Ethnic Ga people from Accra in Ghana performing traditional prayers to Ataa-Naa Nyongmo (God) as the traditional priest (wulomεi) in ritual white dress holding two bottles of drinks about to pour libation onto Shifkpong (land) for the dzemànwọdzi (deities) who are regarded as Nyongmọ tsulọi (messengers of God and spiritual intercessors between humankind and God) as other ritual officiants (Wọlọmεi, Mantsεmεi, Wekuu Nkpai, etc) sorrounds him at Accra, Ghana. When gods and ancestors are invoked; as against when the Supreme Being and other major deities are summoned during libation prayer and worship.Thus, in Kpele religious thought, libation prayers contained three formal elements namely: invocation, prayer or supplication and libation.
The first part of the libation prayer which is verbal, comprise of the invocation of the Supreme Being through the appellations of His various attributes such as His bisexuality (Ataa, Naa i.e. Father, Mother). His role as Creator of the universe, Provider for the needs of His creations, Sustainer of life and the only One who gives Divine guidance to humanity through His messengers (dzemànwọdzi). These ideas are explicitly expressed in the following Kpele prayer text:
"Ofe Nyongmọ nibọ ngwei kε shikpong kε shikpong nọ tśei kε tεi, fai kε godzii, nudzii kε nibii krokomεi. Sεε mliŋ ni ebọ adesai, ni eto adsai adeng kε tsọ nonọ ni eha Ga hu bọfo…………..
Tśε Nyongmọ Mãwu, nọni ogblenaa lε no dzi nọni wọbaa nye wọtsu. Nọni ofèè ko daŋ lε, wọ nyeng he noko wọ fè, ni nọni otshiko taŋ lε, wọnye henii wọtsu."
This translates as follows:
"Almighty God who created the sky and earth and on earth trees and stones, rivers and mountains, valleys and other things. Afterwards He created human beings and He put all things into the hands of men and through this He also gave Ga a messenger (i.e. Sakumọ)………..
Father God, what you have opened that is what we will be able to perform. What you have not done before, we cannot do anything about it, and what you have not mentioned, we cannot perform."
Tśwa, tśwa, tśwa. Hail, hail, hail.
Manye aba! Let happiness come.
Wọgbèi kome? Are our voices one?
Ngmεnε ashi mέ? What is today?
Ngmεnε ashi họgba. Today is Sunday.
Niimεi ahọgba. Grandfathers Sunday.
Naamεi ahọgba. Grandmothers Sunday.
This form of prayer expresses the importance that the ancestors attached to the unity of the Ga people and some specific days of the week during their existence on earth. Days set aside for the benefit of both humanity and nature in the form of rejuvenation after human activities, and for the regeneration and reproduction of flora and fauna. As well as, unity that translates into harmony, cohesion, peace and tranquillity for the development of the Ga State.
Others can be found in Kpele ritual songs, which express the importance of Ga cultural practices to the contemporary generation of Ga people as seen in the lyrics of this song:
Ataamέi shi ha wọ. Ancestors left it to us.
Tśεmέi shi ha wọ. Fathers left it to us.
Thus, the belief in the role of the ancestors as founders and custodians of Ga culture and Kpele religious belief system as substantiated in the above Kpele song
Nii/Nuumo Sakumọ; Grandfather/old man Sakumọ;
Klọọte kotobridza akotobri; Great, great Sakumọ;
Odai wọmu oye; Sakumọ, it is good you are present;
Afite osaa; They destroy and you repair;
Abuo Tete ke tśei; when Sakumọ is called, he answers;
Ọnyanku afle; one whom one calls when in danger;
Oku ama Nkran. you kill for Ga;
Tete yee, tete yee; Sakumọ senior, yes; Sakumọ junior, yes;
Angula sro, Ashanti sro. Ewe fear you, Ashanti fear you.
The Ga people believe in the existence of spirits some of which may be good and others bad. They believe in the existence of a supreme spirit that created the world, but this supreme being has both masculine and feminine properties. Accordingly, the name of this supreme being is Ataa-Naa Nyonmo (God who is both He, Ataa and She, Naa) who is also referred to as Ofe - the one above all - or Maawu. While nyonmo means god, Ataa-Naa Nyonmo, Ofe, and Maawu are used exclusively only for the creator and sustainer of the world - the Most High God. Maawu has an adversary or enemy called abomsam who is the head of the evil spirits. Because Maawu is far away, he works through a system of intermediary nyonmoi arranged in a hierarchical order or levels.
