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An Introduction – King Tackie Tawiah Memorial Lectures by Nii Armah Josiah Aryeh

King Tackie Tawiah – The Lion of the Coast
The  reign of Tackie Tawiah I: King of Accra – 1862-1902
with an account of the origin and contribution of the Ga-Dangme and kindred peoples to the history and customary law of Ghana
(To be published as History and Constitution of the Gá-Dangme)
A Lecture in three parts to be delivered by Nii Armah Josiah-Aryeh LLB, LLM, PhD
Under the auspices of the Ga-Dangme Nikasemo Asafo and the major Ga-Dangme societies of England and Wales
March 1997
A book, such as this, which deals with the Gá-Dangme groups, cannot but rely on the information of a wide range of individuals. To each of these individuals, I owe an incalculable debt of gratitude. My obligations extend to persons in London and Accra. In Accra I acknowledge my debts to His Holiness, the Nai Wulomo and Patriarch of the Gá; Numo Ogbarmey, the Sakumo Wulomo; Nii Adote Obuor, the Sempe Manche Nii Kojo Ababio, IV, Jamestown Manche, Mr A.A. Amartey and ….
I have also benefited from the advice and help of a number of London-based individuals; it would be impracticable to give an exhaustive list of those who helped in the writing of this book. I should like to thank Numo Notse Amartey, David Henderson-Quartey, Albert Johnson, J.K. Tawiah, Sally Baffour, Nortei Omaboe, Ade Sawyerr, George Tackie, Stanley Allotey, Emmanuel Plahar, Dr Vince Tetteh Padi, Dr Blankson-Lartey, Dr I. N. Nartey, Professor Konotey-Ahulu, Robert Clottey, Bill Annan, Attuquaye Collison, and ….
The discussions that accompanied the gestation of this work appear to have stirred many dormant faculties in many Ghanaians; we can only hope that this book would be the first in a number of publications to document the history of various Ghanaian peoples.
Whatever imperfections the critical eye may detect in this work are mine alone.

With traditions of origin which link them to ancient Jewish culture and an almost totally urbanised population the Ga-Dangme are in many ways unique amongst African peoples; their religion, social organisation and nomenclature indicate a very sophisticated and profound traditional thought system. Yet it appears in modern times that, due perhaps to inadequate scholastic activity, the Ga-Dangme have not fully brought their cultural strength to bear sufficiently on the developmental process in Ghana.
The present lectures, by focusing on the remarkable career of King Tackie Tawiah I, attempt to spark off debate of the place of the Ga-Dangme in present day Ghana and their pioneering role in the propagation of European and other ideas across West Africa. King Tackie Tawiah remains a fulcrum-figure in the modern history of the Ga-Dangme: a stalwart whose reign saw the establishment of Accra as the capital of Ghana in 1877; countless skilled young artisans, including Tetteh Quarshie who later brought cocoa into the Gold Coast, sailing into the Bight of Benin (nshón) to introduce European technology; the translation of the Bible into Ga in 1865; and with the extension of Pax Britannica from Accra into Asante and the former Northern territories, individuals from Accra were able to introduce modern architecture, vehicular transport, and even football and the modern dance band to the hinterland.
Clearly, then, King Tackie’s reign coincided with a critical period in our nation’s history. But the king was no passive figure around whom events eddied and subsided; he was himself heavily involved in the creation of those events and their repercussions. To understand the social ethos which led to the emergence of this outstanding personality it has been necessary to start our account long before the nineteenth century; and to highlight the role of Ga-Dangme culture in firing the imagination of King Tackie Tawiah and his co-evals. A significant proportion of our story will revolve around Ayawaso and the warrior cult surrounding the hero-king Okaikoi whose stupendous feat of bravery in the face of overwhelming odds occupies a unique place in Ga lore.
Ayawaso, where the Ga-Dangme first settled upon arrival in Ghana, was a gold-trading town; this hillside location saw the rise of the first formidable kingdom in the Gold Coast, predating the kingdoms of Akwamu, Denkyira and Asante. Indeed the princes of Akwamu served as sword-bearers at the court of King Okaikoi where they learnt the arts of statesmanship and warfare. From Ayawaso Ga-Dangme notions of chiefship and military organisation spread to neighbouring peoples. Even today the site of the ancient Ga capital, amidst the rolling hills and the spreading plains remains a breathtaking and frightfully beautiful scene; a sight to instil fear into the hearts of the most daunting enemy; it is also a place of great spirituality where the mortal remains of the early Ga-Dangme were interred under household floors and where a tenacious oral tradition, the bedrock of Ga-Dangme ethics still taught to office-holders upon appointment, was developed.
The whole of the post-Ayawaso history of the Ga-Dangme, together with its high points of heroism and the stunning victory at Katamanso under King Tackie Kome I, seem a mere dress-rehearsal for the kingship of King Tackie Tawiah when, in spite of the British presence, the Ga-Dangme were truly acknowledged by their neighbours as the lions of the coast.
However, as will soon become evident, these Lectures also deal with numerous other aspects of Gá-Dangme constitution and history, frequently recording for the first time significant aspects of oral tradition; it is in this regard, more than any other that these Lectures might contribute to the on-going debate about the condition of the Gá-Dangme. Furthermore, the Lectures challenge several existing orthodoxies and conclude with several suggests for improving the condition of urban Ghanaian peoples, often putting forward many original ways of tackling what is by all standards a growing problem.

