Today, let us take a look at the history of another Guan people, the Akpafus. Guans are the aboriginal people of Ghana. They were here before all other ethnic groups.
The Akpafu are ancient iron-making agriculturalist Siwu-speaking people belonging to the larger Guan ethno-linguistic group found in the [ads1]north of Hohoe in the Volta Region of Ghana. The people call themselves Mawu, their traditional abode as Kawu and their language as Siwu (Siwusi). The language Siwu is spoken in a total of eight villages scattered about in the mountains north of Hohoe with an estimated total number of speakers ranging between 10,000 and 23,000. Siwu is also part of Ghana–Togo Mountain languages; part of Kwa languages and the larger Niger-Congo language phylum. Siwu`s closest linguistic relatives are Lεlεmi (Buem), Sεlε (Santrokofi), and Sεkpεlε (Likpe)
The Mawu land (Kawu) is divided into Akpafu (West) and Lolobi (East), corresponding to a dialectal division. Five Akpafu towns make up Akpafu, and they are Tɔdzi, Ɔdɔmi, Mempeasem, Sɔkpoo, and Adɔkɔ.
Akpafu is the word Ewe people use to refer to the Mawu. The word derives onomatopoeically from the sound the bellows make.However, Mark Dingemanse also mentioned a female version of the etymology linked to a phrase Mawu women used in market trading, kpa fu me meaning, “gather and heap it for me” (Dingemanse 2007). The word has also been linked to the word in Bowiri for farming, wu (Höftmann and Ayitevi 1968: 2).
According to oral history of the Akpafus compiled by Reverend H.B.K. Ogbete in his 1998 published work, “A History of Akpafus”, the people, Mawu (which include the Akpafu and Lolobi) trace their “origins to the highlands of Numbia to the northern reaches of the Ethiopian mountains.” They moved from the Ethiopian highlands to the Atara River in the southeast where they crossed into the valley and out into the southern plains reaching to the river. The Akpafus came to settle at Suwan or Sutarn (Sudan) for a while and moved on to the Niger River areas in Nigeria.
Ogbete (1998) posits that the people walked along the Niger River, which the Akpafus called “Kuara” meaning “with plenty of things,” and after crossing it came against very tall and wild people who drove the Akpafu or Mawu southward into the forest of the Brong Ahafo. They settled first at Gyaman, and moved into Nweneme and Duadaso in the Drobo Traditional Area searching for ore-bearing stones, digging and smelting and beating it into hoes, mattocks and farming implements. From their settlements in Brong Ahafo, these Guan group divided into two: the first group moved to make their residence in the forested area in the present-day Ashanti Region. The group later moved down and finally crossed the Volta at Agyade (now under the Volta Lake) into the hills of Mid-Volta (now the Buem Traditional Area).
Ogbete (1998) reckons the second group including Akpafu or Mawu, Santrokofis and Likpes got away from Adansi into the present day Akim Abuakwa in the Atiwa hill near Apapem where there abound kinds of black, heavy furrowed and brittle stones that had been melted, solidified and cast out. From Apapem, the group migrated to Nsawam, and climbed the Akwapim hills to the other side with the Volta River to the east. It was here the Mawu people and their fellow Guan groups such as Nkonya, Pais, Larte and others came together. The Mawu people settled on the land before the mighty Akwamu people came to settle at Nyanoase, and later dominated the highlands and ruled the Guans. The Akpafus suffered terribly at the hands of their Akwamu overlords. The Akwamus forcefully take Akpafu youths to Nyanoase on Adae Kese festivals, where they were either sacrificed to their deity or sold into slavery.
To escape the ill-treatments meted out to them by the Akwamus, the Akpafus moved their settlement northwards along the Volta, which they called Firao. According to Akpafu oral traditions, a hunter named Orere Tagbara (tall man) found the Firao whilst chasing a leopard which was terrorizing goats and sheep in the settlement, ran into some boar or bush pigs who simply ran into the River Volta towards the opposite bank. From their settlement around Firao, they heard that their kingsfolk, the Nchumurus, had attempted to cross the great river (Ogbete 1998). The Nchumurus formed a series of human chains with seven or eight people in each chain; holding hands, they walked into the river while their leaders stood on the bank shouting directives to those in the water: “Ot bo oklua mle sankyi ba!” meaning “if it is rather deeper then come back”. From that day the place has been called Senkye or Senchi. This narration clearly confirms that the Akpafus were with Nkonya and other Guan groups during the crossing of the Volta River. The Akpafu adopted the same strategy of the Nchumurus to cross the Firao.
