By Sheikh Mustapha Watson-Quartey
Quarteys’ all over the world are descendants of the Royal Family of Kpakpatse We clan of the Asεrε group of the Ga speaking people, which is one of the seven quarters (Akutséii) that constituted the Ashiedu Kεtεkε District within the Odododiodioo Constituency of the Ga Mashie Community in Accra. The Asεrε group of people comprises of five different clans which relocated to the coastal settlements of Little Akra (Ga Mashie) after the destruction of Great Akra (Ayawaso) by the Akwamus in the early Sixteen Century. Among them is the Kpakpatse We Royal Family, whose history we shall discuss in this discourse.
DIFINITION OF GA
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.
THE CULTURE OF GA LANGUAGE
Ga language according to Henderson-Quartey (2001, p.38) conveys oral traditions through which the history of its speakers are revealed, and the means by which the members of the society share their collective experience and knowledge through common bond. He postulates that since there was no existing written record of the Ga language prior to the Eighteenth Century, it would be difficult to know the difference between the forms of the language spoken now and say 2000 years ago. He, however, argued that from the archaeological point of view of the stages of human development, it is reasonable to assume that some form of evolution has taken place in the Ga language; either through migrations, conquest, trade, cultural assimilation or contact with speakers of different dialects has caused considerable modification of the Ga language. This in his opinion is the case of “the coastal town of Kpone, once Adangme, is now Ga speaking.”
The Ga language as compared with other spoken words in etymology according to Greenberg (UNESCO, Vol.1, p.304), is classified among the Kwa group of languages found on the African Continent. These classifications consists of the Kru languages, Western Kwa, made up of Ewe-Fon, Akan-Guan sometimes called Volta-Camoe, Ga-Adangme, Yoruba-Igala, Nupe, Edo, Idoma, Ibio, and Ijo groups. Commenting further on the evolution of the Ga language, Henderson-Quartey postulates that though it is closest to the Adangme and share a great deal of similarities not only in root-words but also in language structure; it has under gone some form of changes by borrowing words from the Yoruba, Guans, Akans, Portuguese, and English languages to enhance the Ga vocabulary.
For examples, words such as Okyeame (linguist), Asafo (company or troop), Akwashon (corrupted form of eku eson – council of seven), bitim, odono, atumpam (types of drums), pleko (iron nail), nklakla (light soup), ampeshi (boiled plantain), etc. Besides, in Ga religious expressions, mpai (libation), otutu (a mound of shrine) etc, are also of Akan origin. While asapatre (Shoe), goa (Guava), dashi (Bribe), gudiimin (Good Evening), moonimooni (Good Morning), feesi (First) are corrupted forms of Portuguese and English words respectively. Of course, the Guans also on the other hand, had contributed extensively to the lexicological development of the modern Ga language through the formal principles of inflexion of Ga words; and grammatical features such as the usage of verb forms for the present progressive and the future tenses, which are not found in the Adangme verb forms.
ORIGIN OF THE GA-SPEAKING PEOPLE
The origin of the Ga-speaking ethnic groups from the early Sixteenth Century in the then Gold Coast has been a subject of controversy, since various scholars have given different versions of their migration stories. Most of these narrations are based on oral traditions, myths, legends, folklores, music, religious songs and many other sources; including archaeological findings. Reindorf (1895, p.18) in tracing the origin of the Ga indicates that F. Romer, a Dutch resident of the Christiansborg in about the middle of the Eighteenth Century states, “that the Gold Coast was once part of the western division of the territory of the Emperor of Benin.” To buttress this point, Romer further argues that, “the insignia of the kings of the Akras were like those used in Benin, and most of their religious ceremonies, e.g. killing the sacrificial animals with sharp stones instead of knives, in order not to avoid defiling them, were also used in Akra.”
