Culture is said to be the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations. Ghanaian culture is one which is rich in heritage and has been passed down from generations to generations, it is one which is quick to embrace change when it is good and do away with anything negative.
From a distance the general outlook of a typical Ghanaian society is one which is very conservative but in practice or reality, it is one which is very progressive. Like the famous Akan adage which says “when time changes; you have to change along”. In Ghana every ethnic group has its own traditions which evolve to deal with human situation of the time. Some become so obsolete that, the ethnic group may have no good reason to continue the practice. Some may also be found harmful in the perspective of modern scientific knowledge. Harmful traditional practices are hurt, injure and humiliate people even though the practitioner may not consider them harmful. In Ghana examples of such practices includes female genital mutilation, cruel widowhood rite, tribal marks, trokosi system and imprisonment in witch camps. At this point in our country’s history, the call by well – meaning Ghanaians that these practices be abolished completely, although they are already extinct and happen in isolated area, should be seen as a step in the right direction.
Cocoa is not indigenous to Ghana, it was brought to the “Gold Coast” from an island called “Fernando po” in the year 1876 by Tetteh Quarshie a Ghanaian agriculturalist and a blacksmith. Our farmers adapted and adopted cocoa production since 1893 when the first two bags of cocoa were exported. Ghana was once leading producer of Cocoa, termed a “traditional” export in Ghana, a major foreign exchange earner for the economy and contributes significantly to the gross domestic product of the economy. Ghana’s Cocoa beans and processed material are still of the highest quality worldwide.
Ghanaian culture is one which is quick to accept change and make it as “Ghanaian” as possible. Our music is no exception. Traditional Ghanaian music may be divided geographically between the vast savannah northern and the fertile, forested southern coastal areas. The music of Ghana often reflects a Caribbean influence yet it still retains a flavor of its own. During the Gold Coast era Ghana was a hotbed of musical syncretism. Rhythm especially from “gombe” and “ashoko” guitar styles such as mainline and Osibisa, European bass bands and sea shanties were all combined into a melting pot that became highlife. Highlife spread like wildfire via Ghanaian workers to other English speaking West African countries like Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Gambia.
Because of how dynamic the Ghanaian culture is, in the late 1990’s a new generation of artistes led by Reggie Rockstone discovered Hip life. Hip life is a fusion of rap in the local dialects over westernized beats or English rap over African beats. Hip life has since proliferated and produced stars like sakordie and Obrafour. Either ways whether hip life, high life or contemporary, High life has a foreign element about it but it is traditionally Ghanaian. This shows how progressive the Ghanaian culture is in this ever changing world.
Food is central to human life regardless of where you are in the world. The Ghanaian cuisine is very much influenced by the natural possessions and surroundings of Ghana and by the local climate of the country. The existence of many rivers and lakes, the tropical, warm and rainy, weather, lead to a great evolution of agriculture. All local plants and fruits are highly used as bases of the main foods. Fruits such as banana avocados, papayas and coconuts are not only used for sweet meals, but also as the main course, besides the Ghanaian traditional stew. Fishing is also a main activity in Ghana and that is why so many meals are based on fish; from soup to snacks and main course. There are diverse traditional dishes from every ethnic group, tribe and clan from the north to the south and from the east to the west. Food also vary according to the season, time of the day, and occasion. Ghanaian main dishes unlike others are organized around a starchy staple food, which goes with a sauce or soup containing a protein source. This is largely influenced by the weather conditions experienced in Ghana.
