Dancing with the Gods: essays on Ga Rituals by Marion Kilson – a book review by Gyau Kumi Adu

Book Review: Dancing with the Gods: essays on Ga Rituals by Marion Kilson (New York: University Press of America, 2013).

By Gyau Kumi Adu (joewykay55@gmail.com/ https://joewykay.wordpress.com/)


Analysis of Title

The book’s central theme is about important discussions on Ga rituals based on case studies she conducted on the Ga people of Ghana. The title “Dancing with the Gods” suggests two things. Firstly, that dance rituals (as dance movements) are very key in the execution of Ga rituals. In my view, this is plausible since many Ga dance rituals capture important aspects of the ritual life and process. Kilson argues that “Dance also was often an integral part of religious rituals. Dance was usually a communal rather than an individual act. The high point of most religious festivals usually involved some form of dance.”[1]

Secondly, the title suggests that Ga rituals mainly achieve union between mortal men and the gods. Kilson points out “The maintenance and restoration of order in the relations between God and man depend upon the performance of ritual by which mortal Ga attempt to establish contact with divinity and to achieve certain goals through this interconnection.”[2] Ga rituals are no exception. In fact, mediums (wͻŋtsɛmɛi) usually achieve spirit possession of the gods through dance rituals. Without this they cannot perform their most vital role of becoming communication lines by which the gods speak to the people. Ammah in the context of funeral customs reveals the way in which Ga mediums disclose the cause of death through the agency of dance rituals.[3] I have personally observed Ga rituals that emphasize on extended dancing procedures in order to let the gods descend (yishi) upon mediums. These dance rituals are a significant in maintaining unity between members of the community as well. They all sing, cheer and dance in unison.

A close look at the book reveals that Kilson’s concentration is rather on general theoretical discussions on Ga rituals than on dance rituals in praxis. Hence, the second point seems to be the more appropriate choice behind the choosing of the title. That is, dance representing the purpose of Ga rituals to achieve harmony between the spiritual and physical world, since they are not done in isolation; they are done in connection to the spirit world.

In my reflection, Kilson’s theoretical discussions on Ga rituals such as the Taxonomy and Structure of Ga rituals, puts her on par with scholars in ritual studies such as Victor Turner and Catherine Bell. Her writings have become very foundational texts, since these writings were done at a time that many people knew little about the nature of Ga rituals. What is very captivating is the comprehensive detailing of Ga ritual dates, periods, and events.

Continue reading “Dancing with the Gods: essays on Ga Rituals by Marion Kilson – a book review by Gyau Kumi Adu”


The Outdooring, Dedication and Naming of an African Child – A Ceremony of the GaDangme People of SouthEastern Ghana – Ganyobi Kpojiemͻ Vol 1 Book Review by Gyau Kumi Adu



By Gyau Kumi Adu (joewykay55@gmail.com/ https://joewykay.wordpress.com/)

Reflections on the Book

The primal purpose of this book is to explain three interwoven cultural practices of the Gadangmes: The outdooring, dedication, and naming ceremony of Gas. Although there are writings on Ga naming ceremonies, there is no book on the Ga culture that extensively deals specifically with the depth of Ga names this way the book does. The author’s exegesis and mastery of Ga names is incredible.[1] In fact, after reading the book I realized that if you take away a person’s indigenous name, you take away a person’s distinct cultural identity and heritage. Our names partly define us. Can Ghana be said to be Ghana after all the local names have been erased? Am I still a Ghanaian when I have a totally Western name? Can my lineage be traced if I adopt a completely Western name? Can I be an indigenous Ga and still be a Christian? These were some of the lingering thoughts on my mind after I finished reading this classic book.

