Ghanaian Culture

The centuries-old traditions of the people of Ghana, and the diversity of the distinct ethnic groups, have created a rich blend of cultures that is modern Ghana. To the people of Ghana, the traditions of their ancestors are still an important part of daily life.

Customary leaders (chiefs) have historical authority over tribal and family matters, and customary lands. Child naming, puberty initiations, marriage and death are marked by family ceremonies. Seasonal festivals bring a whole people or clan together in spectacular fashion.

Ghana is a country of 18 million people and over 60 ethnic groups. About 47% of the people are classified as Akan, which includes the famous Ashanti people, mainly in the Forest circuit. The Mole-Dagbani grouping represent 16% and are found on the Savanna circuit. Another 10% are Ewe, and 9% Ga-Dangbe, mainly in the Volta circuit of the southeast.

Due to progressive government policies over the decades, the divisive tribal tendencies of other West African countries have not occurred in Ghana.

Christians outnumber Muslims about three to one in Ghana. The rest of the population (about 38%) practice traditional ancestral religions. In different parts of the country, this picture changes somewhat. In the North, for example, Muslims make up 30% of the population.

A common feature of ancestral religions is the belief in the Supreme Being, in life after death, and in the nearness of ancestors. Festivals commemorate past events, and consecrate a new season with confidence and hope.

Traditional fetish shrines, sometimes concealed but more often displayed, are important centres of worship and traditional healing, and an influential part of traditional life.

The official language of Ghana is English. Other common Ghanaian languages include Twi, Ga, Ewe and Dagbani.

There are numerous festivals in the major towns throughout the year, which include thrilling durbars of chiefs, when tribal leaders and Queen Mothers form a procession in palanquins, shaded by traditional umbrellas, and supported by drummers and warriors discharging ancient muskets.

These festivals are not on a fixed date but generally occur on the first or the last Saturday of a given month. The Ghana Tourist Board is a good source of information about these festivals.

Traditional Arts
In Accra, you can find a wide selection of Ghanaian handicrafts, from all corners of the country, at the Arts Centre on High Street. There are also smaller art stalls throughout the city. Of course, there are better opportunities and cheaper prices closer to the local centers of production, and besides, you may meet the maker!

For centuries, Ghanaian people have pursued traditional forms of pottery, Kente cloth weaving, wood carving, gold smithing, basket weaving, drum making, and bead production. These rich cultural traditions are evident in many different parts of the country, though specific places are accepted centres of various production techniques.