There is also a conception of trinity which is quite different from the Christain conception of trinity. The sky, Nwei, is considered a male and the earth, Shikpong is considered female. The marriage between Nwei and Shikpong resulted in the birth of the sea, Nsho. This trinity of Nwei, Shikpong, and Nsho sustain life, Wala. The sacred day of Shikpong is Thursday on which farming is prohibited. The sacred day of the Nsho is Tuesday on which fishing is prohibited. Thus, the Ga people have two Sabbath days in a week.
The name Ga
The Ga people belong to the Ga-Dangbe group of Kwa people who inhabit the Greater Accra region of present day Ghana. The Kwa people of Africa include the Ga-Dangbe, Ewe, Akwapim, Fanti, Kwahu, and Akim and Ashanti. According to some legends Ga people migrated from Nigeria, others that they were part of Israel that migrated southward through present day Uganda, then along the Congo River, westward through Cameroons, Nigeria, Benin, Togo and finally to Greater Accra. Accra: the ancient city of the Ga people, is the capital of the Ghana. It is also the center of commerce and learning in the country, and it controls the intellectual life of the country as a whole.Ga is the derivation of Gaga (soldier ants) which according to Reindorf (1895, p.24) is the names of the big black ants which bites severely and are dangerous to the white ants. However, he noted that the natives called themselves Loeiabii (children of Loei). Of course, Loei is a Ga name for another species of dark brown ants, which meanders about in great swarms; invading houses, killing and devouring everything in their way. These marauding ants known to the Akans as 'nkrang", and whose aggressive nature were attributed to the powerful wandering Ga emigrant tribes; easily subdued other tribes as well as the Guans who were the aborigines of the land. This was the name ascribed to the Ga-speaking tribes due to their prowess and bravery in warfare, and the Portuguese due to their difficulty in pronunciation later on corrupted it to Akra (Accra).
Oral history of Gas
According to the folkloric sources of the migration story of the Ga in Gamashie Ashikwei (Origin of the Ga), the Ga people of Ghana were believed to have once lived along the eastern part of the banks of the River Nile during the reign of Thothmes II, the then Pharaoh of Egypt, circa 1700 –1250 BCE. This was at the time when the Israelites had settled on the land of Goshen, from the eastern part of the River Nile to its estuary. He postulates that the Ga were part of the Nubians that left Egypt after being freed from slavery by the then Pharaoh Amenhotep II.
Unlike other scholars and historians, Amartey tracing the itinerary of the Nubians indicted that this group separated into the Ethiopian and Ga ethnic groups after they had left Egypt, with each group following different direction. The Ga-speaking ethnic groups which consists of the Wo Kpele, Wo Krowor, Wo Doku and Wo Sagba were supposed to have travelled the south-western route by following the Ghazal and Jebe creeks, and the River Ubangi which eventually led them to Boma; a town in Congo (presently D. R. Congo).
There they sojourn for some time, before moving on to the Boni Island in the Niger Delta Basin. He further posits that while in Nigeria, these groups once again separated, with one part moving west to the land of the ancient Benins, while the rest moved north-west to Ife in the Yoruba land. He then traced their movements from Nigeria through Dahomey (now Republic of Benin) and to Togo where they settled at Aneho, before eventually moving on to their present locations in the then Gold Coast.
Even though these narratives of the origin of the Ga-speaking people depended mainly on the generics of oral traditions, legends, etc: it is obvious that names of certain places such as Tetetutu, Benin, Boni, Boma, Samè or Seme, Aneho and others have featured prominently in the migration stories of most scholars of Ga history. These assertions has been corroborated by people of other ethnic groups such as the Adangbe, Ada, Krobo and Ewe speakers who were fellow emigrants of the Ga groups in their journeys from Benin in Nigeria through Aneho in Togo, and finally to their present locations in modern Ghana.
BY: Kweku Darko Ankrah