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Opinions of Monday, 20 September 2010

Columnist: Sangaparee, Clement

Totems And Wildlife Conservation - Ghanaians Must Know Their Totems


Our wildlife is our cultural heritage, yet through over hunting, timber

harvesting, bush fires use of toxic chemicals and other forms of habitat

destruction, a large number of animals, reptiles and most bird species have been

lost forever.

Our tradition of totemism is not an idol worship as it was done in the olden

days, it is intended to moderate and save our wildlife heritage. When the last

animal dies human beings would also cease to exist on earth in the same way that

the last man will die when the last tree dies on this earth.

Every Ghanaian has a totem to revere; you just ask your mothers if you are

Akans, because you inherit your totems from your mother side whilst non-Akans

including this writer pick their totems from their fathers’ sides. Totemism is

NOT a religion; it is a way of life and a source of FAMILY PRIDE that gives an

indelible lesson on traditional wildlife conservation. Our ancestors were very

much attuned to conservation of wildlife species; we can not throw away our

totemism just like that because it has been one of the major traditional

conservation tools which have helped to conserve many wildlife species up to

date 2010.

The major totem of the people of Sunyani and Nkoransa traditional areas is the

FRUIT BAT which mostly lives in caves. History has it that when their ancestors

were migrating from Adansi to Asante several decades ago, they came up against

some violent aggressive people who decided to fight them and they took refuge in

a cave. When thousands of BATS came out of the cave and scattered the enemy who

wrongly guessed that human beings could not be hiding inside the cave, hence

they were saved by the BATS. The people of Drobo traditional area have the

crested porcupine as their totem. For the Wenchi people, their totem is the

tree hyrax. The Elephant and Hedgehog are the totems of the people of Odumase

traditional area, whilst the people of Techiman have the mudfish and the Bat as

their totems. It is very interesting to note that in most cases, the principal

reason for the choice of an animal reptile or bird for a totem stems from the

fact that the particular creature SAVED THE CLAN in the past, or that a Clan

models itself after an essential attribute of it, e.g. Bravery, courage, speed

and wisdom to ensure their continued survival. For the Manya Krobo traditional

area in the Eastern Region and Yilo Krobos, the python is their totem since they

believe it holds the spirit of the people especially women together due to its


It is therefore regarded by the Manyas as their grandmother and should NOT be

killed or harmed at all for any reason. The Aduana, Kumawu, Bompata and

Essumeya traditional areas have a dog with a flame in its mouth as their totem.

In the Denyasi traditional area, the honey badger is their totem. People of the

Big Ada traditional area have the cock as their totem because it saved the clan

by alerting them of advancing enemies during a particular bloody war several

centuries ago. The Buems have the vulture as their totem but it is surprising

to outsiders since Buems also kills the vulture, regarded as their totem and

offer its blood to their gods.

The people of Tapa and Nkonya traditional areas have the crab as their totem

which led their ancestors to find water (LIFE) and fertile lands according to

history. The people of Krachi have the lion as their totem. The Anlos have the

Nile monitor lizard as their totem. The people of Central Region have several

totems the most dominant animal is the Elephant which is a totem for Denkyira,

Eguafo, Abura, Ajumako and Abeadze. The Elephant is revered for its great size

and strength. However, totems have taken a modern flavor in Ghana and Africa

because four of our political parties have the Cock, the Eagle, the Elephant and

a Coof as their respective emblems, whilst in African Soccer, we have the

porcupine warriors, Asante Kotoko, The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, the Cranes

of Uganda, the Green Eagles of Nigeria and the Terranga Lions of Senegal

respectively. The founding fathers of these teams and political parties had the

wisdom of our great ancestors.

The people of Ajumako have the bush buck as their additional totem and they

always say that even though the Elephant is great in the forest, it is the

bushbuck who is the king, according to them. Most people knows the totem of

Effutu / Winneba traditional area which is the bushbuck and the same applies to

Oguaa, whose totem is the Crab. The Anomabu people have the grey parrot as

their totem and the totem of the Edina people is the Hen with Chicks. The totem

of the people of Twifo-Hemang is the Lion, whilst the people of Ekumfi and

Abirem have the royal Antelope as their totem. The people of Sefwi Wiaso and

Suaman tradional area have the Crowned Crested Eagle as their totem.

The people of Greater Accra have the following totems; the Lion for Kpone and

the Elephant for the Ga, the Shais both Osudoku and Old Ningo. The people of

Ningo Prampram have the crowned crested Eagle and the Sea Turtle as their

totems. Are we teaching our future leaders who will take over from us tomorrow

about our rich cultural heritage in this country? I doubt it, because most

Ghanaians Youth are rather interested in wearing their trousers and ever pair of

knickers below their buttocks which they shamefully describe as “Otto Fischers”

or is it Fixtures, “picture” or whatever they call that shabby dressing style in

this country.

We must teach Ghanaian Youth to know all these important traditional values

because posterity will never forgive us if we fail to do that. At the lower

Dixcove traditional area, the crocodile is their totem whilst the Ahantas revere

the whale because they have the believe that their ancestors emerged from the

belly of the whale.