The outdooring ceremony is principally one in which “a baby is brought outside for the first time (usually occurring eight days after birth).”[2] In the words of the writer, the “beautiful ceremony [is] to symbolically introduce a new-born baby to God… as well as to the mysteries of the seen and the unseen world…”[3] E.A Ammah, looking at its Ga equivalent word, kpojiemͻ, notes the following: Itis made up of three words. “Kpo” is “yard”, “dzie” is from ‘dze’ “come out” or “appear”, and “mͻ” is person[Therefore it] means to “take or bring the child out into a yard.”[4]   It is at this outdooring ceremony that the baby is dedicated and given a name (family identity). Hence, a child is not recognized as part of the family without the ceremony.

Continue reading “The Outdooring, Dedication and Naming of an African Child – A Ceremony of the GaDangme People of SouthEastern Ghana – Ganyobi Kpojiemͻ Vol 1 Book Review by Gyau Kumi Adu”

New Opportunity Ghana – Welcome President Nana Addo


Ghana has another opportunity to move forward as our democracy deepens. it must be a joy to all Ghanaians that we can now use the ballot box to effect change in government and not resort to the barrel of the gun. The fact is that military governments have done too much damage to the social, economic and political fabric of our country, more than most care to admit. change in attitudes cannot be enforced by well-intentioned decrees without the approval of the representatives of the people. accountability must invariably be to the people who appoint their representatives. there is hope for Ghana yet, many more years of democracy will gradually bring us to the point where each change in the colour of government must applauded and not celebrated as something historic. that is the guarantee of multiparty democracy. Nana Addo deserves all the goodwill from all Ghanaians for his elevation to be head of state. let us hope that he has vision that will be the compass that will direct his moves. he will make mistakes, he will make many mistakes, he will have to admit and learn from those mistakes; for was it not an american president – i think it was Roosevelt, Theodore who said – He who makes no mistakes, makes no progress! What we must pray for is some sort of continuity amid all the resolve to turn the country around. Ghanaians deserve the best and i hope that Nana Addo will deliver. i wish him well

what do you think?

Accra! Love it or Leave it – to Asase on Ga anti-Ashanti Xenophobia

Accra! Love it or Leave it – to Asase on Ga anti-Ashanti Xenophobia


I was recently forwarded a piece posted by good friend Asase on Say it Loud http://sil.ghanaweb.com/r.php?thread=11824875 and titled ‘What fuels the anti Asante xenophobia among Gamei’. He writes

“The purpose of this short essay is …… the visceral xenophobic jingoism that many Gamei tend to exhibit towards the Asante. I have known Gamei of all clans all my life.  From Nungua to Mashie and everything in between, I have connections to al of them.  My bossom friend is from Nungua.  Individually, one couldn’t have a better friend than a Ganyo. On this small forum, Gamei like Bikome, Otu, Wole, the late Commodore, Ataa Lankwei, on their own alone are all great chaps.  Of course, there are individual Ga rascals but overall individually, they are superb.  The problem is when they come together as a people. That is when the stupidity commences.”

My short response is that there is no anti-Asante Xenophobia and if there were, the fault is not with the Ga

Continue reading “Accra! Love it or Leave it – to Asase on Ga anti-Ashanti Xenophobia”

With Willie Abraham at Star100 RoadMap Ghana

Willie Abrahams with Ade Sawyerr
Willie Abraham with Ade Sawyerr

Yesterday, 18th October 2014 was one of those days. I had agreed to top a conference – Roadmap Ghana, organised by Star100, www.star100.org a group of young dynamic professionals in the UK who were celebrating their 10th anniversary. I had been asked to share my personal journey of the Ghanaian economy with them and decided to go as far back as 1950, the year of my birth.