Corroborating Romer’s assertion, Henderson-Quartey (2001), citing from the work of Bruce-Myers (1927, pp.70-72) quoted him as saying, “the Gas came all the way from the central part of the Continent…and they are kinsmen to the Benins, who by their own choice, kept back in the course of the migration.” This gives credence to the assumption that the Ga ethnic groups were once part of the people of Benin from the mid-western part of Nigeria. Existing traditional accounts of the origin of the Ga according to Reindorf, indicates that the ancestors of the tribes of Akras, Late, Obutu and Mowure are said to have emigrated from the sea, arriving at the coast tribe after tribe.” These tribes he believe arrived together with the Adangbes either from Tetetutu or from Samè, located beyond the Volta in the east, and situated between two rivers.
Field (1937, p.142) associating with Reindorf noted that the Ga speaking emigrants began to arrive and settle among the lagoon-worshipping Kpéshi aborigines probably at the end of the sixteenth century. She argued that these were emigrant refugee families of the Ga Boni, Ga Wo, Ga Mashie and the Obutu fleeing in separate parties from Tetetutu and other Benin parts, probably travelling along the beach, and eventually settled along the coastlines of the Gulf of Guinea, in the Greater Accra region. Henderson-Quartey on his part noted that the Ga Mashi, Ga Wo, and the Ga Boni in association with some Guan groups having formed part of the emigrants that re-grouped at Tetetutu, crossed over from the east of the Volta into the Accra Plains.
On the contrary, Amartey (1991, pp.13-14) narrating from oral traditions or folkloric sources gave a different version of the migration story of the Ga in Gamεi Ashikwέi (Origin of the Ga). According to him, historically, the Ga 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.
Commenting on the above assertions, Field (1937, p.72) intimates that, “when the Ga-speaking emigrants arrived in the Gold Coast, neither they nor the aborigines had any military organization and since they were all farmers, the newcomers settled peaceably among them wherever there was a vacant territory. However, because much of the land was of thick bush inhabited by wild and dangerous animals, hunters who opened up tracts of these forests were recognized as owners of such places.” Consequently, these extended family groups comprising of both emigrants and aborigines either through intermarriages or through assimilation, formed settlements that lived by farming and to some extent hunting. In order to protect themselves from slave raiding that has become rife, these settlements which were threatened with extinction, had to combine forces to establish towns for mutual protection; and the setting up of military organizations to fight off these invaders.
Stride and Ifeka (1971, p.203) while corroborating these assertions of Field, further noted that it was at the end of the Fifteenth Century that the social organizations of the Ga towns began to change. This in their view began with the establishment of a more centralized administration system, and military companies (Asafoi) under captains (Asafoiatsεmεi) that played prominent and important roles in the maintenance of law and order, as well as governance of these towns.
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF GA COASTAL TOWNS
Ga is the name applied to a particular ethnic group of people living along the shoreline of the Gulf of Guinea. This Ga settlement areas is bounded on the East by the Tshemu lagoon near Tema, on the West by the Sakumofio River, the North by Akuapem Mountains and the South by the Gulf of Guinea. According to Reindorf (1895) the coastal towns established by the Ga-Adangbe speaking emigrants who arrived from Aneho, Benin, Boni and Boma to the Gold Coast in the early sixteenth century, stretches from Lanŋma (Mt. Cook Loaf) to Fla i.e. the Volta Basin along the shorelines of the coast of the Gulf of Guinea. Among which are Ngleshi (James Town), Kinka (Ussher Town), Osu (Christiansburg), La (Labadi), Teshie, Nungua (Little Ningo), and Tema.
Corroborating Reindorf assertions, Field (1937, pp.1-2) and Kilson (1971, pp.9-10) discussing the geographical locations of the Ga described the areas they occupied along the coast; with the sea and the sharply rising Akwapem mountains as its Southern and North boundaries. While, they asserted that the Densu River and the Laloi lagoon with their tributaries coming down from Aburi in the Akwapem range, served as the Western and Eastern boundaries respectively. They further indicated that the coastal towns established by the wandering Ga tribes from west to east are Accra, Osu, Labadi, Teshie, Nungua, Tema and Kpong.
