Ga-Adangbe People

History of the Ga-Adangbe People

The Ga-Adangbe people, also known as Ga-Dangme/ Ga-Dangbe, represent an ethnic group found across Ghana, Togo, and Benin. Within the Ga-Dangme ethnolinguistic group, the Ga and Dangbe people constitute distinct subgroups. The Ga-Dangmes predominantly reside in Ghana’s Greater Accra region. The Ga people commonly carry surnames such as Nikoi, Amon, Kotey, Adei, Kutorkor, Oblitey, Lartey, Nortey, Aryee, Poku, and Lamptey, while Dangme surnames include Nartey, Tetteh, Kwei, Kweinor, Kwetey, Narteh, Narh, Dugbatey, Teye, Martey, Addo, Siaw, Saki, Amanor, and Djangba. This ethnolinguistic group’s historical journey traces back to the leadership of King Ayi Kushi (Cush) during the 16th century, steering them to Accra, which later became Ghana’s capital.

Initially organized into six autonomous towns—Accra (Ga Mashie), Osu, La, Teshie, Nungua, and Tema—each with its stool of cultural and ritual significance, Accra emerged as a prominent Ga-Dangme town and the nation’s capital. The Ga-Dangme’s primary occupations have evolved from farming to fishing and trade in imported goods, mainly managed by women. Gender influences inheritance and property rights, with matrilineal succession for women and patrilineal descent for men. The Ga-Dangme community celebrates various annual town festivals and harbors a diverse array of gods and cults within each town.

Further, the Dangme people occupy the coastal region spanning from Kpone to Ada along the Volta River and the South Atlantic Ocean. Notably, they speak Dangbe, a language closely related to Ga. The Dangme population holds substantial land in the Greater Accra, Eastern, and Volta regions of Ghana, as well as in the southern part of Togo. Their occupations revolve around fishing, trading, and farming, primarily through the Huza system—a form of capitalism established by group property ownership. Traditional crops like millet have been replaced by cassava, yams, maize, plantain, cocoa, and palm oil. Lineage members participate in annual lineage god festivals, marking their return to the traditional lineage home from Huza farms.

The Ga-Dangbe people’s linguistic heritage comprises the Kwa languages—Ga and Dangme—reflecting a patrilineal kinship structure. Their cultural tapestry is interwoven with vibrant festivals like the Ga’s Homowo and Dangbe’s Asafotu, Asafotufiam, and Ngmayem, each encapsulating unique customs and traditions. Music and sports, particularly boxing, are integral to their cultural heritage. Ga-Dangbe music encompasses drumming, dancing, and traditional music styles like kpanlogo. Notable boxers hail from the fishing community of Bukom, which is revered as the boxing hub in Ghana.

Rites of passage include the Dipo ceremony for the Shai and Krobo people, while funeral customs among the Ga involve the creation of fantasy coffins symbolizing the deceased’s profession or status. These coffins, intricately designed by skilled craftsmen, aim to honor the deceased by reflecting their life achievements or social standing, constituting a significant part of Ga funeral culture.

Artisans like Ataa Oko and Seth Kane Kwei pioneered the creation of these symbolic coffins in the 1950s, emphasizing the Ga belief in life after death. The practice signifies respect for the departed and an attempt to sustain their earthly professions in the afterlife. This cultural phenomenon showcases an intricate blend of traditional beliefs, artistic expression, and the social significance of honoring the departed. The enduring tradition continues through the craftsmanship of contemporary coffin makers such as Cedi, Eric Adjetey Anang, Paa Joe, Daniel Mensah, and Kudjoe Affutu.

Throughout the ages, the Ga-Dangbe community has preserved its rich cultural heritage, contributing significantly to Ghana’s cultural tapestry and beyond.