My talk was focussed on the various stops and starts in the economy and why we desperately need our own long term development plan if we want to prevent the episodic intervention in our economy by international economic ‘rescue’ agencies such as the IMF.
This is what i remember saying…..
The euphoria of the 1951  CPP victory at the polls meant that the country had to immediately shift its attention to the social issues that faced the country and to start delivering social programmes such as the accelerated education programmes from which i also benefited.  The British had left us with about 100 educational institutions during the 100 years that they had run the country.  We in reality needed 1,000 in 10 years and that was what we got.  Without this programme we would not have been able to transform our workforce from a largely uneducated resource to provide them with the skills needed to transform a structurally defective economy.
By the 1960s we had realised that the structure of the economy – primary commodities – cocoa, gold, timber, export oriented economy would not be able to pay for our social programmes.  We needed some form of industrialisation that would add value to our primary products and really also to substitute  our consumer oriented economy.
Most of the industries set up were import substitution joint ventures with foreign firms from both the East and the West. Several were also about converting our raw materials into finished and semi-finished products. There was nothing new about state enterprises, there were several in the UK as well as in Europe.  In the absence of individual capital, economic theories in the 60s recommended government mobilisation of capital ahead of an economic takeoff that would deliver the people out of poverty into prosperity.
The seven-year development plan initiated in 1964  could have delivered this transformation through accelerated industrialisation using science and technology.
We never felt the benefits because it was aborted by the 1966 coup and for the next three years we were subjected to a process of ‘rehabilitation of the economy’.  This  meant that economic projects were discontinued whilst we received PL 460 american agricultural wheat surpluses to be sold to compensate our government for the coup.
The PP government that took over did well to try out productive measures to free our economic.  the liberalisation programme worked too well in our gaining access to a lot of ‘essential commodities’ that flooded our markets.  There was easy access to capital and credit for small businesses at the time, but the Aliens Compliance Order created a a labour and entrepreneurship crisis as productive African ‘foreigners’ were driven out of the country.
The coup of 1972 was unfortunate, the cries of ‘yentua yentua’ resulted in a credit crunch that undermined the successful agricultural Operation Feed Yourself programme, and clearly demonstrated that a refusal to pay your debts is no panacea for for economic prosperity – it is myopic.
In time Kalabule surfaced and drove a lot of our productive skilled force to Agege further hurting an economy that was dying for an impetus for production strategies.  Agitation from professional groups and students alike led to some changes in the military configuration from NRC to SMC1 and SMC2 and re-denomination of the currency and finally to AFRC and a ‘housecleaning’ exercise when the economy ground to a total stop for 3 months.  Absolutely no production and the destruction of one of the main bastions of our economy at the time, Makola.
The PNP that followed in 1979 were incapable of reversing these seizures in the economy and they struggled but in the absence of a planned programme for development things got worse.
And then the military came again to entrench themselves in 1982 PNDC – no plan but a mobilisation of the economy with rhetoric! Of course that did not work and though there was much mobilisation of students and works and communities under this socialist rhetoric, it could not prevent the Rawlings chain.
So off we went to the international rescue agencies again – structural adjustment, SAP, PAMSCAD, FINPROJ something or the other etc. etc. as if all the acronyms in the world would put our economy back again.
Vision 2020, a plan modelled on the way Thailand achieved economic growth was implemented
The adjustment must have done us some good because  it did bring some further agitation for multiparty democracy that happened in the 1990s with the NDC in power.
The economy improved then but we soon became complacent and started selling the state enterprises as if there was no tomorrow and most were sold without the much-needed transparency.

The elections saw us overspending and in 2000 when the people spoke again it was to usher in what some expected to be the best chance for real development.