Henderson-Quartey on his part observed that, prior to the Ga domination of the Accra Plains the Guan settlements within these areas might have been considerable. Since most of their towns scattered along the coast from Lanŋma (Mt. Cook Loaf) to Tungma (Ussher Town) and other places, were taken over by the various wandering Ga tribes. Examples of these are Tema, which absorbed an old Kpéshi town, Nungua annexing Lashbii lands, La founded partly by both Ga and La Boni people. While Akuŋmadzei one of the seven quarters of Ga Mashie community was of Guan origin.
In view of this, each of these towns were independent from one another; had its own strip of territory which begins from Legon, Okaikoi, Lanŋma, Adzangote, etc. These areas stretched northwards to the boundaries of the plains of Accra and were under the control of their own governments and administrations. Confirming the extent of the Guan settlements, Reindorf noted that, the aboriginal race all along the coast and inland were nearly all of the Guan, Kyerepong, Lé and Ahanta tribes, speaking different dialects of the Ahanta, Obutu, Kyerepong, Late and Kpéshi languages. According to him, these indigenes seem to have extended from Asini down to Tema, thence to the Volta.
This assertion has been upheld by Kilson (1971, p.24) in her ethnographic study of the Ga, and had indicated that the shikwεεbii (aborigines) of the Ga countryside were the Kpéshi people, whose dialects have survived only in the Kpele religious songs of worship and festivals. Thus, the arrival of the refugee emigrant families changed the landscape when the people of Wo Sagba, Wo Doku, Wo Krowor and Wo Kpele established the coastal towns of Ga Mashie, La Boni, Nungua, Tema and later on Osu and Teshie respectively.
The above historical narrations by these scholars points to the fact that the Ga coastal towns were established through the amalgamation of different tribes comprising of both indigenes and emigrants, with the sole aim of protecting themselves from extinction by invaders from the hinterland. Although the Ga ethnic groups spearheaded the establishment of these six coastal towns, each has its own system of government and administration as well as social structures and organizations, without control from any central authority as found in other places. However, despite the independence of these towns they unite in times of war to protect their common interest.
GA STATE AND SOCIETY
The Ga Mashie community of the Ashiedu Kεtεkε District of the Greater Accra region is believed to have been established by the Wo Sagba group of the Ga-speaking emigrants that begin to arrived and settled among the lagoon-worshipping Kpéshi aborigines in the hinterlands and along the coast, probably at the end of the Seventeenth Century. Henderson-Quartey (2001) indicates that it has been widely accepted that the Guans preceded the Ga in settling along the coast of Accra, the duration of which Ga historians have not been able to determine. According to him, the Ga refers to the Guans as Shitsε mεi (landowners) and on this basis, acknowledged seniority to them for being first to settle in the territory.
He further noted that the Ga assimilation of the indigenous religion of the Shitsε mεi (landowners), clearly showed there was some form of Guan culture in existence before the arrival of the Ga-speaking people. Field on her part, states that these group of Ga emigrants mainly fishermen, consist of seven families led by Nii Tete and Nii Moi: Wọlọmεi of the Nai and Onyeni deities respectively. She further posits that the Nai We people who were worshippers of the Nai deity established their settlement at Tuŋmatε, the present site of the Ussher Fort. While the Onyeni deity-worshipping group led by Nii Moi, settled behind the cliffs of the James Fort, which was later on built by an English trading company in 1672.
