African Poems

Oral Poetry from Africa

Tag: Ghana (Page 1 of 2)


A modern poem in the traditional manner of a praise for one’s clan, sent to us by Adjei Agyei-Baah. Here the history of the Ashanti people is celebrated with reference to the richness of their land, their gods, and their traditional rulers.

The edenic garden on a fertile land of gold

The Otumfuo of the Ashantis

A poem sent to us by Adjei Agyei-Baah on the theme of the Ashanti royal house. The Ashanti people live within a wealthy, gold-rich region of Ghana. Otumfuo is an honourary title bestowed upon Ashanti rulers when they ascend the throne. The Ashanti Empire was officially established in 1701 by the Ashanti King Osei Tutu and his adviser and High Priest, Okomfo Anokye.

The Golden Stool (Ashanti-Twi: Sika ‘dwa) is the royal throne of the Ashanti king, and is also believed to house the spirit of the Ashanti nation. According to the legends of the oral tradition, the Golden Stool descended from heaven and into the lap of Okomfo Anokye when the Ashanti army defeated their rivals, the Denkyira, in 1701. The entire surface of the Golden Stool is inlaid with gold and hung with bells to warn the king of dangers.

In 1863 the British army attacked the Ashanti kingdom to take control of the Gold Coast. Six hundred troops massed on the border of the Ashanti kingdom during the dry season, but left it too late to launch their invasion. When the rain season began the troops rapidly came down with malaria and dysentery and eventually abandoned their supplies and retreated without a shot being fired. This led the then Ashanti King, Asantehene Kwaku Dua, to remark “The white man brings his cannon to the bush, but the bush is stronger than the cannon”.

He who knows not the Otumfuo
Let me present him…

As I came from the bush I met a demon

An Akan song from the Ashanti region of Ghana, complaining about the work conditions during the colonial period. For this singer, colonial rule began with the recruitment of carriers.

As I came from the bush I met a demon:
Come and help me carry!..

Hold back the Sun

An Akan song from the Ashanti region of Ghana, sung by women at work on their farms. See also Farming Song.

Where is the owner of the bush farm?
Hold back the sun!..

The Jilted Woman

An Akan song from the Ashanti region of Ghana. Note the triumphant mixture of tenses, something that only happens in oral literature. The first line begins like an empty threat, and ends with a boast.

If you won’t marry me,
someone else has married me…

Prayer for a New-Born Child

A Ga chant from Ghana. On the eighth day after a child is born, the relatives and friends gather for the ‘out-dooring’ ceremony. Very early in the morning, the baby is brought outside for the first time. An old person takes the baby in his or her arms and raises it to the dew three times. He then chants this prayer, to which everyone present responds Yao, meaning ‘Amen’.

Hail, hail, hail, let happiness come: Yao.
Are our voices one? Yao

Death Does Not Like Money

An Akan Highlife song from Ghana, popular in the 1970s. It is by the late, well-known singer Alex Konadu (1950-2011).

Death does not like money oo! Konadu ee!
We shall all enter a hole in the earth, this death hmm!..

Poor Fowl

A song of the Ashanti people from Ghana, humorously pretending to sympathise with the poor chicken which is always used in sacrifices.

Fowl, condolences, poor, poor, poor fowl;
Fowl, condolences, poor, poor, poor fowl…

The Path and the River

An Ashanti poem from Ghana, an extract from a drum poem in praise of the river God Tano, addressed as “Kokon Tano” and “Birefia Tano” (see also Drum Address To The Earth Spirit).

The path has crossed the river,
The river has crossed the path…

Is the chief greater than the hunter?

An Akan song from Ghana, sung by professional hunters. The song’s argument is that hunters, with all their skills and bravery, are greater than chiefs, who depend on hunters for their luxuries.

Is the chief greater than the hunter?
Arrogance! Hunter? Arrogance!…

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African Poems