Anlo Ewe

ethnic group
group= Ewe

poptime= 2-5 million
popplace=Ghana, Togo,
rels=traditional beliefs, Christianity, Voodoo

The Ewe people are an African ethnic group of 2-5 million [ African Drumming - - Anlo-Ewe History ] ] inhabiting the southeastern part of Ghana from the Eastern shore of the Volta River to the border of Ghana and Togo known as the Volta Region. They are a patrilineal society governed by a hierarchal, centralized authority Nukunya, G.K.. Kinship and Marriage Among the Anlo Ewe. London School of Economics Monographs on Social Anthropology No. 37. New York: Humanities Press Inc., 1969.] . Their language (self-name "Anlogbe") is a dialect of the Ewe language, itself part of the Gbe language cluster.ref|tone The Ewe religion is centered around a supreme god Mawu and several intermediate divinities [ Alfred Ladzekpo | Religion ] ] .


The Ewe people are traced back to their original settlement in the Oyo region of western Nigeria. It is thought they migrated to their present home from Notsie, Togo sometime in the later part of the seventeenth century. The move is said to be more of an escape than migration from a regime change in the city. Upon first arrival in Notsie, the current king, Adela Atogble, received them well, but after his death the successor, Ago Akoli, ruled oppressively upon the Ewe. He ordered all elders killed to erase oral history, but as the story entails, the Ewe people kept hidden one wise elder. The city of Notsie was circumscribed by a large defensive wall which became a barrier to the Ewe devising escape. Upon consultation of the hidden elder, Tegli, the Ewe came up with an extravagant plan of escape. For days the women of the group would moisten the wall in one place during their daily clothes washing activities. When the wall was weak enough, the plan then culminated in the gathering of all the Ewe, Tegli drawing the “Sword of Liberation” summoning the gods, and piercing the wall proclaiming, “O Mawuga Kitkata, wuwo na mi ne miadogo, azo adzo” (Oh great God Kitikana, open the door for us so that we walk through).Amenumey, D.E.K.. "The Extension of British Rule to Anlo (South-East Ghana)." The Journal of African History (1968) 99-117. 4 December 2006 .]

Upon arrival in Ghana, most groups formed villages in coastal regions, the largest being Keta and Anloga. Other settlements include Denu, Aflao, Dzelukofe, Kedzi, Dzita, and Tegbi many of which are associated with the slave trade that tormented Ewe populations. A northern migration was the result of frequent slave raids and spread the Ewe people throughout the Keta Lagoon, the largest lagoon in Ghana. The shallow waters and many islands provided a safe-haven to all but the most aggressive slave traders] .

Political System

The current political system stems from the necessity of militant organization to deal with slave traders in the 17th and 18th centuries. Upon arrival in the Volta region the Ewe people split into smaller subtribes or chiefdoms. Each was autonomous but acknowledged that they are all a single people. The Anlo is one of these tribes traditionally consisting of thirty-six towns around the Keta Lagoon.

Formerly for military purposes, the tribe was divided into administrative units by geographical location. The Lashibi defended the west, the Adotri the center, and the Woe occupied the east . All were under the rule of a loosely governing ‘central’ authority, the king called Awoamefia. He lives in Anloga, the capital city made sacred with the presence of gods.

Historically, the power of the central authority is rarely invoked; only in times of war or in need of serious judicial counseling. The king is chosen from one of two royal clans either the Adzivua or Bate; selection does not follow the traditional monarchal rule of primogeniture. The clans rotate the designation of kings, keeping one single clan from maintaining power. The selection is made by the elders of the clan from several candidates presented by the various sections of the clan. The elected king holds a position of divinity living in seclusion, only dealing with the three senior chiefs in charge of the geographical regions.

These three chiefs as well as the sub-chiefs and head-men in their respective areas have jurisdiction in investigation of crimes and to settle local disputes [Ellis, A.B.. The Ewe Speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast of West Africa. Chicago: Benin Press, Ltd, 1965.] . The involved parties do have the right to appeal to the king after a ruling has been made in a lower court. The Awoamefia is assisted by two councils in the appeals decisions and general matters. One is comprised of the elders of each clan; the other consists of the three military chiefs. Historically the council of elders is more influential based on the Anlo belief that the power of the king is vested in the people. “Du menca fia me o. Fiaenca du me” (The people do not live with the King. It is the King who lives with the people). If the King ruled out of favor of the people they had the right to replace him.

