Except for football, there isn’t much of a common “Ghanaian” identity. Instead, people are fiercely proud of the tribe(s) that they belong to. One of the first “dog-sniffing” questions that Ghanaians ask each other is, “Where are you from?” In other words, what tribe and/or region are you from?
Most people in Accra are either Ga, Ashanti, Ewe, or “Northerners”. That last one is a euphemism for Muslims. There are 10 regions and over 100 cultural/linguistic groups.
Not surprisingly, stereotypes and a fair amount of distrust exists among tribes. For instance, the Ga are considered “lazy” and “fat”. The Ga are the indigenous tribe of Accra. Their traditional labor is fishing. As Accra has grown and developed, they have seen their property values increase much faster than their labor ever could. One non-Ga said that a Ga would rent out their place for money and stay with relatives rather than work.
In contrast, the Ashanti are a “proud” people who are “good at trading”. I’ve been told they don’t like to do manual labor — who does? — but like to do deals. In many ways, the Ashanti have every right to be proud. I had heard of both the Ashanti tribe and Kumasi, the capital, before I arriving in Ghana. The tribe fought the British while the latter was trying to colonize the interior. The way pride shows itself comes out in the “boastful” way they talk about Ghana and their region. Kumasi this and Kumasi that. Personally, I am most mindful of my tongue when I’m around Ashanti people. The last thing I want to do is get into a conversation about how great Ghana is.
For some reason, the Ewe are viewed with suspicion. I think it’s because they are the most different ethnically from the other tribes. “Ewe men use juju too much, but are good scholars….” These are the cat eaters. They are known for being good students.
Lastly, there are the Muslims. They are also regarded as outsiders. Simply not sharing the same religion as the Christians make them different. Muslims take their day of rest on ?Saturday instead of Sunday, they pray five times a day, and they don’t give money to their religious leaders. The northern areas are poorer than the south so many beggars are automatically assumed to be “from the north” and all live in the “zongo” areas. I think “zongo” means ghetto. Furthermore, it is assumed that many of the armed robbers and who steal via motorbike are Northerners.
A friend sent me this:
Types of Girls in Ghana
- Ewe Girls: Good sex, good cooking, but if you break up with her, she kills you.
- Krobo girls: Great sex, bad cooking, money lovers and can kill with sex
- Hausa girls: Neat “kitty”, hate kissing, great cooks, and dressing too bad
- Fante girls: wife material, they love sex… and can use all ur [sic] money for rich food
- Ga girls: They will **** your brains out. they are humble and content. If you take her man she will beat you up.
- Ashanti girls: good in dressing, if you cheat on her, she will invite you to her wedding the following week. They are like detectives and will always catch you when you cheat on them.
Humans cannot resist creating “others” to define their identities against. I think all this stereotyping is a symptom of how insular the people are. “United we stand, divided we fall.” Ghanaians should review Aesop’s Bundle of Sticks fable.
With only 24 million to speak of and with an area 56% the size of California, Ghana seems too small to warrant making it smaller.
Maybe Ghana needs a better national anthem to unite its people (Listen to it here):