Having corroborated the assertion of Field about the earliest Ga-speaking emigrants of the Ga Mashie community along the coast of Accra, Henderson-Quartey further indicated that apart from the Ga coastal community, the Ga Mashie inland community could be about four times that of its present littoral area with most of the surrounding hills having big towns on them. These settlements, according to him were bound on the west by the Densu River and stretched eastward from the hills of Weija and Kplagon to the Laloi River in the Shai Plains could boast of some stone buildings with extensive iron works. While Ozanne (1962) also noted that archaeological findings from the middens or organized refuse dumps stretching from the Nsaki River and across the village of Amanfro in the present Ga-West district have revealed large quantities of pottery and iron slag from foundries as evidence of the advancement of this community.
In view of this, Europeans have described both the coastal and inland towns of the Ga Mashie community as the Kingdom of Akkra. Meanwhile, Astley (1968, pp.615-616) in describing the Ga towns said “It stands six leagues inland, and it is called Great Akkra to distinguish it from Little Akkra situated on the coast, half way between Kormantin and Rio Volta. Little Akkra is middlemost of the maritime villages in this kingdom; the other two are Soko (Tsoko) to the West and Orsoko (Osukoo, i.e. Osu Forest) to the East.”
Though the early Ga settlement were initially under the leadership and directions of Wolomei and gbaloi (prophets), these settlements were patterned on Akan military organization as the territorial expansion needed strong defence against invading forces from the Fantes (efa te wu fo) on the West, and the Akyem and Akwamu to the North. As a result, government became more centralized and military companies (asafoi) under captains (Asafoiatsεmεi) played crucial roles in the administration of these towns. Nonetheless, the Nai Wọlọmọ remained the senior Wọlọmọ with supreme authority over the Ga Mashie community: though he could not associate himself with temporal affairs of the community, being a holy man charged with spiritual duties and the welfare of his people.
THE GROWTH OF MODERN ACCRA
The Ga Mashie community as it is known today comprise of the seven Akutséii (quarters) made up of Asεrε, Sempi, Abola, Gbεsε, Akuŋmadzei, Otublohum (Otubronu i.e. Otu’s area) and Ngleshi Alata (Jamestown). These are divisions of the community jointly established by the Ga-speaking emigrants, Fante, Obutu, Akwamu and Kpéshi aborigines. Oral traditions had it that after the destruction of the Ayawaso Township by the Akwamu, and the death of the then Ga Mantsε Okaikoi in 1660, remnants of the Ga decided to come down from their hilly abode and join their friends and relations along the coast. Among the early migrants from the Asεrε and Abora groups to the coast were Saku Olenge, Akotia Owosika, Oshamra, Ayikwei Osiahene, Osu Kwatei (whom I believe established the Kpakpatse We dynasty), Anyama Seni, Amantiele Akele and others.
The main reason for this new migration according to Kilson (1974, pp.5-6) was the presence of the Portuguese and three other European powers that had by then established trading posts there, and were extending protection to the coastal towns and villages. In his discourse of the establishment of two out of the seven Ga Mashie Akutséii (quarters), Reindorf avers that Ayikai Osiahene with his people settled near James Fort and founded Akangmadshe and Mereku, i.e. Bereku quarters. Meanwhile, Adote Nii Ashare and Tete Kpéshi who with their retinue made their abode beyond the Korle lagoon returned and settled by the same Fort; and their descendants also established the Sempi quarters.
This arrangement according to Henderson-Quartey brought these towns within the vicinity of the three forts, and under the protection of the Danes (Osu), Dutch (Kinka) and the English (Ngleshi-Alata) from the Akwamu marauders. Besides, this led to the effective control of the local population and the maintenance of law and order within these trading enclaves to safeguard the traffic of goods between the hinterlands and the coast for the benefit of their respective companies.
In this way, to quote Bruce-Myers (1927, p.168), “the humble fishing villages which the Portuguese saw from their ships in the 1490s developed into the capital of the independent Republic of Ghana.” Thus, this community which until the beginning of the twentieth century was limited to the confines of the Ga traditional settlements along the coast; between the Christiansborg Castle, Ussher and James Forts, and the Korle lagoon, has grown in leaps and bounds despite its chequered history.