Though the Ewe (pronounced ‘ev-ay’) may not be well-known outside of Ghana, they are a truly unique group that live in an area called Togo. They are well-known in Ghana for their ancestor worship, unique language, and fabulous weaving skills. They create a unique textile called the Kente cloth. Roughly three million people speak the unique Ewe language, with many weaving a form of kente cloth, a skill they learned during enslavement by the Akans. They have an honestly unique culture and skills that make them well-known in Ghana and deserving of acknowledgement world-wide.
1. The Ewe have a strong sense of family.
The founder of each Ewe community is actually the chief, a man that is succeeded by his sons or male relatives. Many of the Ewe can trace their paternal ancestors all the way to their original family villages where they came from. Extended families, especially, are important to the Ewe. The smallest familial division is the hut, made of a man, his wife or wives, and their unmarried children, but family members are honoured all the way up to the chief of the village.
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2. Ewe weavers create a type of kente cloth
This they learnt from the Akans, as well as a unique fabric called adanudo. Adanudo features bright, rich colors and pictures, often on silk, rayon, or cotton. They cover subjects like livestock, horses, humans, stools, hats, plants, and domestic objects. They are often quite realistic and lovely. Their cloth is very similar to Asante kente cloth, with symmetric interplay of weft thread, creating a speckled effect. The Ewe use the word ‘kete’ to describe the weaving motions that their feet take.
3. Their chiefs have an interesting code of behaviour and ethics
While elected by consensus, the chiefs have strict behaviour standards that they are expected to keep to. These standards range from predictable to unusual. They must keep their heads covered in public. Along with that, they can not be seen drinking. The chief is considered the voice for the people to the ancestors and must therefore always be clear of mind and ready to delve into the world of the ancestors. The chiefs are not even allowed to see a corpse’s face or touch a corpse, though they may lead the funeral if the corpse is already buried or in a coffin. The chief even has a special stool that he sits on, painted black and meant just for him.
4. The Ewe know how to throw a party
They throw many festivals throughout the year, one of the largest being Hogbetsotso. The Hogbetsotso Festival is held on the first Saturday in November in the Volta area. It features a large gathering of citizens and important chiefs. It is the ‘festival of the Exodus,’ held to celebrate the escape of the Anlo Ewes from King Agokoli in Togo. All of the chiefs are dressed in their finest regal clothing and receive the honor from those in attendance. There is dancing, drumming, and drinks in celebration.
5. Ghana’s Ewe people find great significance in naming their children.
Each child receives a name with great meaning, either signifying the spirituality of the parents or the time and circumstances of the child’s birth. Their name scheme also refers to the day of the week that the child arrives into the world. There are very few single sex names for the Ewe.
The ‘day of the week’ name is temporary. Much like many Native American tribes in North America, a child’s real name can only be figured out after the child’s personality develops. Their birth date name may be their main name, even after a real name is chosen. The given name is used most often on legal and formal documents. In case of repeated names, suffixes such as -ga (meaning big) or -vi (meaning little) are added to the given names to make it clear who is meant by the name.
The Ewe people represent an incredibly complex subset of Ghana’s culture. They have their own unique way of life and hold strongly to their ancestors and their rituals. Though patrilineal, they find great significance and importance with their family and lineage. They have put up with much strife and suffering over the years; despite this, the Ewe are truly growing into their own as one of Ghana’s foremost ethnic groups. Be it through naming, religion, or family groups, there is little that is not fascinating about the Ewe people of Ghana.