Kinship System

The Clan

The Anlo-Ewe is a patrilineal people. Members each belong to a clan in which they believe to have descended along the male line. In most of the larger settlements all of the clans are represented, sometimes by more than one lineage. Lineages are defined as a branch of the clan in which the male and female members can trace relationships back to a common male ancestor. The lineage, in contrast to the clan, is exogamous. Each lineage has its own symbols, ancestral shrine, common property and a lineage head. The head is usually the oldest surviving member of the lineage. He has the final say in most all decisions and disputes and regulates all dealings with lineage interests including land dispersal. On top of secular activities, the lineage head is also the chief priest. He leads many of the ceremonies and serves as the link between the living and dead as all religious offerings are presented to him. The smallest unit within a lineage is a hut; this is either a wife and her unmarried children or the same with the husband as well. There is a practice of polygyny although a small percentage of men actually have more than one wife. The man is the head of the household or afe and can act without interference except from his father. There is a large respect for elders and as long as a father is around the son is expected to comply with any of his demands.

Kinship Terminology


Traditionally the Anlo-Ewe have one supreme God Mawuga Kitikana or just Mawu. This god is believed to be all powerful and everywhere at once. There are no shrines or devotional ceremonies because of this omnipresent belief and instead the people practice religion through lower level divinities. These include: Yewe, Afa, Eda, Nana, Mamiwota, etc. The first two being the most popular, each having a membership initiation process to worship. Yewe is the god of thunder and lightning. When members are initiated under Yewe, a Yewe name is at a graduation ceremony. The person’s old name now becomes taboo and if used, the speaker can be put in front of a council of priests to be sentenced to pay a large fine. Afa is the astral god of divination, also the younger brother of Yewe. Members do not get new names and keep their birth names. Performances are at the forefront of devotional activities for Afa. Members and non-members celebrate Afa together however the non-member must wear white clothing and can not dance next to a member unless at a funeral. If these rituals are not followed properly, non-members are fined.


As elderly respect is in high regard in the Ewe society, funerals, traditionally, are extravagant events incorporating a multitude of events over a month’s span:

# Amedigbe: The body, previously preserved with herbs, is buried on this day usually two to three days after death.
# Ndinamegbe: The day after the burial principal mourners are received.
# Nudogbe: Day for wake-keeping 4-6 days after burial.
# Yofogbe: The day after wake-keeping lineage rituals are performed and family members of the deceased receive gifts and donations for funeral expenses.
# Akontawogbe: Donations are counted three days later.
# Xomefewogbe: Several days later a final cost of the funeral is calculated and donations may be repaid or more money may be raised.

Funeral donations are a main focus in the proceedings of the ceremonies due to the high cost of an Anlo funeral. Costs include the coffin, burial clothes, public dances, food and alcohol, also guest accommodations. In present day, in a more modernized and mobile society these funeral ceremonies usually take place over a single weekend several weeks after death to allow for distant relatives to prepare and accommodate work. In Anlo-Ewe society, funerals are the most likely places to see the colorful performances of dance-drumming groups. A lively and spectacular performance usually follows the life of an honorable and involved member of the community. Sometimes distant family members may even commission performances months after death if they could not be present at the actual funeral.

Newborn Anlo Ewe boys are circumcised on the seventh day after their birth. They are also named on this day. Newborn Anlo Ewe girls have their ears pierced on the seventh day after their births. They are named on that day. Fact|date=February 2007

ee also

*Gbe languages
*Ewe language
*Ewe music
*Rulers of the Ewe state of Anlo


# Anlo is known for a peculiarity of its tonal system. Like neighbouring Ewe varieties, Anlo has three tone levels, High (H), Mid (M), and Low (L). Of these three levels, the lower two are not phonemically contrastive. However, Anlo contrasts with the other dialect in the possession of a fourth tone level, the extra-High tone (R). The R tone is viewed as an innovation of Anlo, since the most economic way of generalising about the R tone is to apply 'R tone rules' to the common tonal forms to derive the Anlo tonal forms. Clements (1977) argues that the R tone is a case of tonal split caused by 'reanalysis of downstepped tone sequences as sequences of tones on distinct tone levels' (p 168).


Further reading

* Clements, George N. (1977) 'Four tones from three: the extra-high tone in Anlo Ewe'. In Kotey and Der-Houssikian (eds.) "Language and linguistic problems in Africa". South Carolina: Hornbeam Press Inc.
* Clements, George N. (1985) 'Downdrift in a tone language with four tone levels'. In "York Papers in Linguistics" 15, July, pp. 33-40
* Geurts, Kathryn (2003) "Culture and the Senses: Bodily Ways of Knowing in an African Community". Santa Barbara: University of California Press.

External links


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