The Akan Tribe is the largest ethnic group in both Ghana and the Ivory Coast in West Africa. The Akans are one of the biggest Ethnic groups in West Africa today with over 20 million members. According to Ghana Statistical Service (2013:61), they make up 47.3% of the population of Ghana. The Akan speak Kwa languages which make up a group of dialects within the Central Tano branch of the Potou–Tano subfamily of the Niger-Congo family. Subgroups of the Akan people comprise the Adanse, Akwamu, Fante, Asante, Bono, Akuapem, Akyem, Kwahu, Asen, Awowin, Twifo, Sehwi, Nzima and Ahanta. These subgroups all have common cultural attributes which includes most notably the tracing of matrilineal descent, inheritance of property, and succession to high political office. Traditionally, the Akans are Matrilineal people of the African continent. Through matrilineal inheritance, it is easier to trace the line of succession.
Like most other African tribes, the Akans have a very rich culture which they still hold on to of which marriage is not an exception. In the Akan traditional society, before marriage, the process begins with secret meetings between the would-be husband and wife where the man must first express his marriage intentions with the girl he wants and make sure she accepts to marry him. This process in which they find out whether they would get married through secret meetings is called ‘kasasie’.
After this stage, the man must then inform an elderly person in his family or the parents about his marriage intention. If the mother of the man for some reason does not feel comfortable with the choice made by his son, the father will then go out and seek information about the family and background of the girl or woman that their son intends to marry. If the parents, after doing much background check on the girl or woman later decide to allow their son to marry her, they will visit the house of the parents of the girl/ woman with a pot of palm-wine, schnapp, and money and discuss their son’s marriage intention with the girl’s family. The process of the man’s family officially asking for the hand of the girl in marriage for their son is called the ‘abowmu bodze’ or ‘opon-akyi bo’ (knocking ceremony).
However, the amount of money paid to the family of the girl varies in different Akan communities. The money paid by the family of the husband-to-be or himself is usually referred to as a “token gift” for the girl’s mother. After the payment of the token, the girl’s family will tell the family of the man to go and come back later for an answer. During this time, the family of the girl would ask her if she would accept the marriage request from the man and his family. The girl’s parents (just like the man’s family) will then proceed to find out how industrious the man is and whether there are family curses, congenital diseases among others.
When the family of the girl becomes satisfied, they will send a message to the father or family of the man and they will also send information informing them when they will perform the traditional rites. Both families will then inform their relatives of this development and tell them the fixed date the rites would be performed. The would-be husband before that day, sends dresses, jewels and other items to his would-be wife to be worn on that day.
The offering of drinks known as “tiri nsa” (head drinks) is the important part of the ceremony. This part seals the marriage as some money is added to the drink. The brothers of the bride too are given some money known as “akontagye sekan” for the protection they offered her.
Before the payment of the fee and the customary drinks, the girl is formally summoned before the gathering to give her final consent to the marriage. Upon the acceptance of everything, the head of the family of the bride pours libation asking for protection and blessings for the new couple and for the marriage to be blessed with children. The remaining drink is shared among all the people present which is to signify that they are all witnesses to the marriage. Then couple receives pieces of advice. The man can then arrange and fix a day for taking his wife home.
However, another important rite can be performed on the same day or at any time during their married life. It is an amount of money paid to the girl’s family which is known as ‘ti-aseda’ or ‘ti-ade’ which might be termed ‘bride wealth.’ The girls family in the past used this amount to pay any debt in the family. Also, the family believes that the use of the money to pay such a family debt would give her the peace of mind to enjoy her married life. In a situation where there was no such debt, the money was used to buy some property like a land or a farm for her and her future children. Furthermore, if they should eventually divorce, the husband could claim the ‘ti-aseda’ or ‘ti-ade’ from the wife’s family.
Finally, a day is fixed where the bride will be taken away to her husband. In seeking permission to take away his wife, the bridegroom sends a pot of palm wine or a bottle of schnapps to the bride’s father. The family head pours libation with it and blesses the couple again. On arriving her husband’s home, the husband provides her with food items to prepare a special meal known as as ‘osenka’ or ‘aduane kese’ (wedding feast) for him, his relatives and friends. This special meal “Osenka”, traditionally was prepared in the bride’s home and sent the house of the bridegroom where it was shared among relations and friends.