The people of Essikado and Sekondi have the Buffalo as their totem since they

claim that their ancestors were powerful warriors. The people of Wassa Frase

have the bushbuck as their totem and the people of Mpohor also have the parrot

as their totem. The Offinso traditional area have four totems, the Snake, the

Hen, the Crow and the Elephant. The Obogus, the Kokofus, the Nsutas, the

Asankares and Juabengs being of the Oyoko extraction like Kumasi have the Hawk

as their most important totem. For the Akwamus, their principal totem is the

Hawk or Black Kite. For the Akyem Kotokus, Akyem Abuakwas, the Kwahus, the

Leopard is held in high esteem as a totem, for its deciveness, strength in

battle and its resilience. A leopard never gives up. The new Juabens, like

their old Juaben kith and kin are all Oyokos and their totem is the black kite

or Hawk. The Asokore and Adansi being Ekuonas, hold the buffalo as a sacred

animal and their totem. If you have ever knowingly or unknowingly killed or

eaten an animal or a reptile that happens to be your totem. Just tell your 80

year old grandmother or 85 year old father you will see the serious concern and

anger she/he will express in your presence, because if we throw away our totems

we are throwing away our cultural heritage and our own selves all in the name of

an alien culture. The most endangered clan, family or tribal totems are the

grey parrot, buffalo, tree hyrax, lion, crocodile and the aardvark. A very

common totem in Ghana is currently extinct in several areas where they are

regarded as sacred totems. E.g. Voggusin the Northern Region, Gonja, Kpembe,

Dagbon, Kpone, Twifuhemang and Krachi. The leopard and tigers are very

difficult to find these days, even though they are principal totems for several

people and other tribes in Ghana including Dorimon, Pulma, Gwira in the Western

Region Bumbilla, Tuluwe, Akyem Abuakwa, Kwahu, Assin Apimenim, Enyan Abaasa,

Akatakyiman and all Ghanaians at Agogo and Ofoase. Therefore the leopard’s list

of traditional areas in Ghana also emphasise that we are essentially BROTHERS

and SISTERS, ONE PEOPLE linked by common TOTEMIC and other bounds and must as a

result live TOGETHER as such.

The porcupine (Kotoko) is the principal totem for five important traditional

areas. Sombo, Kaahaa, Walenbelee and Drobo in the Brong Ahafo Region. What are

our policy makers doing about this for several decades? Elephants can no longer

be found in the Offinso and Ejura, Sekyidumase areas nor can they be sighted in

the other traditional areas that share the great pachyderm as their totem. They

are Denkyira, Abura, Ajumako, Eguafo, Abeadze, Shai Osudoku, Manprusi, Yinyuo,

Wassa Amenfi and Old Ningo.

Neither can one find a crested porcupine now except in the Kumasi and Accra

Zoos. In the past, the survival of our clans was based on courage and strength,

so all Ghanaian families, clans and traditional areas have their respective

TOTEMS and the Youth must be made to know these. In the Northern half of Ghana,

our chiefs are elevated to their positions on SKINS of various types of

ANIMALS. Animal skins are also used by our SOUTHERN CHIEFS and KINGS. An Akan

paramount chief requires a lion’s pelt for public ceremonies whilst his

footstool is mostly from leopard skin. All royal drums have animal skins as the

basic membrane.

The people of Chiana - Paga traditional area as well as the people of Kaleo in

the Upper East and Upper West Regions have their sacred totem as the baboon; it

is so revered for having saved the lives of their ancestors from slave raiders

some 600 years ago. On the other hand, the people of Guo and Nandom (Upper West

Region) and Nankong, Builsa and Nabdam in the Upper East Region have the patas

monkey as their totem that should never be killed or eaten. The Sirigu and

Navrongo traditional areas have the squirrel as their totem. The principal

totems in Volta Region include the lion, royal antelope and the elephant. The

people of Anfoega have the mona monkey as their totem. For the people of

Awudome, their totem is the python which is also the totem of this writer on his

father side, whilst the cat is a totem on his mother’s side. The history of the

Awudomies is that when their ancestors were migrating to their present area,

they were attacked by some war like people whose objective was to seize their

sacred stool. Miraculously, the stool turned into a python and the sacred

attackers scattered in fright. The cat is also the totem of Awudome. If you

ever attended a festival of chiefs and people in the Akan speaking areas, you

will see different kinds of linguists staff with carved objects on top of these

staffs which identifies a family or clan or tells a proverb. A careful look at

most of these carvings is representations of various animals notably Reptiles

and Birds, the Lion, the Elephant, the Eagle, the Buffalo, the Leopard, the

Snake, the Tortoise, the Crow, the Crocodile, the Parrot, the Vulture and the

Hawk. So what do these symbols stand for? The answer is that every Ghanaian

has a family or clan totem from time immemorial and it must be held sacred and

protected by members of that clan, family or tribe for their spiritual well

being. We are NOT Europeans so dear reader, what is your totem after reading

this article? You must know it and tell your children and friends otherwise you

are doomed and living in perpetual darkness bounded by foreign values and alien

culture which is worse than death. I am done

Aluta Continua

Clement Sangaparee

United Cadres Front

C/O Box 32, Obuasi



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