  • Ebenezer Ako-Adjei (17 June 1916 – 14 January 2002) was a lawyer and politician, who served as foreign minister and in other leading cabinet roles during the first Republic of Ghana as a member of the Convention People’s Party. He was a founding member of the United Gold Coast Convention and is one of the “Big Six“, who were arguably the most famous people in Ghana’s fight for independence from British rule.
  • Tetteh Quarshie (1842 – 25 December 1892) was a pre-independence agriculturalist and the person directly responsible for the introduction of cocoa crops to Ghana, which today constitute one of the major export crops of the Ghanaian economy.
  • Carl Christian Reindorf (31 May 1834 – 1 July 1917) was a Euro-African-born pioneer historian, teacher, farmer, trader, physician and pastor who worked with the Basel Mission on the Gold Coast. He wrote The History of the Gold Coast and Asante in the Ga language, considered a pioneering work and a “historical classic”. The work was later translated into English and published in 1895 in Switzerland. He used written sources and oral tradition, interviewing more than 200 people in the course of assembling his history.
  • Nii Tackie Tawiah III (6 October 1940 – December 2012) was the monarch of the Ga State from 2006 to 2012.
  • John William Hansen (23 February 1927 – 7 April 2012), popularly known as Jerry Hansen, was a highlife musician. He was a singer, a composer, an arranger, a saxophonist and a pioneer of highlife music. He was the bandleader and founder of the Ramblers International Band. He was a founding member and the first president of the Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA)
  • Lieutenant General Joseph Arthur Ankrah (18 August 1915 – 25 November 1992) served as the first commander of the Ghana Armed Forces, the Chief of the Defence Staff of Ghana and from 1966 and 1969 as the second President of Ghana. Ankrah also served as Chairperson of the Organisation of African Unity from 24 February to 5 November 1966.
  • Mustapha Tettey Addy, traditional drummer & composer (b. 1942)
  • Nii Narku Quaynor is a scientist and engineer who has played an important role in the introduction and development of the Internet throughout Africa.
  • Raphael Nii Amaa Ollennu, JSC, FGA (21 May 1906 – 22 December 1986) was a jurist and judge who became a Justice of the Supreme Court of Ghana, the acting President of Ghana during the Second Republic from 7 August 1970 to 31 August 1970 and the Speaker of the Parliament of Ghana from 1969 to 1972.
  • Obo Addy, traditional and contemporary drummer, composer and educator; NEA National Heritage Fellow 1996 U.S.A. (1936-2012)
  • Yacub Addy, traditional drummer, composer, choreographer and educator: NEA National Heritage Fellow 2010 U.S.A.; collaborated with Wynton Marsalis (1931-2014)
  • Christian Tsui Hesse, popularly known as Chris Hesse (born 29 August 1932) is a cinematographer, filmmaker, film administrator, photographer and Presbyterian minister who is known for his cinematography in several films such as Love Brewed in the African Pot (1980) and Heritage Africa (1989). He was the personal photographer of Ghana’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah. Chris Hesse helped to document the visual history of the political leadership and development of the country. He also worked for the United Nations, serving as a photographer, documenting the Congo crisis in 1960.
  • Atukwei John Okai (15 March 1941 – 13 July 2018) was a poet, cultural activist, and an academic. He was Secretary-General of the Pan African Writers’ Association, and a President of the Ghana Association of Writers. His early work was published under the name John Okai. With his poems rooted in the oral tradition, he is generally acknowledged to have been the first real performance poet to emerge from Africa, and his work has been called “also politically radical and socially conscious, one of his great concerns being Pan-Africanism”. His performances on radio and television worldwide include an acclaimed 1975 appearance at Poetry International at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, where he shared the stage with US poets Stanley Kunitz and Robert Lowell, and Nicolás Guillén of Cuba.
  • Justice Jacob Hackenburg Griffiths-Randolph (6 September 1914 – 25 July 1986) was a judge and also the Speaker of the Parliament of Ghana during the Third Republic. In 1959, during the First Republic of Ghana, President Kwame Nkrumah appointed him as Commissioner of Income Tax, the first African to hold that position. In 1966, he was appointed a Superior Court judge by the new government and served in Bolgatanga, Cape Coast, Tamale and finally Accra, where he was until he retired from the Bench in 1979. In September 1979, the 3rd Republic was born, and he was unanimously selected to be Speaker of Parliament. He served as Speaker of the Parliament of Ghana from 24 September 1979 – 31 December 1981.
  • Ernestina Naadu Mills (née Botchway) is an educator and a First Lady of Ghana. She was the wife of President John Atta Mills (21 July 1944 – 24 July 2012) and is the recipient of a humanitarian award from the Health Legend Foundation.
  • Rebecca Akufo-Addo (née Griffiths-Randolph) is a public figure and a First Lady of Ghana. She is the wife of President Nana Akufo-Addo.
  • Ayi Kwei Armah, writer (b. 1939)
  • Nii Ayikwei Parkes (born 1 April 1974), is a performance poet, writer, publisher, and sociocultural commentator. He is one of 39 writers aged under 40 from sub-Saharan Africa who in April 2014 were named as part of the Hay Festival’s prestigious Africa39 project.
  • Emmanuel Tettey Mensah aka E. T. Mensah, musician (1919-1996) who was regarded as the “King of Highlife” music. He led the band “The Tempos”, a group that toured widely in West Africa.
  • Warren Gamaliel Kpakpo Akwei, also known as Guy Warren or Kofi Ghanaba (4 May 1923 – 22 December 2008) was a musician, best known as the inventor of Afro-jazz — “the reuniting of African-American jazz with its African roots”[1] — and as a member of The Tempos, alongside E. T. Mensah. He also inspired musicians such as Fela Kuti. Warren’s virtuosity on the African drums earned him the appellation “The Divine Drummer”. At different stages of his life, he also worked as a journalist, DJ and broadcaster.
  • John William Hansen, a singer, a composer, an arranger, a saxophonist, and a pioneer of highlife music. He was the founder of Ramblers International Band.
  • King Bruce, (3 June 1922 – 12 September 1997), a composer, band leader, musician, arranger, band leader, and multi-instrumentalist who made his mark on Ghana’s dance band highlife tradition in a variety of ways.
  • Saka Acquaye (2 November 1923 – 27 February 2007), a musician, playwright, sculptor and textile designer. He founded the African Ensemble while in the US and as its leader, recorded an album under the ELEKTRA label. He was a member of Ramblers International Band
  • Grace Nortey is an actress who played multi-character lead roles on Ghanaian television in the 1990s.
  • Mac Jordan Amartey (1936–2018) was a popular actor.
  • Emmanuel Armah (born 22 April 1968) is a retired football defender. He played for Hearts of Oak in Ghana, except for the 1994–95 season at Sportul Studențesc București in Romania. He represented Ghana at the 1992 Africa Cup of Nations.
  • Augustine Abbey, also known as Idikoko, is an actor and movie maker known for comedy. He is also known for his main roles as a house boy or gate man. He has produced and starred in a BBC documentary and also directed and produced a film on HIV and AIDS in partnership with UNESCO and Esi Sutherland-Addy’s MMOFRA Foundation.
  • Theresa Amerley Tagoe, Minister of Parliament (1943-2010)
  • Azumah “The Professor” Nelson, boxer (b. 1958)

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Sophia Celestina Apenkro

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