 38, 4-6), “who enters into the course of history and communicates the knowledge of Himself in a special way to a peculiar people” (Essays Catholic and Critical, 3rd. edition, p. 123).

The second part of the sceptic hymn refers to man and his environment or way of living as a social being.  The “no one teaches” dictum involves two suppositions.  Either there was unsettled condition of things generally or there were no teachers available to transmit the accumulated knowledge to the people in their generation.

In all probability it is the former, for this was an age of critical philosophy—of doubting even the existence of God, the unshakable belief which formed the strong hold of their philosophy of life, was raised.  The apprehension and fear which gripped the teachers deepened into indifference and suspicion, knowing full well that “old doubt has killed us, and is killing us.”  In all probability there were teachers available.

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Homowo – Asafotufiam – Nmaayem, 14th September 2013 at Colliers Wood

How time flies, how the years roll by, how things change but the time for annual renewal is even more critical.
25 years is a long time in the history of a country and for an organisation to celebrate 25 years of unbroken association and service to the community is definitely an achievement that cannot be understated, so it is with some pride that i invite you the 25 years of our organisation celebrating our festival in London.
i can still remember that rainy October day in 1988, at the Higbury Roundhouse in London when a group of Gadangme people decided that we had to meet to continue with the celebration of our major cultural festival and to plant the seeds that would ensure continuity for the next generation of Gadangme in the Diaspora.
so there were several meetings, but like everything Gadangme, there were disagreements and instead of one Homowo celebration as originally planned there were two, one at a hall in Ladbroke Grove earlier in the September of 1988.  But  even in disagreement the vision for a self sustaining educational and welfare organisation emerged and we delayed our celebration till October and what a time we had even on that rainy day. Continue reading “Homowo – Asafotufiam – Nmaayem, 14th September 2013 at Colliers Wood”

What is Christianity?

I was searching through a file my late father kept for me when i started secondary school. It included in the main receipts for payments that he had made during the period of the sixties and also my less than impressive school reports, a source of much aggravation during the holiday period when he sought to ground me and further pay for me to have extra classes.
I had retrieved this file from the family home the last time i traveled back home. i was surprised that there was a manuscript of a book dating back to the late 1930s that Mr EA Ammah the major authority on Ga culture had put together. I suspect that he must have been asked to review it.
I reproduce the document here for information. Scanning foolscap to A4 is not an easy task at all and it has taken me the best part of the morning to scan these 23 pages.
It is a long read, but it it a good read if you are interested in the vexed question of how the missionaries and the educated Ga sought to trample on our customs in the name of Christianity.
What comes across is that there was a conspiracy of sorts that in order for the word of Christ to be spread among the natives, it was important to turn their educated away from their culture. Sadly the same is happening today with several men of God of different sects, titles and hierarchies pronouncing on the culture of our people.
Mr EA Ammah was bold enough in 1939 to take them on in relation to our festivals and the Homowo.
I hope that other scholarly tracts would surface to inform this debate.
I also think that organisations such as Gadangme Nikasemo Asafo should bring a certain urgency to the work and help preserve some of these tracts for posterity.
Read on!!!!

WHAT IS CHRISTIANITY