Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ghanaian Culture: Waving White Handkerchiefs As Part of Ghanaian Church Services

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post is Part III of a four part pancocojams series on Ghanaian, Togolese, and Nigerian customs of waving or twirling white handkerchiefs while dancing or while worshipping in church.

Part III of this series presents five videos that showcase the custom of waving white handkerchiefs in some Ghanaian churches.

Update: December 3, 2015: A video of people waving white handkerchiefs during a traditional festival in Ghana is included in the Addendum to this video.

Click for Part I of this series. Part I presents information about traditional customs of waving and/or dancing with white handkerchiefs in certain West African cultures and also presents theories about the purposes of those customs in those cultures.

Click for Part II of this series. Part II showcases videos of the Borborbor (Akpesse) dances of the Ewe people of Ghana, West Africa and of Togo, West Africa. Women traditionally perform those dances holding white handkerchiefs in both hands.

That post also provides videos of church some people in Ghana waving white handkerchiefs during church services.

Click for Part IV of this series. Part IV of this series showcases videos of the custom of dancing with white handkerchief customs among the Igbo people of Nigeria, West Africa and among the Igbo people living outside of Nigeria.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are featured in the videos that are embedded in this post. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publishers of those videos on YouTube.

I believe that the customs of waving white handkerchiefs in New Orleans, Louisiana or elsewhere in the United States while marching in second line parades have their sources in the traditional customs of waving or dancing with white handkerchiefs in the Ewe cultures of Ghana, West Africa and Togo, West Africa, and the Igbo culture of Nigeria, West Africa.

Click for a pancocojams post about those customs that associated with New Orleans second line parades.

Google books
Word Made Global: Stories of African Christianity in New York City by Mark R. Gornik, Andrew Walls, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Jul 22, 2011 - p. 89
"Solemnly and slowly the leaders and choir of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana in Harlem [New York City] process down the aisle. First in line is the Church Choir, dressed in its pressed black and white uniforms, followed by Rev. Asiedu, and a presiding elder. After a selection of hymns and liturgical prayers in Twi from the Presbyterian Church of Ghana – from hymnals the members brought with them-the service dramatically shifts gears. The Church band has the congregation out of its pews and in the aisles dancing, marching, and waving white handkerchiefs to the High-life infected rhythms and choruses of Ghanaian Gospel music with its propelling baselines, multiple drums and percussion sounds, and cool saxophone notes.”.
Italics were added to highlight this sentence.

From,12917 Ghanaians Are Welcomed Home in the Bronx by RON LAJOIE, 8/5/15
"Members of the Ghanaian Catholic community, in colorful national dress, joyfully participate in a festive Mass Aug. 2 as new members of St. Luke’s parish in the Bronx....

Even before the 4 p.m. Mass started, Ghanaians in colorful national dress lined up to register at folding tables set up outside the little stone church on 138th Street in the Bronx, giving the scene almost the aura of a political rally. Their fellow parishioners, mostly Puerto Rican and other Hispanics with a sprinkling of old guard Irish, dressed in blue St. Luke’s T-shirts, were there to greet them and welcome them to their new spiritual home. This parish had been earmarked for merger with nearby St. Jerome’s parish as part of the Making All Things New initiative. It was the influx of the Ghanaian community, some 900 strong, which allowed St. Luke’s to remain as a stand-alone parish.

...Previously the Ghanaians had shuttled from one Bronx parish to another. On this day they were welcomed with open arms. As the priests processed up the center aisle to the altar both new and old St. Luke’s members greeted them waving white handkerchiefs, a Ghanaian custom.".
Italics were added to highlight this sentence.

From ABROKYIR NKOMO: "Joe Spiritual" by Rodney Nkrumah-BoatengNovember 2002
"If there is one unshakeable tenet your average Ghanaian clings to, it is his faith in a supreme being. Call him Allah, God, Nyame, or Tigari- the Ghanaian believes in his divinity, his omnipresence and indeed, his omnipotence. He may not even be a strict practitioner of his faith, but belief in the divine is non-negotiable. No room for doubts. [The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God-Psalm 54:1]

The raffia-skirted, cowrie-casting Okomfo is never short of customers bearing schnapps and spotless white chickens (for consumption by nananom), even if some of these customers double as churchgoers. Most traditional Ga households in Osu and Labadi come with the standard accessory- a shrine for traditional worship. Go to the mosque on a Friday afternoon and you will see, at the entrance, a huge collection of shoes and sandals to rival the GIHOC shoe factory production line of yesteryear. Ramaddan is just starting back home, and it is a serious, kola-chewing, dawn feasting affair for the Moslem community, in their flowing gowns and caps. On Sundays, the churches are full and bursting at the seams, with prophecies and the speaking in tongues in abundant flow.

There is always a crusade or convention in town. Throughout the land, the faithful lift their voices up into heaven in praise of the Lord, as they sing and dance in the aisles, thumping drums, clanging tambourines, clapping and waving their white hankies in His praise. [Make a joyful noise unto the Lord…-Psalm 100]."
I've re-formatted this quote to enhance its readability. Italics were added to highlight this sentence.

These examples are given in chronological order according to their publishing dates on YouTube with the oldest dated example given first.

Note: YouTube videos of Ghanaian church services document that not all Ghanaian church services include congregations worshipping waving white handkerchiefs. The following three examples are just a few of the YouTube videos that do include that custom.

Example #1: 2009 Watch Night Service@ Ghanaian Presbyterian Church-Toronto [Canada]

kwabena asare Uploaded on Feb 18, 2010

2009 joint church servie organized by Ghanaian Presbyterian Church, Calvary Methodist Church, and Ghana Methodist Church. All in Toronto [Canada]

Example #2: Atta Boafo - Double Double (Blessings)[Ghana]

Atta Boafo, Uploaded on Dec 2, 2010
Men and women in church joyfully waving white handkerchiefs in the beginning of the video.

Click for a pancocojams post about this song.

Example #3: Ghana calvary Methodist Church, Easter Sunday 2011 [United States]

Daniel Yeboah, Uploaded on Apr 24, 2011

Appreciating the resurrection power of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Example #4: Ghana Church Service [Ghana]

John Walton Published on Jun 26, 2014

Here's a short (less than 2 min.) video that I shot at a church service in Ghana. This worship & praise time went on for, probably a half hour, at least. ..


ramseyerpresby church, Published on Sep 28, 2014

New Video of Ashanti Historic Festival in Koforidua, New Juaben, Ghana, Africa, World

Hunter Gatherer Published on Apr 4, 2013

Akwantukese Festival of the good people of New Juaben, Koforidua. Depicted are twirling umbrellas, the Ruler of New Juaben, Nana Oti Boateng II borne aloft in a palanquin.
Women dancing with white handkerchiefs can be found throughout this video. There is also a brief clip of the Ruler of New Juaben waving a white handkerchief (around 2:50 in this video). New Juaben is a constituency in the Eastern region of Ghana.
Note that the videos in the other posts in this series are of Ewe people and not of Ashanti people. Yet, it seems from these videos that both of these ethnic groups have a tradition of waving white handkerchiefs. And that tradition was adapted to waving white handkerchiefs in church.

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