Introduction / History
The Kwawu live in the northeastern part of the Eastern Region of the Republic of Ghana. Kwawu is sometimes refered to as "Beposo" Hill District because of the Kwawu Scarp which rises from 220m to 640 m above sea level. Kwawus are an Akan people living in southern Ghana. The Kwawu belongs to Ghana's family of Akan states. It is located between longitudes 1 degree West and 0degree 15 East and between latitudes 6 0 30 and 7 0 15 North. In 1988, a political repackaging demarcated Kwawu land into North and South. Kwawu North was further broken into two and renamed Afram Plains North and South Districts. This situation has brought the Kwawu North into disuse, whereby there is now Kwawu South withiuout its North complement.
Kwawus are part of the Akan tribes and share a boundary with the Akyem in the South and East and also share a boundary with the Asante in the North and West.
There has developed the tendency to describe Kwawu in terms of nuclear and peripheral. Nuclear Kwawu comprises the plateau with steep south facing scarps. The Southern scarp (The Odweanoma scarp) is called the Kwawu Ridge and stretches from Twendurasi in the south-west to Kwawu Tafo in the North - East, a distance for about 20 kilometers; and from Atibie in the south to Abene (the traditional capital) in the north, also some 20 kilometers distant. This area has the district's political capital, Mpraeso, in the heart of it.
The rise of the early Akan centralized states can be traced to the 13th century and is likely related to the opening of trade routes established to move gold throughout the region. It was not until the end of the 17th century, however, that the grand Asante Kingdom emerged in the central forest region of Ghana, when several small states united under the Chief of Kumasi in a move to achieve political freedom from the Denkyira. The Akan confederacy was dissolved by the British in 1900 and colonized in 1901. Although there is no longer a centralized Akan confederacy, Akan peoples maintain a powerful political and economic presence. The Kwawus were traditionalists before the advent of the Basel Missionaries and quickly converted Christianity.The earliest available documentary mention of Kwawu occurs in a Dutch map of the Gold Coast dated 1629 which entered 'Quahoe' twice though with different descriptions: Quahoe, Rascal people and Quahoe, Rich in gold.
What are their beliefs?
The people of Kwawu are noted for their celebration of Easter. In fact, Easter is rooted in the Kwawu religious and cultural systems. Traditional Kwawu religion was one of ancestor homage, and the funeral is the biggest rite of passage in the society. Of all the Christian special days, Easter is the most like a funeral. As the Akan become more westernized, and may have spent time in Europe and North America, Christmas (which they first saw as a minor event, like a birth and outdooring) is rapidly becoming more important.
The most powerful God in the history of Kwawu is Buruku. He is manifested in an imposing Shrine of Rock, measuring about 500 metres by 300 metres, situated on a hill. It is believed that Buruku sprang from nowhere, one Sunday, to the defence of the Kwawus against war-like communities in the early years of their settlement on the Kwawu Ridge. Buruku was reputed for his spiritual powers and medical expertise. Buruku never used His powers to curse people. In the ancient times, He trained over 200 medical (herbal) practitioners yearly. Buruku used to organise an annual festival at the Akwasidae, which coincided with the start of the farming season (March-April), when Kwawu Chiefs and Citizens came to pay homage to the Chief Priest. The festival was also seen as His blessing for the year's enterprises.
Besides the festivity of Buruku, there were other celebrations organised by other Kwawu Priests and Chiefs, beginning from the last Akwasidae of the year to the start of the farming season. For example, there was Eto Pitie at Obo; Akwasidae Kese at Bokuruwa and Abene; and the celebrations of Okomfo YAW at Aduamoa. The festivities at Aduamoa attracted curious scholars who were fascinated by the similarity in names and practices between Okomfo YAW and Jewish God, YAhWh. Okomfo YAW accepted limited animal sacrifice and had no shrine.
Colonialism and its practices began to undermine the authority of Buruku, other Priests and Chiefs of Kwawu. There was a forced establishment of missionary headquarters at Kwawu Tafo (Roman Catholic) and Abetifi (Presbyterian), which clashed with local cultures. The Great Oaths of the Kwawus such as "Asaase Aban" (We Rule Our Land) and "Katakyie Wopeko" (Hero, You Like War) inspired them to resist colonialism. The Chief Priest of Buruku was often arrested for his outspokenness. At Twenedurase, Rev. Ramseyer, the founder of Presby Church was shaved by inhabitants and made to carry "aboma" (big drums) due to his disrespect for the Kwawu culture and the festivals. Ramseyer became angry and cursed the Kwawus that they would be among the poorest in Ghana. We now know that history has not proven him right.
Gradually, the original meaning and practices of the Kwawu spring celebrations began to erode. Now, the festival has assumed a social character. It is a period of family reunion. It is the moment that people who have been on self-imposed exile even come home. Easter also offers the Kwawus the opportunity to go to their hometowns and be admired for their hard work - new dresses, cars, houses, friendships, etc. Various towns use the occasion to organise fundraising for community development. In this period of economic hardship, it is amazing how the organisers are able to mobilise huge funds for development. Easter is the occasion that most new and completed projects are inaugurated. The chiefs sit in state to receive homage from citizens. Certainly, it is also the occasion that plans are made to get rid of incompetent chiefs.
Text source: Kwaku Anom