Behind Names by Laci Moore

“Behind Names”

By Laci Moore

In Ghana, names can directly reflect who a person is, who they should be, and where they came from. The first name is given based on the day of birth. The spelling or the pronunciation can change depending on the location or the tribe, according to Edwin Brown, a student I met here at the University of Ghana in Legon. The child then waits eight days before he/she is given their middle name and last. The eight days are very significant because the child is considered a visitor, meaning the child can come and go until the eighth day. According to Kwasi Gyasi-Gyamerah, the Resistant Director of CIEE here at the University of Ghana in Legon, there is a difference between the traditional and contemporary naming process in Ghana. Traditionally, in the Akan region, a child is given their middle name based on who they should imitate or who has been successful in life. The last name is not as significant or needed. Contemporary naming practices tend to give a child their father’s last name but the middle name is still more valued.

The naming ceremony is very important to the older generation and less so for younger people. It begins and ends with prayer regardless of the person’s religion.  The parents are not as involved as the elders or the uncle is in this ceremony. The grandfather places his finger in a glass of water and then places that on the child’s tongue. This is supposed to be the child’s first taste of the truth. Then the grandfather places his finger in alcohol and then places his finger on the child’s tongue. This is supposed to allow the child to tell the difference between what is good and what is bad, between what is truth and what is not. Then the names are presented to the family by the elder. At the end of the ceremony, cloth and other things are given as gifts to the child. I find that this concept is similar to the Wise Men bringing gifts when Christ was born.

Names are very important in many different cultures, and there are implications attached to names that may not be obvious to people who do not belong to the community. In America, names are determined in many different ways. Some people will post polls on Facebook, look for names in a baby book, or name a child after a grandparent or other relative. In my opinion, names are not as valued or thought about as much in America.

If you would like to learn more about the Akan culture and why names are given, I encourage you to further research this topic. One interesting article can be found here: https://www.modernghana.com/blogs/426429/the-cultural-and-spiritual-importance-of-our-ghanaian-names.html

Akan names

DayofWeek

Works Cited

Kwasi, Adomako. “Truncation Of Some Akan Personal Names.” GEMA Online Journal Of Language Studies 15.1 (2015): 143-162. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 24 June 2016.

What Do These Symbols Mean? – Danya Mason

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“What Do These Symbols Mean?”

By Danya Mason

As our group has traveled in Ghana, we have noticed symbols, called Adinkra, everywhere. Whether we are attending lectures at the International House, visiting places like Kakum National Park, or gazing at the beautiful jewelry crafted by local artists, Adinkra are ever present in the rich culture here. Naturally, my curiosity grew on finding the origin, deeper meaning, and the importance people attach to them.

Adinkra symbols emerged in popularity at the end of a war in 1818 between the Asante Empire, located in what is now modern day Ghana, and the Gyaman Kingdom, located in modern day Côte D’Ivoire. Nana Kofi Adinkra was the king of Gyaman, but unfortunately, he was captured by the Asantes for replicating the “Golden Stool”, which represents absolute power descended from the heavens to the Asantes. He was soon killed for this offense, resulting in the Gyaman kingdom becoming an Asante territory. Also, Adinkra means “goodbye” or “farewell” in Twi, a common language spoken in Ghana, so it signified the fall of the Gyaman kingdom and Nana Kofi Adinkra. Since the symbols were already a part of life in the Gyaman kingdom, they soon became integrated into Asante culture.

Adinkra symbols hold great significance to Ghanaians now because they are reflective of Asante history and contain great wisdom of how one’s life should be influenced. Though I have come from a different culture, I have found myself to grow attached to a couple of Adinkra in correlation with my life, which are named Sankofa and Gye Nyame.

Sankofa, which has a direct translation of, “return and fetch it,” is an Adinkra focused heavily on learning from the past. An individual must use past experiences in order to learn from one’s mistakes, form a better future, and gain wisdom.

I found this Adinkra, Sankofa, at Kakum National Park.

I found this Adinkra, Sankofa, at Kakum National Park.

I hold myself firmly to this Adinkra because if I did not have the opportunity to make mistakes in life, I would learn nothing, I would be shallow to those who make mistakes, and I would never have the chance to be enriched with wisdom. The first experience in life that hit me in this way was when I auditioned to be a drill team officer in high school. The first time I auditioned, I failed and did not make it, which hit me like a ton of bricks. I feel that if I had succeeded with becoming a drill team officer the first time, I would see no flaw in myself and have no reason to better myself. As the next year rolled around for auditions again, I had taken extra dance and leadership classes and reevaluated my approach toward the judges at auditions. Fortunately, this led to my success in becoming a drill team officer.

Gye Nyame has a direct translation of, “except God”, which signifies the immortality of God. The deeper meaning is as follows: nobody lived to see the beginning of time, and nobody will live to see the end, except God.

I found this Adinkra, Gye Nyame, at the International House where we attend our lectures.

I found this Adinkra, Gye Nyame, at the International House, where we attend our lectures.

With closer examination of the Gye Nyame symbol, one can see that it shows a person being held inside the hands of God. I have seen this Adinkra in almost every market that sells art and even on the International House building at the University of Ghana. I feel that the strong presence of God in Ghana parallels with the strong presence of God in East Texas. Though I am thousands of miles away from home, the immortality and comfort of God continues to linger.

 

For more Adinkra symbols, you can visit:

http://www.stlawu.edu/gallery/education/f/09textiles/adinkra_symbols.pdf

The Transatlantic Slave Trade in West Africa by Danya Mason

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Today, our group attended a lecture given by Dr. Kofi Baku, one of the professors at the University of Ghana. We discussed the impact of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in West Africa, which occurred from the fifteenth through the nineteenth centuries. The following are important, interesting points that enhanced my knowledge in the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Why is discussing the Transatlantic Slave Trade so important?

  1. It was the last and most prominent slave trade in West Africa.
  2. Its destruction affected the largest amount of Africans, which totaled around 12-15 million people.

How did the Transatlantic Slave Trade begin?

This picture shows the flow of goods and human resources throughout the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

This picture shows the flow of goods and human resources throughout the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

  1. The Transatlantic Slave Trade began when Europeans wanted to settle into the New World to exploit land and resources.
  2. Europeans first utilized natives of the New World; however, many died of sicknesses the Europeans brought over and were also overworked.
  3. Also, a fun fact, the first European country to make an agreement to exchange manufactured goods for raw materials and slaves for New World advancement was Portugal.

What was the average annual amount of slaves who safely made it across the Atlantic?

Graph

How were slaves obtained?

  1. Prisoners of war were heavily recycled, meaning some were forced to fight in wars against their comrades, some were sent to the mines, and the rest were sold as slaves.
  2. Slaves were also obtained through criminals and bandits tearing through villages and kidnapping people with intentions of keeping them as slaves.
  3. Another way is through judicial process. An example of this is as follows: chiefs had mistresses, and when the mistresses took an oath of office, the chief would force her to confess if other men had been flirting with her, which, at times, was done by force. Once the mistress confessed, the men would be extracted and ordered into slavery.
  4. The last way was betrayal, where even a close relative could be sentenced. For instance, if a husband did not have enough money to pay for goods, he could sell his wife into slavery to pay for the goods. Once the wife was taken advantage of and the debt was paid off, she was thrown back to her husband.

 

Below is a link if further interested in the voyages across the Atlantic.

http://www.slavevoyages.org/