Friday, November 14, 2008

Information on Ghana by Rhoda from Ghana

Ghana: History & Culture

By: Rhoda from Accra (Capital of Ghana)

History: Medieval Ghana (4th - 13th Century): The Republic of Ghana is named after the medieval Ghana Empire of West Africa. The actual name of the Empire was Wagadugu. Ghana was the title of the kings who ruled the kingdom. It was controlled by Sundiata in 1240 AD, and absorbed into the larger Mali Empire. (Mali Empire reached its peak of success under Mansa Musa around 1307.) Geographically, the old Ghana is 500 miles north of the present Ghana, and occupied the area between Rivers Senegal and Niger. Some inhabitants of present Ghana had ancestors linked with the medieval Ghana. This can be traced down to the Mande and Voltaic people of Northern Ghana--Mamprussi, Dagomba and the Gonja. Anecdotal evidence connected the Akans to this great Empire. The evidence lies in names like Danso shared by the Akans of present Ghana and Mandikas of Senegal/Gambia who have strong links with the Empire. There is also the matrilineal connection Before March 1957 Ghana was called the Gold Coast. The Portuguese who came to Ghana in the 15th Century found so much gold between the rivers Ankobra and the Volta that they named the place Mina - meaning Mine. The Gold Coast was later adopted to by the English colonisers. Similarly, the French, equally impressed by the trinkets worn by the coastal people, named The Ivory Coast, Cote d'Ivoire. In 1482, the Portuguese built a castle in Elmina. Their aim was to trade in gold, ivory and slaves. In 1481 King John II of Portugal sent Diego d'Azambuja to build this castle. In 1598 the Dutch joined them, and built forts at Komenda and Kormantsil. In 1637 they captured the castle from the Portuguese and that of Axim in 1642 (Fort St Anthony). Other European traders joined in by the mid 18th century. These were the English, Danes and Swedes. The coastline were dotted by forts built by the Dutch, British and the Dane merchants. By the latter part of 19th century the Dutch and the British were the only traders left. And when the Dutch withdrew in 1874, Britain made the Gold Coast a crown colony. The first Britons arrived in the early 19th century as traders in Ghana. But with their close relationship with the coastal people especially the Fantes, the Ashantis became their enemies. Ghana is located on West Africa's Gulf of Guinea only a few degrees north of the Equator. Half of the country lies less than 152 meters (500 ft.) above sea level, and the highest point is 883 meters (2,900 ft.). The 537-kilometer (334-mi.) coastline is mostly a low, sandy shore backed by plains and scrub and intersected by several rivers and streams, most of which are navigable only by canoe. A tropical rain forest belt, broken by heavily forested hills and many streams and rivers, extends northward from the shore, near the Cote d'Ivoire frontier. This area, known as the "Ashanti," produces most of the country's cocoa, minerals, and timber. North of this belt, the country varies from 91 to 396 meters (300-1,300 ft.) above sea level and is covered by low bush, park like savanna, and grassy plains. The climate is tropical. The eastern coastal belt is warm and comparatively dry; the southwest corner, hot and humid; and the north, hot and dry. There are two distinct rainy seasons in the south-May-June and August-September; in the north, the rainy seasons tend to merge. A dry, northeasterly wind, the Harmattan, blows in January and February. Annual rainfall in the coastal zone averages 83 centimeters (33 in.). The manmade Volta Lake extends from the Akosombo Dam in southeastern Ghana to the town of Yapei, 520 kilometers (325 mi.) to the north. The lake generates electricity, provides inland transportation, and is a potentially valuable resource for irrigation and fish farming. There's also another man made lake in the Ashanti Region, called lake Bosomtwi, it's the biggest man made lake. Ghana has a population of about 20 million and our currency is cedis. We derived the name from how we call cowries in our local language, "Sidie". About 74.8% of our population is literate. Christianity is the major religion practised here, followed by Islam and the traditional religions. Agriculture takes about 55% of the labour force, industry comes next with about 15% Ghana is a very peaceful country even though we r not very rich. The major foreign exchange earner is cocoa and it makes the best chocolates.As I told u earlier, I live in Accra, the capital of Ghana. Accra is the home town of the Ga tribe but it's now inhabited by people from all over Ghana and many foreigners as well. It is a beautiful city with a lot of tourist attractions, there are a lot of beautiful beaches and friendly people. The major vocation of the Ga tribe is fishing but most of them have diverted but there are still some fishermen around. The President lives at the Osu Castle which is along the coast with a beautiful scenery. We have a lot of entertainment centers, restaurants, and hotels in Accra. Most of the major government and private institutions have their head offices in Accra.Ghana actually has 10 regions and the region with the richest culture is the Ashanti region. The Ashanti kingdom is one of the richest, biggest and well respected in Africa. The King is called Otumfuo Osei Tutu 11. It's a modernised kingdom but it still maintains a lot of it's culture. The language of the Ashanti's is Twi and it is the most widely spoken local language in Ghana. The current President is from the Ashanti region. The cultures vary from region to region but we do have a lot of things in common. Will tell u more about the food, music and festivals in my next mail. I have to get back to work.

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