I am Very Proud of My Ewe Heritage!

Thu, 11 Aug 2011 Source: Pryce, Daniel K.

I am Ewe and I am proud of my heritage. While some Ghanaians may take for granted their ability to communicate with others who spoke their mother tongues, some Ewes in the Diaspora are not that fortunate. The dearth of conversation via the mother tongue that many Ewes face when they travel overseas is very real, since our numbers tend to be comparatively smaller than those of other Ghanaian ethnic groups. It is not surprising to find an Ewe in North America who belongs to a Ghanaian community of which everyone else is non-Ewe, and if the Ewe guy or dame did not speak, say, Twi like I do, it became easy to feel ostracized, except where and when the English language was spoken. As such, anything or anyone who plainly and matter-of-factly reminds me of my Ewe heritage becomes a veritable ally, notwithstanding my having a large pool of friends from the other Ghanaian tribes with whom I liaise frequently.

I feel giddy whenever I meet an Ewe-speaking lad or lass: my elation is rooted in a realistic necessity to associate with persons with whom I have an understandably solid and ineffaceable socio-cultural bond, a bond just a tad more explainable than those I have with members of other Ghanaian ethnic groups, even more so because of the sickening claims by some that we Ewes are no Ghanaians at all.

The preceding is not an attempt to engage in a discussion tinged with the specter of tribal "superiority" – after all, some have made it a daily habit on Ghanaweb.com and other Ghana-leaning Web sites to inform us that Ewes are the least of all Ghanaian tribes, that they contribute nothing to the nation's gross domestic product, that they need to relocate to Togo and Benin, and that they are shameless leeches. Somehow, a conversation in Ewe with a fellow Ghanaian always holds for me a compelling vitality and importance. Yet still, this piece may be readily misconstrued by some, even if it is simply an attempt to state in plain language the writer's disdain for the writings and speeches of the tribal supremacists among us.

As mentioned in an earlier piece – it was titled "Promoting the Ewe Language," which, although had garnered very strong support from a cross-section of readers, had also elicited a deluge of pointless denunciations and unwarranted criticisms – I have not been back in Ghana the last fifteen years, and while I certainly miss certain rich words, phrases and sentences that only Ewe men and women steeped in tradition can iterate with utmost clarity, I am comforted by the fact that my Ghana-based relatives are only a phone call away. I still remember vividly the years that I spent learning the deep meanings of certain aphorisms and allegories under the tutelage of a dear relative, a sagacious man by all means! This relative, for many years, shared with me the rich history of the Ewe people; the various aspects of our culture; the interesting genealogies; the irreplaceable allegories; and the etymologies of specific Ewe words, phrases, and sentences, for which I will remain forever grateful.

The celebrated historian J.A. Rogers, who, at a time when the notion of white supremacy was quite widespread, produced an irrefutable array of research findings to show that there was nothing like a pure bloodline, for the palest Scandinavian could easily have had a black ancestor, and the darkest Negro a white ancestor. A perfunctory observation of President Barack Obama's immediate family reveals this verity: while the American president's mother had very pale skin, the effect of his father's dark skin is quite evident in Barack Obama's mulatto features, whose effects get "diluted" even more because Obama is married to a dark-skinned woman. Looking at the Obama daughters, it is quite astounding to know that their paternal grandmother, with whom they are separated by only two generations, had very pale skin! In effect, this writer is arguing that the tribal supremacists in Ghana who assume that they are of, say, pure Ewe, Fante, Asante, Nzema or Dagomba extraction, just to mention a few, may be completely wrong, unless they can trace their ancestries back to the last several hundred years, a quite daunting feat, indeed.

There is a reason why I have always defended the Asantehene on Ghana-leaning Internet portals. For history tells me that Western historians had made concerted efforts to dilute, or even obliterate, the achievements of Africans, soon after the colonization of the African continent. Does the reader know why the British preferred to call the Asantehene a chief, instead of the correct title of a king, a sad claim that some of us are ever willing to replicate when the issue comes up in an argument? It was because those Europeans had wanted to distinguish their monarchies from the ones that they had found on the African continent when they first arrived, their refusal to accept the fact that black kings had ruled the continent for thousands of years before the arrival of the white man quite palpable in the aftermath of events that would take place on the continent.

Does the reader know that the British, in their zeal to colonize what is now Ghana, fought the Ashanti Kingdom eleven times, losing the first ten battles, despite their ostensibly superior firepower? These notable victories by the Ashanti Kingdom would halt the inland encroachment of the British, for which we all should be grateful today. Even though the Asante generals did not learn any war-prosecuting strategies in a military academy, their superior tactics gave them the victory ten out of eleven times! Think about that for a moment!

It was the legendary Aesop, a dark-skinned Ethiopian – the Greeks have always lied to the world that Aesop was both white and one of their own! – who once remarked: "A wolf, peeping through a window, saw a company of shepherds eating a joint of lamb. 'Lord,' he exclaimed, 'what a fuss they would have raised had they caught me doing that'" (as cited by J.A. Rogers). In a nutshell, if an Ewe trumpets his heritage, some of his fellow Ghanaians will make a fuss about it, but a stranger does the same and it is likely to be well received. Well, this writer considers himself distinctly qualified to praise his forebears without outside help. Some Ghanaians seemingly enjoy the dishonor of calling Ewes foreigners; this writer considers it an honor to praise his own. In fact, this writer considers it an honor to be of Ewe extraction!

As Psalmowo 27 tells us, "Yehowa enye nye kekeli kple nye xoname, ameka mavo? Ne ame vlowo, nye ketowo kple nye futowo lu de dzinye, be yewoadu nye la la, woakli nu adze anyi."

Trumpeting my Ewe heritage is not meant to offend anyone; it is rather my unequivocal willingness to freely identify with, rather than run away from, my roots, just as I am ever eager to trumpet the achievements of, say, the Ashanti Kingdom, if necessary. We Ewes must take great pride in our language and also make sure that we hand down to future generations a legacy of a good, effective, unadulterated Ewe language. You and I, as Ewes, have a huge responsibility to safeguard the mother tongue – and we ought to take the role very seriously.

Although we are all Ghanaians, we still have our individual languages and dialects, our individual histories and heritages, our individual customs and beliefs, our individual propensities and inclinations. Ghana, as cohesive and amalgamated as it is, is unarguably the sum total of its individual parts – the former does not exist without the latter.

The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, is pursuing a doctoral degree in Criminology, Law and Society at George Mason University. He holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the same university. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at dpryce@cox.net.

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.