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The Dangmes are believed to be part of the Israelites who traveled from Egypt to Canaan. It is said that they strayed when they were in transit and found themselves in Nigeria. Because they were being forced to worship Allah and pray as the Moslems did, which they were not comfortable with, they journeyed on to Benin, and then to Togo and finally had to cross the Volta River to Tagologo (now called Natreku – between Akuse junction and Akuse). From there again they moved, under their tribe heads, to the various places (dialectal areas) we find them now.

The Dangme Language & the Dangmes

Dangme is known as a Kwa Language - a branch of the Niger-Congo family of languages. It is the language of the people of Ada, Yilo and Manya Klo, Sɛ, Osudoku, Kpone (Kpomi), Gbugblaa (Prampram) and Nugo. They occupy about 70% of the Greater Accra Region and 15% of the Eastern Region of Ghana mainly.

Writing of Dangme & Orthography

The earliest attempts at literary production in Dangme, for obvious reasons, made use of the orthography that was developed to write the Ga School Primers in the latter part of the 19th century and to produce the Ga translation of the Bible. No further effective efforts were made to produce anything else in print, in Dangme, apart from the Book of the Prophet Jonah by the Missionaries and a very short, two-stanza, hymn (No. 343) in the Presbyterian Ga Hymn Book by K. Reindorf in 1867.

There were, of course, feeble endeavours as well as appreciable efforts by several individuals which never went beyond the manuscript stage. From the latter part of the 20th century onwards, a considerable number of manuscripts were produced in Dangme. Some of these were published. For example, Enoch Azu’s ‘Dangme Historical Songs’ (Klama) and ‘Dangme Proverbs’, D. A. Puplampu’s ‘Dangme Munyu Tub4’, ‘M4m4yo’, ‘An Dangme Script’, ‘A Grammar of Dangme’, T. N. N. Accam’s ‘Klama Songs and Chants’, ‘Adangme Vocabularies’ and others can be cited.

In the late 40’s D. A. Puplampu came out with a suggestion for a Dangme Orthography which included the use of ‘c’, ‘j’ and ‘ng’ in place of the Ga ‘t’, ‘dz’ and ‘n’ characters. Later when the United Bible Translation Committee decided to publish the Bible in Dangme and the Government at the time approved the teaching of Dangme in schools on Dangme land, the question arose as to whether Ga and Dangme must both use the same Orthography.

At this point in time (1968), the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana - Legon was invited to advise on Ga and Dangme Orthographies. It was then decided after a careful examination that the two Orthographies were different and that for practical reasons, a compromise should be struck between the two. It was conclusive that Dangme Orthography would drop the ‘c’ and ‘dz’ but retain the ‘j’, ‘ts’ and ‘ng’ while Ga retained ‘n’ and dropped ‘ts’. The only difference in the two Orthographies would then be the use of ‘ng’ by Dangme and ‘n’ for Ga. After the final decision on Orthographies, representatives of the Institute of African Studies (University of Ghana - Legon), the Bureau of Ghana Languages and the Dangme Bible Translation Committee met in 1969 and decided on the set of rules of spelling.

The First Dangme Language Committee

Owing to the dialectal differences that emerged in published books and a few shortcomings in the existing rules of spelling (after the above), a Dangme Standardization Committee was constituted by the Bureau of Ghana Languages in 1974. The Committee was to revise the existing Orthography, evolve a Standard Written Dangme and compile a basic Dangme word list. Dr. Apronti’s ‘The Writing of Dangme’ was in essence the basis and source material. It must be noted that the supreme objective of the committee was to prepare the way for Dangme writings that would be intelligible to any native Dangme speaker - no matter the dialectal region the person may come from (Manya Klo, Yilo Klo, S1, Osudoku, Kpomi, Gbugblaa, Nugo and Adaa).

The Dangme Alphabets

a b d e ɛ f g gb h i j k kp l m n ng ngm ny o 4 p s t ts u v w y z (Note that ‘r’ and ‘sh’ are sometimes used in words foreign to Dangme.)

Dangme has two types of Consonants.

1. Single Consonants: b d f g h j k l m n p s t v w y z
2. Consonant Clusters: gb kp ng ngm ny ts

Dangme also has nasalized and non-nasalized vowels.

1. Non-nasalized Vowels: a e ɛ i o ɔ u
2. Nasalized Vowels: a 1 i ɔ u
(From “Dangme Ngmami Bɔ” – The Writing of Dangme)

Publications

On record, we had 60 Dangme Publications as at 1994 (Bureau at a glance).

Population

Dangmes are found in the Eastern Region (Yilo Krobo Municipality, Upper Manya, Lower Manya, part of Asuogyamang, part of East Akim and part of New Juaben), Greater Accra Region (Dangme East and West - Southeastern coast and inland) and in the Volta Region (part of North Tongu and Avatime) in Ghana. Their numerical strength is as follows. According to the 2010 Population Census (Ghana Statistical Service, October 2014), we have the following:

Economic Activity - Trading, Farming & Fishing Small Scale Industrial Activities & Farming
Tourism - Forts, Estuary,Holiday Chalets & Beaches Game Reserve Boti falls, Ancestral Homes on Mt. Yogaga (Caves, etc)
Location Population
Ada East - 71,671
Ada West - 59,124
Ningo Prampram - 70,923
Kpone Katamanso - 109,864
Shai Osudoku - 51,913
Yilo Krobo - 87,847
Lower Manya - 87,246
Upper Manya - 72,092
TOTAL - 610,680

(Note that we also have some Dangmes at the following places: Asuogyaman, New Juaben, Fanteakwa, Kwahu Afram Plains, Agotime - in the Volta Region - and other parts of Ghana.) The 1990 Population Census also states we have 1,250,000 Ga-Adangmes and 300,000 Gas. This means we had 950,000 Dangmes then.