All words, terms and aphorisms mentioned in this Glossary are Gá unless the contrary is stated. The words and terms used in this Glossary are defined within their everyday meaning in the Gá-Dangme language, but are best understood within the context in which they are employed in the text. The vernacular terms of other Ghanaian peoples have been ascribed their ordinary meanings within those languages. The plural forms of words are given wherever appropriate, and the meaning of the word indicated beside the word.
Abasam: arms-length; a measure
Ablekuma aba kuma wó: (aphorism) may strangers be added onto us
Adebo: Creation; origin of time
Adebo-shia: ancestral home
Adesa: Man; his total personality
Adiagba: Large beaded wrist band worn by the nobility
Afi: year
Afili: white wrist band worn by kings and chiefs
Agbo-shimo: request to enter into marriage
Agbosim: (Krobo) initial request to enter into marriage
Agyinafoi: elders; counsellors
Ahoba: pledge
Ahima: large ocean-going canoe; fishing vessel
Aklabatsa: luxuriant forest surrounding a grove
Aklowa: village
Akon: (Twi) orgiastic religion of the hinterland and accompanying music
Akotoku: fist-fight
Akpee shika; money galore
Akwashong: war-council
Akwashongtse: leader of the war-council
Alata: quarter for foreigners and other settlers in a town
Amlalo: administrator; bureaucrat
Anton: October
Asafoiatse: captain of war band
Ayawa: brass
Ayekoo: symbolic looting emphasising the rights of traditional priests to a portion of all market produce
Ayifale: (Fanti) adultery fee
Bele naa loo: sea-fish taken by right by the High priest or his representative
Bele naa loo kómo: the High Priest’s right to sea-fish
Bii: children; units or collection of items
Blema Gbefaa: ancient migratory journey of the Gá-Dangme
Blema kusum: ancient usage; custom
Boka-nna: Eastern plains
Boi-ekpaa: six-cloth (marriage)
Boi-enyo: two cloth (marriage)
Brafo: (Twi) executioner
Buleh: respect

