The Ewe tribe is one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa, with a population of over 3 million people spread across Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria.
Their rich cultural heritage, language, and customs have been passed down through generations, and are still celebrated and practiced to this day.
In this post, we will explore some of the most intriguing customs of the Ewe tribe.
The Importance of Ancestors
One of the most significant aspects of Ewe culture is the veneration of ancestors.
The Ewe people believe that their ancestors continue to play an active role in their lives, and they must honor and respect them.
This belief is evident in their customs and rituals, such as the annual Agbogboza festival, which is held in honor of the dead.
During the festival, the Ewe people gather to perform dances, sing songs, and offer sacrifices to their ancestors.
They also believe that their ancestors protect them from evil spirits and bring them good fortune.
This strong connection to their ancestors is also evident in their naming customs.
Ewe children are often named after their grandparents or other ancestors to honor and preserve their memory.
The Ewe people are also known for their unique social structure.
Unlike many other African tribes, the Ewe society is matrilineal, which means that inheritance and lineage are traced through the mother’s line.
This has significant implications for family dynamics and gender roles within the tribe.
In Ewe culture, women are highly respected and play a central role in the family.
They are responsible for the household and the upbringing of the children, and they have the power to choose their own husbands.
This is in stark contrast to many other African cultures, where women are seen as inferior and subordinate to men.
The Significance of Drums
Music and dance are an essential part of Ewe culture, and the tribe is famous for its drumming traditions.
The Ewe people believe that drums have spiritual power and are used to communicate with the gods and ancestors.
There are many different types of Ewe drums, each with its own unique sound and purpose.
For example, the Atsimevu drum is used to announce important events and summon people to meetings, while the Kaganu drum is used to communicate with the dead.
Ewe people also have a unique form of dance called Agbadza, which is performed to the rhythm of the drums.
The dance is often used in religious ceremonies and is a symbol of unity and community.
Marriage is a significant event in Ewe culture, and there are many customs and rituals associated with it.
One of the most important is the dowry, which is paid by the groom’s family to the bride’s family.
The dowry is seen as a way of compensating the bride’s family for the loss of their daughter and is often a significant financial burden for the groom’s family.
Another important custom is the knocking ceremony, which is performed when the groom’s family seeks the bride’s family’s permission to marry their daughter.
The knocking ceremony involves the groom’s family bringing gifts such as kola nuts, alcohol, and money to the bride’s family.
If the gifts are accepted, it is a sign that the bride’s family approves of the marriage.
Like many African tribes, the Ewe people have elaborate funeral customs that are designed to honor and respect the dead.
One of the most unique is the practice of “sitting on the corpse,” which involves the family members sitting on the body of the deceased for several hours after death.
This is seen as a way of transferring the deceased’s strength and wisdom to the living.
Another important custom is the preparation of the body.
The body is washed and dressed in new clothing before being placed in a coffin.
The coffin is typically made of wood and decorated with bright colors and symbols that represent the person’s life.
The body is then displayed in the family home for several days, allowing friends and relatives to pay their respects.
During this time, the family will also perform a variety of rituals to honor the deceased.
These may include singing traditional funeral songs, reciting prayers, and sharing stories about the person’s life.
Food and drinks are also served to guests, as a way of showing hospitality and respect.
Once the funeral service is complete, the body is typically buried in a nearby cemetery.
The Ewe people believe that the dead continue to influence the living, and that it is important to maintain a connection with them even after death.
For this reason, the grave is often visited and cared for by family members on a regular basis.
Traditional Clothing and Jewelry
The Ewe people are known for their vibrant and colorful traditional clothing and jewelry.
Women often wear a long wrap-around skirt, known as a “kente,” along with a matching blouse and headscarf.
The fabric is typically made of cotton or silk, and is adorned with intricate patterns and designs.
Men may wear a similar wrap-around skirt, known as a “danmogowu,” along with a shirt and sandals.
Both men and women may also wear beaded necklaces, bracelets, and earrings as a way of expressing their personal style and cultural identity.
The clothing and jewelry worn by the Ewe people is not only beautiful, but also holds great symbolic significance.
Many of the patterns and designs are rooted in the tribe’s mythology and history, and are believed to offer protection and good fortune to the wearer.
The Ewe people are known for their delicious and flavorful cuisine, which includes a variety of meats, vegetables, and spices.
One of the most popular dishes is “akple,” a type of cornmeal porridge that is typically served with a spicy tomato and pepper sauce.
Another favorite is “sousou,” a stew made with goat meat, tomatoes, onions, and spices.
The dish is often served with a side of “banku,” a type of dough made from corn and cassava that is similar to a dumpling.
The Ewe people also enjoy a variety of snacks and desserts, such as fried plantains, coconut cookies, and fried dough balls known as “bofrot.”
Music and Dance
Music and dance are an integral part of Ewe culture, and are often performed at festivals, weddings, and other celebrations.
One of the most popular instruments is the “gankogui,” a double bell that is played with a wooden stick.
Other instruments include the “axatse,” a gourd rattle, and the “kpokpo,” a type of horn.
Dancing is also an important part of Ewe culture, and is often accompanied by drumming and singing.
The dances are usually performed in a circle, with participants moving in unison and responding to the rhythm of the music.
The Ewe people practice a variety of religions, including Christianity, Islam, and traditional African religions.
Many still incorporate traditional beliefs and practices into their religious observances, such as offerings to ancestors and the use of divination to communicate with the spirits.
One of the most important religious festivals is the “Hogbetsotso,” which celebrates the migration of the Ewe people from their ancestral home in Nigeria to their current location in Ghana, Togo, and Benin.
The festival is marked by a parade, drumming, dancing, and traditional rituals.
The Ewe people are a diverse and fascinating tribe with a rich cultural heritage.
From their unique beliefs about life and death to their intricate social structures and customs, there is much to learn and appreciate about this community.
Whether it is through their music, dance, or art, the Ewe people have contributed greatly to the cultural fabric of West Africa and beyond.
As we continue to explore and appreciate the diversity of African cultures, it is important to recognize the many ways in which these communities have been impacted by historical injustices, colonization, and the ongoing struggle for autonomy and self-determination.
By learning about and celebrating the cultural traditions of the Ewe people and other African tribes, we can work towards a more just and equitable world where all cultures and traditions are valued and respected.