To begin with, looking at the eastern coastal belt the weather is warm and comparatively dry, the south-west corner is hot and humid and the north of Ghana is hot and dry. The climate of Ghana is tropical and there two main seasons: the wet and dry season. Due to this fact, some crops strive in other regions of the country while others fail, hence resulting in the different cuisine enjoyed from one region to another. For instance, in the south, local drinks and beverages such as “asana” made from fermented maize are common. In the Volta and Ashanti regions, palm wine extracted from the palm tree can be found, but it perishes quickly. It much easier to fine “Akpeteshie” a local gin distilled from palm wine, as it is nonperishable and highly potent. Among Northern communities “ fula” “Burkina” “bisaab” toose” and “lamujee” are common non- alcoholic beverages whereas “ Pito” a local gin made of fermented millet is very popular alcoholic beverage. In urban areas cocoa drinks, fresh coconuts, soy milk, among the rest are very popular. In addition, Ghanaian distilleries produce good quality alcoholic beverages from cocoa, malt, sugar cane, local medicinal herbs and barks. Hence, Ghana has a wide variety of local beverages which pertain to various communities. There are also many local savory foods which have marginalized due to their demand and preparation processes. Ghanaian savory may be fried, barbecued, boiled, roasted, baked or steamed.
In Accra, fried fish is a favorite meal, together with okro, groundnut soup, beans stew or red red popularly known as “yor- ke – gari”, “tatale” and rice balls also known as omo-tuo. In the western region, avocado is very common, snails and mushroom light soup and “Akyeke”. In central of the country, the main dishes includes kenkey with fish and gravy, palm nut soup, jollof , “fante fante” with palm oil and fresh fish, mashed yam and coconut juice. In Ashanti, light soup, the “Akantee” meat, the “Abun Abun” and palm nut soup, yam and cocoyam. In the Volta region, the “Akple” with okro soup, and “Abolo” with shrimp or herrings. Brong – Ahafo is famous for its “Nkotomire soup, cocoyam, “Ampesi” and also their popular drink palm wine. The Northern region is also best represented by thr “Tuo –Zafi, omo-tuo with green leave soup, beans or cowpea with shea nit oil and pepper called the “Tubaani. The upper East and West normally enjoy the same kind of foods. These include rice balls, “Tuo Zaafi”, “Koko” eaten with” koose”. Besides all these, “Fufu” is a meal founf in all regions.
African food joints, locally known as chop bars, serves the country’s staple foods such as grilled tilapia, banku and fufu among others. But chic new breeds of restaurants serve traditional African food in a modern, stylish setting. Prices can range from very cheap to upper end, depending of course on the area and types of restaurant you choose. The best place for eating out in Ghana is Accra; with no end of restaurants and bars, you can grab a bite to eat at any time of the day. Visitors can enjoy the opportunity of testing traditional African meals in the bars and restaurants of Ghana. There are a variety of places to see and a multitude of exciting things to do in Ghana. Good Ghanaian food and great drinks are the other attraction for travelers and tourists in Ghana.
To conclude, Ghanaians are recognized as one of the friendliest people in Africa and the rations they have with the guests us very important to them. Serving food to their guests is a way of expressing themselves and their relations with others. Food is also part of our culture. “All Ghanaians people are cooks” as food is a familiar and hospital way of being friendly, even to strangers or tourists.
There is a new of speaking that is gradually creeping into our way of speaking which gradually affecting our language culture particularly in the city of Accra and other capital towns in Ghana. Very often you will hear families and friends in a conversation speaking Ghanaian language and mixing it up with English phrases and even on our radios especially the radio stations that use Ghanaian languages as a medium of transmission. At other times, you will realize that some school children whose parent are Ghanaian are unable to speak their own dialect hence we have become lost in our own land. One thing we should know as Ghanaians is that language is a special element in our which reveals who we are as people. It serves as an identification of our heritage and lineage thus through language people are able to link up with their root and take pride in it and build upon it. The study of language is language is beneficial to every society because it also promotes national unity and harmony within a state and ensure continuity of culture. However some aspiring parents and parents prefer their wards to have a medium of communication at home and even school. They say they prefer an English medium of instruction at home and school because they know for the fact that all the people within the best jobs in government and large corporation are expected to operate in English. How can we then promote our mother tongue when its contact has been diluted with English phrases?
