Interesting Cultural Points


One important part of this trip was the cultural immersion. We learned a number of things about Ghanaian culture. A few of the points I found most interesting are discussed below.


Naming: The people we met in Ghana had several names, usually a Western name (often biblical), a Ghanaian name, a family name and, most interestingly, a name based on what day of the week you are born. For each day there is one male name and one female name (listed in the chart below) so, as a result, you keep seeing the same names repeatedly (sometimes these names are used more within a family to avoid confusion). I was born in a thursday so I'm Yaw Dave (pronounced like Yao Ming's first name). By looking at the name of Ghana's most famous world citizen, Kofi Annan-- the Secretary General of the United Nations--we can tell that he was born on a Friday.
Day Male Name Female Name
Sunday Kwesi Akosua
Monday Kwadwo Adwoa
Tuesday Kwabena Abena
Wednesday Kwaku Akua
Thursday Yaw Yaa
Friday Kofi Afua
Saturday Kwame Ama


Matrilineal Inheritance: In Ghana, unlike in most societies, inheritance is matrilineal, so property and hereditary positions, such as the Kingship, are carried along the mothers bloodline. The primary monarchy (largely symbolic now, as Ghana has an elected president) is still usually a King, but if he dies his son does not become king: His brother, or his sisters son, will become king because they follow the mothers bloodline.


Funeral Customs: Funerals are strikingly different in Ghana than in western cultures. Though they are very long and have several parts the most interesting portion (to westerners) is like a huge party. Loud music is played, tons of people are invited, and lots of people dance. The immediate family wear black and red, everyone else wears dark colors if the person was young, white clothing if the person was very old. Our group was invited to a come to a funeral one Sunday and it was probably the strangest thing I experienced during the trip (by USA standards). Tons of stuff was rented for the funeral including chairs, canopies, a HUGE speaker system, and a generator to power the music. There was even someone with a video camera (videographer?). People would speak for a bit, and then loud music was played. When the music came on groups would get up to dance, and at one point they insisted our group come up and dance too . . . what could we do? We danced! (see Journal Entry for May 28th for a little more info).