Dade-krama: war-spirit
Dadetse: (Krobo) a senior farmer who deputises for the leader of a huza community
Dunsa: adultery fee
Dzara-manche: market captain; leading merchant
Dzaleh: fairness; equity
Dzenba: morality
Dzielor: deliverer
Eke edin ba eke eyen aya: (aphorism) he came with black [hair] may he go with grey Eko atashi ni eko abafita he: (aphorism) may what we already have be retained, and more be added onto it
Ebaa tsee: fig-leaf; publicity of initial marriage proposal to a woman
Forlor: unclean person; uncircumcised; a non-Gá-Dangme
Fiaa: (Krobo) breaking of the grass; marriage ritual
Gaaley: drunkard
Gányo krong: pure Gá
Ga-woo: engagement
Gbaloi: preachers
Gbatsu: house of prophecy; traditional temple
Gbe-dzelor enaa esee: (aphorism) the path-maker does not notice the crookedness of the way he plots
Gbla taa eshweo weku: (aphorism) a marriage may be dissolved but the extended family remains
Gblanii: bridewealth
Gbomo: person
Gboshi-nin: ancestral chattels
Gyase: group of kingmakers
Gyasetse: head of kingmakers
Hedzoleh: liberty
Hekah: fighting spirit
Hé manye: peace be unto you
Hesi-dzem: (Krobo) introduction of a man to his prospective in-laws
Hewah: courage
Huza: (Krobo) system of farming involving aggressive lateral acquisition of land Huzatse: (Krobo) leader of a huza farming community
Ihá mo: (Krobo) “I give onto you”
Ihee: (Krobo) “I accept”
Jolley: mistress
Joormo: blessing
Kankanma: sardine
Kaseloi: disciples
Kenten: basket
Ketekre also, Keteke: (Twi) strong, durable, energetic
Kla: spirit
Klama: (Krobo) festive song
Klemekuku: the queen of termites
Kpaa: rope
Kpeemo: wedding
Kasi: (Krobo) minimal lineage
Koo: bush; forest
Konor: (Krobo) paramount chief
Kose: the country; village and its surrounds
Kosenyo: country folk
Kpaa: rope
Kpa-bun: sin-hole; the King’s prison
Kpeemo: wedding
Kplemo: consent
Kpodziemo: outdooring and baptism of an infant
Kpokploku: new corn; considered inferior to old corn
Kro: (Twi) town
Kukudabi: maize of last year
Kutso: neighbourhood
Lakpahumo: cultivation of unripe, young bush
Lele: canoe
Lolovor: (Ewe) love is ended
Lorbi: sweetheart
Maawe: July
Man taomo-nin: national purpose
Man-sane: public affair
Manbii: townfolk; citizens
Mandzrano: public-square
Mankralo: assistant chief
Mann: herring
Man-sebii: Gá-Dangme of the diaspora
Mantiase: core township; ancestral settlement
Mantse: chief
Mantse-we: king’s palace
Mantso: town-tree; the Ga-Dangme nation
Meiatse: king; head of a people
Mau: (Krobo) the Almighty
Mla: statutory law; legislation
Móni fó Azii ni Azii wo Anai: (aphorism) progenitor; the father of the father
Mojawe: house of blood; highest criminal court of the Gá-Dangme
Néléno: opposite
Nkran: (Fanti; Twi) soldier ant; appellation for the Gá and their city, Accra Nkran Pon: (Fanti) great and mighty Accra
Nwei: sky; the heavens
Nibii: things; chattels or movables
Niatse: wealthy person
Niimei: grandfathers; forebears
Nike-nin: gift
Nimaa: bailment; the renting of movable property under traditional law
Nmenme: gravelly or rocky ground
Nma-daa: corn-drink
Nmatsu: dry male inflorescence of the oil palm
Nmonya: (Krobo) …..
Nna: open fields
Nsho-gonno: high ground abutting the sea
Nshon: the Bights of Benin; sea-voyage to the Bights
Nyomotse: undischarged bankrupt; notorious debtor
Nyongbo: God; the Almighty; also rain
Obonu: tall royal drums
Obué: the annual season for fishing herring and sardine in August
Odasefoi: witnesses
Odikro: (Twi) he who rules the town; headman
Odom nni Amanfu: (Fanti) (aphorism) an army without desolate places
Okadi: evidence; sign
Okyeame: (Twi) linguist; spokesman
Olonka: medium-sized measuring can
Oshi: warrior dance
Otukwajan: June
Panmonaa: place of deliberation; annual meeting of Gá-Dangme chiefs and peoples
Plocke: (Krobo) ….
Pum: (Krobo) ….
Sakumo: god of war
Samansiw: (Fanti) customary law will
Sapate: henchman; advocate
Sei or sen: royal stool or seat, symbolising the authority of a chief or king Sentsu: palace chamber where royal stools and sacred relics are held
Serbii: junior siblings
Shamanshoo: traditional will
Shamóbo: symbolic presentation of clothes, usually in the form of drink or cash, to the parents of a bride
Sheh: traditional nuncupative will
Shia-gbla: cross-cousin marriage
Shia-sane: household affair; private matter
Shibimo: initial proposal for marriage
Shidaa: thanksgiving
Shika: money
Shika futru: gold-dust; treasure-trove
Shikitele: king-making official of Labadi and Teshi
Shikpon: earth; land
Shikpon yibaafo: ceremony to transfer interest in land
Shipi: captain of the army
Susuma; soul

Ta: war; battle
Tabilor: warrior; soldier
Tabilor a manche: warrior-king
Tabló: oar
Tackie-yino: period of political dominance and cultural efflorescence in Gá-Dangme history beginning with the accession of King Tackie Kome I to power in 1826 and lasting well into the twentieth century
Tatse: war leader; general
Toindzoleh: peace and tranquility
Toigboloi: contemnors; persons commiting contempt of court or blatantly flouting authority
Too: collection; annual contribution of citizens of Gá-Dangme towards general improvement of the nation
Tsani: seine net; seine fishing
Tsemei: fathers
Tsii; heavy
Tsoshishi: under the tree
Tsunwoo; ceremonial confinement of office-holders
Tsuru: red; fair-skinned
Tupenfoi: peers
We: lineage home
Weku: extended family
Weku-daa: family drink
Weku né kpam’
saa, edzaa ka yo tsaa weku: (Krobo) (aphorism) one has relatives all over the place because the women are the connecting link
Weku-sane: family palaver
Weku-yitso: head of the extended family
Wetse: founder of a lineage or ancestral home
Wetso: (Krobo) maximal lineage
Woleiatse: head of fishermen
Wongtse (Pl. woyei): spirit medium; priestess
Wose ye du also ashiedu: (Fanti) (aphorism) their saying is ten; perfect, exact, true; they who carry out what they say and ensure fulfilment
Wulomo: high priest
Yo-sibim: (Krobo) engagement
Yo-kpeem: (Krobo) wedding
Zigba yibapom: (Dangme) ceremony to transfer interest in land

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The Matters Arising blog is a collection of thought-provoking, thought-leadership pieces sprinkled with some blue-sky thinking on pertinent issues affecting African communities both in the diaspora and at home. It includes articles on culture, politics, social and economic advancement, diversity and inclusion, community cohesion topics. It is also a repository of the political history of Ghana, traditions of the Gadagme people of Ghana, and the Pan-African politics of Kwame Nkrumah. Read, enjoy, like, share, and join!


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