To begin with, on our educational grounds that the use of the mother tongue be extended to as late stage in education as possible. In particular, school pupils should begin schooling through the medium of the mother tongue because they understand it best and also beginning their school in the mother tongue will make the break between home and school life as minimal as possible. The mother tongue is a dialect of an individual. This dialect is the language spoken by ones forefathers and has been passed on from generation to generation. In Ghana, there are about seventy dialects that the indigenous Ghanaians speaks. However, currently we have forty – four of them that are currently spoken in our schools and communities. In addition, students at the basic level are supposed to learn how to read and write these languages in various schools while those at the secondary level study it as elective subject if they happen to read general arts. However a school of thought have the notion that children can always learn to speak their native languages easily at home since socialization starts from the family.
Research has found out that students struggle with scientific concept regardless of their being taught in English. A study conducted in japan and china proved that students who are taught in their mother tongue understands scientific and other complex concepts better. This goes a long way to prove that children learn better from the known to the unknown. Therefore, there is a need to use the Ghanaian language as a medium of instruction. In order for primary school teachers to provide a successful learning experience to the child, they have to build the known foundation of the language to experience of the child, once a solid educational foundation is laid in the child’s first language, the child can expand his or her wider environment. It will enable us to preserve our linguistic diversity. This is because every language in its own way expresses a unique way of communication between people and helps to preserve the history of a group of people more especially minority language in a society.
Another point worth mentioning is that African countries should begin to use their indigenous language for the express effort of promoting and sustaining socio economic development in their countries. Language is a vital development domain through the years of schooling irrespective of the child’s linguistic culture or social background. It is through the mother tongue that every child learns to formulate and express his or her ideas about himself and about the world in which he lives. Every child is born in a cultural environment. The language is both a part an expression of that environment thus acquiring of the mother tongue is a part of a process by which a child absorbs a cultural environment. It can then be said that language plays a very important role in molding the child’s early concept. He will therefore find it difficult to grasp any new concept which is alien to his culture and social environment if he or she can easily express him or herself properly in the mother tongue
In a nutshell, I will urge African governments, families and the society at large to ensure that there is continuity in our language culture because man himself is the cause, transmitter and recipient of culture; his language reflects the reflects the culture and personality of the individual as well as groups. Vernacular paus either as a subject taught or particularly as a vehicle for transmission of knowledge so let us cherish it.
Culture according to lan Robertson is “all the shared products of society: material and non – material’’, that is the totality of learned, and socially transmitted behavior. It includes ideas, values and customs of a society culture is related with food, language, religion, education, technology, external influence, norms and values among others. Language and culture constitute the medium by which individuals can communicate, be identified and distinguished from one another. The use of language is the most efficient way of integrating people into their culture.
Culture and language are inseparable. Effective teaching of Ghanaian language and culture motivates people to accept, love and be proud of their own culture no matter it is performed. Ian Robertson views “language as the keystone of culture for without it, we cannot pass on the collective experience of society and the lessons it teaches for survival.
If language is the keystone to culture, what then should be done to promote the Ghanaian language and culture, recent assessment of the Ghana language situation in Ghana is a reflection shame which is a burden to every Ghanaian man or woman. One may ask why some children of Ghanaian parentage only manage to utter few words or none at all in their dialects. This is because most home try to imbibe their kids with the English language rather than their own native language .Most of our school have refused to add up the Ghanaian language to their curriculum and subjects for teaching which shouldn’t be so. Our first language we should learn as Ghanaians should be our native languages before any other.
We should be proud to speak our language because it is a reflection of our identity. But the Ghanaian man or woman is least proud of his or her language and often times feels ashamed to speak or acknowledge our heritage. We speak English to one another even though we come from the same area.
In spite of the use of English as an official language or the lingua franca, local languages must not be neglected. Language as a means of communication holds a key to our culture, we would lose one of the major things that enrich our collective experience, the wealth and survival of societal norms. The family should be the basic platform for easy appreciation and study of language but what do we see in most Ghanaian homes, English seems to have displaced the local dialects as the first language resulting in the present unacceptable state of their own societal language.
In conclusion, knowing how to speak your mother tongue helps you stay connected with your culture and origin. Every language is important. It is still very essential and useful to hold on to your first language spoken by your tribe and society.