Culture Café: Ghana

We are happy to tell you more about the second Culture Café that took place on March, 7th and became a very memorable event for its participants! Thank you to all Ghanaian students who contributed to it. That evening was a true feast and all the guests could witness how devotedly the students presented their national traditions and shared lots of details about their unique and diverse culture.

The major part of the meeting, as usual, was devoted to the presentation that the students prepared beforehand. Our acquaintance with Ghana started with some history facts which ought to be mentioned! Since 1992, the year when the Constitution was established, Ghana has been an example of democracy. There have been no wars or military conflicts and seven successful president elections have been carried out peacefully. This political harmony seems to be even more impressive when one learns that there are lots of indigenous peoples living in one country. They all have their traditional clothes, food, and ceremonies, and the Ghanaian students managed to represent this variety.

As the students explained it, a traditional Ghanaian costume conveys several symbolic meanings. Obviously, there are different costumes typical for particular parts of the country. Kente, a piece of cotton fabric made of interwoven colourful threads, is worn mostly in Southern Ghana. Each colour has its special meaning and, formed in a pattern, can have an even deeper sense - there are patterns that symbolise democratic rule or knowledge from experience. A Ghanaian smock, which originated in the northern regions of the country and used to be worn only by kings, is now popular all across Ghana. It can also differ in shapes and patterns and even has a female version.

The choice of a suitable outfit varies according to an occasion as well. For example, during festivals, girls choose brighter colours and the fabric that is very decorated. The Ghanaian costume also communicates the social role of its owner. When there is a fest in someone’s house, it will be polite for a guest to choose clothes that look less catchy than the ones of the host.

After explaining the main features of a traditional look, the students showed some pictures of modern fashion outfits. If you would like to explore the Ghanaian clothing more, you can go to the page of Accra Fashion Week 2017 to see how creatively modern designers implement traditional style in their collections.

Apart from learning more about the clothes, the guests also got the chance to taste several kinds of traditional food and they definitely enjoyed it. Although cooking some of the dishes was difficult due to the lack of ingredients, the students managed to make the food as authentic as possible. The menu included chicken in tomato spicy sauce, a traditional vegetable salad with eggs and two kinds of rice dishes - waakye and jollof. 

Another enjoyable feature of this café was getting to know about national ceremonies and everyday traditions. The audience got a profound insight into national festivals, wedding and funeral ceremonies, family life and the Ghanaian social system. It was surprising that in some regions marrying a girl can be a very demanding process for a groom! The procedure of a buyout of a bride includes presenting her family with at least one cow! Sometimes the number raises up to four cows, so a marriage can literally cost someone a fortune.

Did you also know that there are 11 indigenous languages that have the status of government-sponsored ones, but the language of the state is English? Besides being widely used in the government sector, it is the language of education, which is used from the primary school level. Another interesting feature of the Ghanaian culture are naming traditions. Generally, people from younger generations have two names - the traditional one and the one commonly used while communicating with people from other countries. What is peculiar about the former name in the southern regions is that its second part shows on which day of the week a person was born. For example, a boy and a girl born on Thursday will have ‘Yaw’ and ‘Yaa’ added respectively after the first part of the name.

However, the most appreciated part of the event was the opportunity to have natural conversations and see how hospitable and friendly Ghanaian people are. This event was truly cosy and inspirational in terms of opening one’s mind for discovering such a unique culture. Let’s see what other students have to say about it:

"The Сulture Café is an amazing opportunity to get to know new cultures across the globe. Ghanaian students prepared typical food and drinks from their country and everyone was invited to join. I really liked tasting the food as I've never tried it before and it was delicious. In addition to it, the students presented the country and its cultural specific features. I perceived it as very interesting and authentic and was glad that I joined." ~ Christian Gabler, Germany


The next Culture Café will be held on March, 14th and everyone is welcome to join! Can you guess who is the host country? Go to ESN HSE Moscow Facebook page to check it and see the information about the event!

We would like to thank Godfred Kwame [Saturday] Abrokwa for kindly helping us to write this article by giving thoughtful explanations about the Ghanaian culture and sharing all the necessary materials, and Anastasia Sazonova for the final editing of the article. 


Prepared by Ekaterina Mazur, ESN HSE Moscow.