The Guan tribe, also known as Gonja, Guang, or Ngbanya, is one of the many ethnic groups in the Republic of Ghana. It is the largest group as compared to others. The descendants of the Gonja people were traders and the first residents of Ghana. They speak a variety of Kwa languages of the Niger-Congo language family. They occupy the Northern region of Ghana, above the Black and White Volta rivers’ confluence.
The Gonja people are also known as Ghanjawiyyu community. Their actual name was Ngbanye. It means Brave Men. The name Gonja was derived from a Hausa phrase Kada Goro-Jaa, meaning land of Red Cola. There are more than 285,000 Gonjas in Ghana.
The Guan people are one of the twenty-six or more Gonja ethnic groups that appeared in modern Ghana in the 16th Century. Are you interested to know more facts on the history and cultural practices of the Guan tribe?
Guan tribe history
They are believed to have migrated around A.D. 1000 from Mossi region of the modern Burkina. They moved southwards through the Volta valley and settled along Black Volta, throughout the Afram Plains in the Volta Gorge in the Akwapim Hills.
The Guan state that was first founded between 1550 and 1575 by the Malinke cavalrymen, Songhai’s emperor is located in the Northern parts of Ghana. Initially, members of a dynasty who were Mande ruled them.
Throughout the years, their neighbours have influenced the Guan tribe, and after establishing their kingdom, years later they were conquered by the Asante Empire. However, after the British defeated Asante, the Guan or Gonja people became part of the British Northern territories.
Guan tribe language
What language do Guans speak? They speak a variety of Kwa languages of the Niger-Congo language family.
Their staple food is called Kenkey. It is prepared out of maize grains which have been de-husked and dried. They are soaked in water for three days and later rinsed in freshwater. After being taken to the corn mill to be grounded, they are kneaded into a dough.
Half of the dough is cooked while the rest remains uncooked. Then the two doughs are mixed thoroughly. Maize husks are used to wrap the mixture, and they are boiled for one to three hours until they are ready to serve.
Kenkey prepared in the FFP kitchen also provides employment and income for the local farmers and retailers, as well as for those who work in the corn mill. As it is a favourite food among the Guan people, it is popularly said that, if a Guan does not eat kenkey during the day, then he hasn’t eaten at all.
Festivals of the Guan tribe
The Guan tribe celebrates Ohum and Odwira festivals, which are a combination of artistic, recreational, ritual, and ceremonial activities. They take place according to defined schedules and forms in different locations. The festivals provide opportunities for the collective renewal of arts as a community experience with a lot of music and dancing in the celebrations.
It is celebrated in remembrance of the Great Akantamansu War of 1826. The allied forces of Akuapem, Ga, Efutu, Awutu, and British against the Ashantis fought the war. The main reason why it is held is to ensure the community is purified of all dirt and impurities.
Some of the activities which are done during this festival are; giving thanks to their gods and ancestors, offering sacrifices, feeding the ancestral spirits, solving family disputes, contraction of marriages, harvesting the crops and launching their mid-crop farming.
It is done to mark the beginning of harvesting new crops. The Akuapem natives who were the Okre and Larteh people mostly celebrated this traditional festival every year.
Additionally, one of the Guan dances is called Kpana or Kpanaliumni, which is a hunter dance performed when a hunter kills animals such as leopard, hartebeest or buffalo. It is also performed during funerals as the Kuntunkure drums their tailamans while wearing the traditional talisman cap.
The Guan people engage in the cultivation of various types of millet and some maize on large fields. The Nchumuru people and some Gonjas also do farming, but they are mainly hunters and fishermen. The main product of commercial value is shea-butter, which is still exported down to the Coast.
It is found in every market, shaped like a sugar cone and wrapped in leaves. Shea-butter is very easy to make, the fruit is roasted, pounded and then boiled in large pots. The fat that swims on top is the liquid form of the product. In smaller quantities, sesame seeds are also exported from the Guan tribe.
Religion is taken seriously by the Guan community. They are mostly Muslims, and Islamic worshipers that make up about 58% of the population. Ethnic traditional religion worshipers constitute 38% of the Gonja population. The Gonjas have their belief in the Supreme Being, ‘Ebore’, natural spirits, and traditional powers. The remaining 4% of the Gonjas are Christians.
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The Guang chiefdom has rulers who are linguistically and culturally different. These leaders’ descent is mostly from Mande invaders. There are also leaders among the commoners who speak Tano languages while the other rulers and Muslims use Gbanyito, a Guang language.
The Guan tribe live in groups of compact villages of about 300 persons. There are territorial divisions that are ruled by chiefs from the male hierarchy of Jakpa. The leaders are selected from two or three local segments of the ruling group. They have a paramount chief, called the yagbumwura, who is appointed in rotation from the chiefs of the five eligible divisions.
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Are Guans part of the Akan?
Yes. The two tribes amalgamated to form the Akuapem people. These people are known to be the most peaceful, humblest, and respectful because they will always apologize before insulting anyone. Ghanaians refer to them as “Ofie” which means Home because they first say:
I am very sorry, but you are a fool.
This proves their respect and humility.
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Being the earliest inhabitants of present-day Ghana, the Guan tribe has a fascinating history and culture. How they conduct their festivals and dances, religious practices, and farming is also unique. It is also the most educated tribe in Ghana, with well-established administrative systems and competent leaders.
Yen.com.gh recently reported about the Ga-adangbe tribe which is also known as Ga-Dangme, GaDangme, Ga-Adampa, Ga-Adangme or Ga-Danmel. Their original homeland is in Goshen city, Egypt. They consist of Ga-Mashie and Gaspeaker, who migrated from Akwapim, Anecho in Togo, Akwamu.
The tribe has exciting cultural aspects which include festivals and dances, with unique traditional clothing and a well established religious system.
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