From the Volta basin, the Akpafu people settled on the hills called Eweto, between Peki and Awudome. They spread their villages from Asikuma to the Bame-Koeve and had their largest village behind Awudome-Tsito. Later Awudome (Ewes) arrived from the eastern plains and settled below the hills. Unfortunately, their new neighbors, Awudomes, started land and crop growing conflicts with them. Ogbete (1998) posits that one of the conflict was called by the Akpafus as the Rice Fray or “kamɔ ikpaiɔ.” In this conflict, Awudome people who thought rice grown by the Akpafus was also another species of roofing grass cut them off. The Akpafus got angry and attacked their opponents with knives and spears whilst the Awudomes replied with clubs and wooden spears. Ogbete (1998 writes, “Because the Akpafus used knives and spears made of their cast iron dug from their mountain homes, they had the upper hand in causing injuries, and the Awudomes had a chance to retreat with the cry, “wo be nukemi vela oui” meaning “their spears are painful.” It is likely that the name Avenui given to the Akpafu people by the Awudomes stemmed from that fray.
To avoid constant conflicts with the Awudomes, the Akpafus left the hills for the Danyi Basin. They roamed the Vakpo, Anfor, Tsrukpe and Avate hills, searching for ore-bearing stones without success. Whilst searching the Vakpo-Anfoe hills, the Akpafus met the Akpinis in the northern reaches of the Danyi basin near the township of Kudzra or Gbefi. The Akpinis made disdainful remarks that the Akpafus were uncircumcised so that they must leave the top part of Danyi River undisturbed. This simply meant that the Akpafus should stop washing their “Lobolobo” (uncircumcised penises), into their drinking water, the Danyi river. The message’ ran like this’ “Migblɔ na mwnebwo be woadzidzo wofe lobolobo tsi droa agblata kpalakpala de tsi nono me na mi, ne menye nenema ode miafia wow.”
The Akpafus moved to settle in the hills known as the Togo Plateau, or Awubeame (the Akpafu hills). Grouped by clans, the Akpafus settled in these hills in over fifteen villages. They instituted chieftaincy headship on a rotatory basis and established Age Groupings for martial as well as civic training. The Head or Paramount Chief was given a title “Igra Kpakpa”, to adjudicate over all the palavers in the Awubeame. It was here that conflict arose between Omain (Mamain) clan, now known as Lolobi and Magadagbe clan over rice selling and destruction. The Omain`s Igra, Okatakyie, then held the position of Igra Kpakpa among the Akpafus; his decision to adjudicate on the issue to punish the Magadagbe clan for being guilty party was nipped in the bud by other sub-chiefs. The decision annoyed Igra Okatakyie and his people, thus, they left the Awubeame and journeyed east into the Danyi basin where they encountered the Danyis and the Kpeles who drove them back to where they are now, namely, between the Utuka-Lolobi and Danyi River basin. As a result of the separation, the Omain (Lolobi) people rejected and lost all aspects of their identity as Mawu or people of Kawu except the Akpafu language and a few titular deities.
The Akpafus also started to abduct Magadagbe women for their young men to marry. This and other rice brawls also forced Magadagbes to depart from Awubeame to the bed of an inland lake east of the Awubeame unto a hill northeast of Odomi, Magadagbe Kube. Following the departure of Omain (Lolobi) and the Magadagbe from Awubeame, an Akpafu hunter, Barima Ketekpa led them to settle at Isuku Kaa or Katekpa ikpayo, now known as Akpafu Todzi. The northwestern slope of Oyedjor hill was settled by the Maritei clans of Majiritei, Maledja Mahn, Magadagbe and the Madabdjai. 0x1 the eastern slopes of Oyedjor the Matukusei clans of Asakyiri, Kpadjia and the Atedua occupied the central side of the valley between the Oyedjo and men hills. South of the Atedua settlement lies a place set aside for holding national durbars: w. Onthe slopesof Ogagen facing the Oyedjo slopslies, on the eastern flank, the Kalesea clan, where Brema Katekpa erected his “Ikpayo” or shed. Along the side of the Kalesea clan, the Aborade clan–derisively called Gyakwa–took abode. Finally, on the western side lies the Asakyiri section called -. The gradual settlement at Kawuikato, which is now called Akpafu Todzi, was done in clans and families at their own convenience.
Ogbete, H. B. K. (1998). A History of the Akpafus. Onyase Press Limited.
Agawu, V. K. (1988). Music in the funeral traditions of the Akpafu. Ethnomusicology, 32(1), 75-105.