The NPP   came in 2001 and went HIPC and succeeded in getting most of our loans forgiven.
The NPP did not look at growth – they were wedded to what the donors wanted so went for a poverty reduction plan topped by sourcing money from everywhere under the sun including chinese barber shops in the UK.
They promoted presidential initiatives that were not private and that have not been properly evaluated.  they missed the opportunity to invest in the people of Ghana but they opened that country to a lot of foreign direct investment that ensured that confidence for investors returned to the country.
They even re-denominated the currency.
A lot of diaspora Ghanaians started returning home to contribute their lot to the development effort.
Their efforts ensured that we found oil but their efforts were really squandered in not promoting the private sector development that they talked so much about but did little to implement.
True democracy was working in Ghana and by the end of the 2008, the NDC was back in government with an Agenda, not a plan.  they have bet on the oil delivering us out our problems but it is too early to evaluate that first period of the Mills regime and even to monitor what Mahama is doing except to say that after re-basing the economy and turning us into a middle-income economy – from less than $1 a day to about $3.7 dollars a day economy. all the avenues for cheap money are closed.  the economy is once more exposed to the whole world – it is not a bad thing if the investments will benefit our people.  Going to the IMF is a good thing, at least it is an acceptance that we need some assistance in reshaping our economy.  It would have been better if we had a long term plan of where we want to get to and how we want to get to it based on our distinct needs and not the interests of foreigners.
An economy in flux can be a good thing since it could benefit from disruptive activity that could release some innovation and creativity.  It is that disruptive intervention of entrepreneurs that creates value and not the measured management of technocrats.  We need a plan for the future that our young can work with and so this RoadMap Ghana which is our response to Senchi is a much-needed conference.  It shows that we are away from Ghana but very interested in its development.  It shows that our affinity to Ghana is not only because we were born there or our parents were born in Ghana, it shows that we are part of the attempt to assist in the future development of our country.
I hope that we find the day useful and that we are able to ‘Talk Ghana Proper’
I think, my introduction was well received, if i may say so myself, because it was really my truth about the development in Ghana and that fact that there is hope for the future.  We have not done badly if we compare to other African countries, but then that standard is very low, and we could do better.  But we cannot always blame our governments if we refuse to be community activists.
A gentleman sitting in the audience commended me for a forthright assessment of the journey but I did not catch his name or who he was immediately till I was having a discussion with his son who had brought him to the conference.  He was called Abraham.  So I asked him who he was with and he said that his father was called Willie Abraham and then in dawned in me that this guy who was asking me whether I knew Professor Tetteh Kofi in California was really the first African Fellow of All Souls College in Oxford


I left his son standing in mid sentence and ran to shake the guys hand and I was so star struck that I asked to take a photograph with him.
To think that I would run into this ‘Father of Consciencism’ in London, who at  age 30 was Pro Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana was unbelievable. He had left the University in 1966 after the coup and so I missed basking in his brilliance when I entered in 1968.  I can only imagine how my education would have been more complete if I had had the opportunity to have studied under one of the most brilliant scholars that Ghana has ever produced. He was so modest that he did not even want anyone to know who he was.
But I did the right thing and asked the organisers of the Conference for them to give me the mic again so that we should all applaud this hero of mine.
His response was that the conference had re-energized his interest in Ghana.
The story of this great man needs to be told to inspire the youth – that we can also count giants in our midst even when they are so humble!
Henry Abraham with father Professor Willie Abraham
Yesterday was a day well spent because I went on to listen to another lecture in the evening on Christianity and Gadangme Culture, an enlightened view by Reverend Odonkor, Chairman of the Ga  Presbytary in Ghana. Such an erudite presentation and in Ga too.

Preserving the past to inspire the future:everyoungjba.org – Ade Sawyerr

Preserving the past to inspire  the future – Everyoungjba.org

Increasingly I get excited when I see an old picture of myself at a much younger age; i am even more excited if the photograph is or a relative or relatives taken before i was born and this is not just related to the fact that I am getting on in years myself. I was fortunate to have met great grandfather, Thomas Barber, at his Kotokoraba Road house in Cape Coast where during my primary school days I spent many a holiday. As for my grandmother, Lucy Omolara Barber the joyous moments were several since I carried food to her at Korle Wokon after my lunch break, lived with her at Bawaleshie during some of my holidays and in my secondary school days preferred her company at Lagos Town than having to travel all the way to Akyerensua where my father lived..

ma lucy
Lucy Omolara Barber – my paternal grandmother

I probably spent more time with her than my own mum because she lived with us till i left to come to England.  I never saw a photograph of her mother, Diana Cole, who I am told died when she was quite a young girl, but i chanced on a photograph of her mother Naa Odua Sanniez who gave me my Teshie roots some time ago and would need to get my cousins to cut me another copy since i cannot find my copy.

Continue reading “Preserving the past to inspire the future:everyoungjba.org – Ade Sawyerr”

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”