Puberty and Initiation Rites among the Akan People | My Paper Hub
Akan is a term employed in
referring to Ghana's l...
Akan is a term employed in
referring to Ghana's largest ethnic group. Represented as a percentage of the
entire Ghanaian population, the Akan is approximately 49.1%. The Akan have
inhabited close to 67% of the whole land in Ghana. They are mostly settled between
the Guinea coast and the Black Volta. The Akan people exhibit vast homogeneity,
culturally, and linguistically. Combined with the political authority the Akan
people exercise over their neighbors, their unique culture is behind the
extensive assimilation of the Akan people and their neighboring communities.
The Akan is composed o the Adanse, Asanste, Akwamu, Akuapem, Twifu, Sefwi,
Gomoa, Kwahu, Akyem, Bono, Assin, Fante, and Dankyira. Due to their diminishing
attachment to the cultures of the Akan people, the Nzima and Aowin are
considered to be half-baked Akans. In Cote d’Ivoire, the Anyi and Baule are
considered to be part of the Akan community due to their strong cultural and
historical ties (Wiredu & Gyekye, 1992).
The first and one of the most
important rites in the Akan community is the naming ceremony. This occurs a few
days after the child has been born and marks the beginning of social life for
that child. After this ceremony, the next most crucial rite of passage is the
puberty rites. Designed as a set of
rituals, puberty rites are an essential tool of social status transformation
for all the children in the Akan community. The Bragoro puberty rites of the
Ashanti community and the Dipo puberty rites of the Krobo are the two most
well-preserved nubility rites. Initiation rites for men are not as prominent as
those for young women. There is a lot of secrecy attached to the initiation
rites of men and are the reserves for some of the communities that come from
the northern parts of Ghana (Nkansa-Kyeremateng, 1996). Puberty and initiation rites among the Akan
people represent one of the most critical topics to both the Akan people and
researchers outside the community. Among the Akan people, the various nubility
rites represent an important aspect with regards to social life. Usually, the
rite of passage lasts for a whole week, but preparations take place over three
weeks in advance. The entire rite of passage is designed to ensure the girl is
effective – and in accordance with cultural laws – transitioned from girlhood
to womanhood. Until their initiation, girls in the Akan community are expected
to remain virgins. Commonly referred to as Bragoro the nubility rites are vital
as they act as a platform through which a girl is provided with the permission
and rights to sex life and marriage. Other than this rite of passage, no other
institution or occurrence within the community has the powers to provide a girl
with the rights and permissions contained in the nubility rites. The entire
course of the rite of passage is not only a proclamation but also an
advertisement to the community as a whole that a girl is of age to get into
marriage. Any girl who fails to preserve her virginity until the day she gets married
is considered to be the source of a curse not only for her family but for the
entire community at large. In the course of the ceremony, there are numerous
gifts provided to the girl by her family and the community. These gifts range
from money and clothes to decorations and suitcases. These gifts are supplied
as an appreciation for maintaining one’s virginity until the day of the
initiation (Nkansa-Kyeremateng, 1996).
To adequately understand the net
worth of the nubility rites of passage presented in the Akan community, it is
important to analyze the place and role of a woman within the Akan community.
In the Akan culture, women are considered to be a symbol of purity, dignity,
and beauty of society. This is the main
reason behind the ever-increasing investments geared towards ensuring women are
guarded. Traditional rules and regulations have been presented as the most
effective tool through which women in the Akan society are guarded against
moral corruption. For the children, the character and most lasting impressions
with regards to life are molded throughout the course of the early and
formative years. These years are usually spent with the mothers as opposed to
the fathers. This is one of the main reasons why Akan society is continuously
investing in ensuring that the nature and level of motherhood within the
community is maintained at high and effective standards in both the short and
the long terms. Mothers who possess good morals and are well trained represent
one of the most enormous wealth of the Akan community. These are the reasons
behind the nature and level of prominence that is attached to the rites of
passage through which girls are initiated into adulthood (Nkansa-Kyeremateng,
Young women in the Akan community
that has had their first menstrual cycle are usually secluded from the rest of
the community. This seclusion ensures that they are not in touch with the rest
of the community for a period of between two to four weeks. During this period
of isolation, the girls are given extensive tutoring on lessons ranging from
opposite-sex interaction and birth control to sex during marriage and family
nourishment. Dignity and womanhood grace are some of the important topics that
feature throughout the course of this rite of passage. While in seclusion,
women are taught about how they should not only invest in getting into a good
marriage but also maintaining a good marriage and bringing the best out of it
When the end of the seclusion
period draws near, preparations for durbar begin. The durbar ceremony is not
only attended by the authoritative figures of the community, but it also
incorporates leaders from other communities. During this ceremony, the women
come from the seclusion while scantily dressed, and men from their village and
other neighboring communities flock to the ceremony to view and selected
prospective wives. There are invocations that take place amidst the dancing and
drumming designed to ensure all the participants are blessed with fertility and
other blessings as well as remaining protected throughout the course of their
motherhood. Among the Akan people, the spirit of Asase Yaa and Oynankopong
Kwame are some of the common ancestors involved in the invocations (Snyper,
According to the Akon traditional
laws, women who have not undergone this rite of passage can not be allowed to
enter into a marriage. Before this rite of passage, the virginity of a woman
should remain assured. These laws are designed to ensure women grow up not only
maintaining their purity, but also controlling their sexuality. These laws are
so strict that women who get pregnant before this rite of passage or ruin their
virginity not only condemn themselves but also the men involved. There are
other rites involved in the cleansing and purification of the people who go
against these rules and regulations before they can transition into marriage
Conclusively, there are numerous
elements of importance attached to the Akan cultural rites of passage. Through
this rite of passage, the young girls involved are not only taught to be
obedient to their parents, but also submissive to elements of authority in the
community. This rite of passage has and still is, one of the most important
tools through which purity is maintained and unwanted pregnancies in the
community are prevented. This rite of passage is important is it ensures a girl
is able to bring honor to herself, her family, her parents, and the greater
community when she completes it. The gifts provided to the girl during and
after the course of this rite of passage act as capital through which she
begins and develops her adult life. Girls who have undergone this rite of
passage are certified to be people of good moral, and this improves their
chances of getting married and being associated with honorable events and
institutions within the society. Priceless knowledge about womanhood is
imparted on the girl throughout the course of this rite of passage, and this
acts as the foundation through which she not only builds her adult life but
also enhances the people in and around the life. The rite of passage is
essential in teaching a girl on how she should relate with people from the same
gender and the opposite sex (Nkansa-Kyeremateng, 1996).
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