Sunday, September 4, 2016

Two Akan (Ghanaian) Articles About God's Name "Twereduampong Kwame" & Why White Men Are Called "Obroni"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents excerpts from two 2015 articles about "Twereduampong Kwame", an Akan name for God. Both of those articles also provide theories about why the Akans call White men "Obroni".

The content of this post is presented for cultural, religious, and linguistic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owner.

Thanks to S. Charles Prempeh and Stephen Atta Owusu for writing these featured articles. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post.

From by S. Charles Prempeh, Makerere University, Kampala, 30 March 2015
"Among many other names, the Akan of Ghana refer to God as Twereduampong Kwame. While there is consensus about the etymology of 'Twereduampong', a number of people have been asking why the day name 'Kwame' for God. Several attempts have been made to answer this question. Some pastors of the Seven-day Adventist Church, in order to find a justification for the perceived universality of Saturday worship, argue that God revealed Himself to the Akan on Saturday. This line of taught is flawed for two main reasons.

First, Akan primal religion is not a revealed religion. Thus, unlike Abrahamic religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, there is no prophet in Akan primal religion, who received revelation from God. That explains why there is no Bible or Qur'an in the religious repertoire of Akan primal religion. There is also no written text and founder for Akan primal religion. Scholars are still debating the evolution of African primal religion. But there are scholars like Prof. Kwame Gyekye, who have averred that African traditional religions emerged from the African's observation of and interaction with nature....

this assertion dovetails with the Akan maxim that, 'No one teaches the child about the existence of God.' The knowledge of God is evidently obvious in nature. So, we may surmise that Akan primal religion is a natural religion…

The second reason why we cannot accept the revelation theory is linked to the fact that there is no special day for the worship of Twereduampong Kwame, the Ultimate Reality. Again, unlike Christianity and Islam, which have special days for congregational worship of Yahweh of the Christians and Allah of the Muslims, there are no special days, Sunday/Saturday and Friday, respectively set aside for the worship of Twereduampong Kwame. Each day is suitable for the worship of Twereduampong Kwame. A study of Akan religion would reveal that it is rather the deities, the so-called lessor gods, who have special days set aside for their worship. Thus, while the deities, the creatures and assistants of God, could have special days for worship, the Ultimate Reality in Akan primal religion does not have a chosen day of worship. All days are hallowed for worship.

The European missionaries' fixation with Sunday worshipped explained why the Akan called the 'white' man 'Kwasi Broni.' Some explanations have been advanced to explain why the Akan call the 'white' man 'Broni'. Well, I am inclined to take the Afrocentric explanation given by some prominent Ghanaian Afrocentric scholars I have interacted with. Accordingly, the word 'broni' is a contraction of the etymology, 'Abro ni' literally, a 'Mischievous person.'

This etymological explanation of the word dovetails with the imperialistic and exploitative nature of the colonial enterprise….So, historically, the name 'Broni' is consistent with the outcome of the interactions Africans had with the Europeans beginning from the 15th C.

Again, the Akan reckoning of the days do not lend itself to a simplistic explanation of the origin of the day attached to Twereduampong. The Akan conceptualization of days is different from the Greco-Roman calendar. Among the Akan, a week is called 'Nna wodwe' to wit eight days not 'nna nson,' seven days. Several arguments have emerged about this issue. The question is do the Akan have eight days making one week or seven days? If the Akan have eight days making one week, then what is the name of the eighth day?

Well, I don't think we need to split hairs over this issue. The point is that the Akan reckoning of the week is couched in a principle or formula known as 'Inclusive Time reckoning.' Inclusive Time Reckoning begins the counting of days by the first day of event. So for example, if one is born on Friday, the counting of the person's existence begins right from the first day (Friday) of the person's existence. The counting, unlike the Greco-Roman calendar, does not begin a day after the event. So, a child born on Friday will be named on the eighth day. The baby is personalized after it has proven to belong to the living after seven days of exclusion....

Finally, to the question, why 'Twereduampong Kwame?' The etymology of Tweredumpong is a common knowledge to most Ghanaians. The name is a contraction of the expression 'wo twere no a won pon,' to wit, 'if you lean on him you don't slip to fall.' In consequence, among the Akan, God is the only being that one can depend on in all situations. … We have proven that the name 'Kwame' cannot be associated with any particular day God revealed Himself to the Akan. So, where from the name 'Kwame'? The answer is not difficult to find.

The appellation for Kwame is 'otenanduro' to wit he who has the antidote to the bite of the snake. 'Nanka' is a poisonous snake whose bite may lead to the death of a person. Death is seen as a negative life existential reality. It truncates the free flow of earthly life and shatters the family of the deceased. Every effort is therefore made to reverse death in order to prolong life on earth. This explains the well-grounded assertion that the quest for immortality is ingrained in the deepest hearts of men. In Christianity, death is seen as an enemy (I Corinthians 15:26)....

In Akan, God, in the sense of anthropomorphism, is the greater Kwame, who alone has the medicine to death. The Akan therefore looks up to God for the solution to death. In Christianity, it is believed that it is only Christ, who has the key to unlock the power of death. His death, resurrection, and ascension are believed to have disarmed the forces of death (Revelation 1:18)"...

From and selected comments from its comment section
Feature Article of Friday, 20 March 2015 Columnist: Owusu, Stephen Atta; Why Akans Call the White man, Kwasi and God, Kwame Comments (59)
..."According to the Hebrew calendar, the week ends on Saturday and therefore God rested on Saturday. The Akans, in their own wisdom, named God after the day He rested: Twereduampong Kwame as the Akans call Him.

The Akans say, albeit jokingly, that when God rested, the White man on Sunday took over the development of the world God had created. The Akans therefore called the White man Kwasi Broni – Kwasi being the day name associated with Sunday and the male name because the whites who first came to our shores were men. However, there is also another version of how the White man came to be called Kwasi. The story has it that, during the pre- and post-colonial period, the British ruled Ghana with heavy hands. They were mostly in military uniforms during the week except on Sundays. During the week barter trading went on between the citizens and the British merchants. The natives brought kilos of gold to the merchants and received in return two pairs of shoes and a spoon. The natives could not detect the cheating process in this barter system because most of them were happy to use shoes and also to eat with a spoon for the first time. On Sundays the British merchants put off their military uniforms and donned white priestly robes to go to church and showed kindness to all natives who came to church. The natives could not help but call the white man, Kwasi with the simple reason that they were kind on Sundays. During this time the children would say, Kwasi Broni, kyeme kapre (Kwasi Broni give me a penny).

I want to digress a bit and explain why the white man is called “Broni” by the Akans. During the slave period when the whites came in their big ships to capture slaves to America, some men stood by the sea-side and looked very far. From afar the cloud gives a false impression of meeting the sea like a thick wall. Cloud in the Twi language is “bro”. Suddenly the men who had gathered at the sea-side saw a big ship appearing from behind the cloud, (bro akyi). Since they all assumed that the white men came from behind the clouds, the Akans agreed on the word, “aburrokyire (from behind the cloud) as a place where the white man came from. It was then natural for the Akans to call the White man, the human from the cloud (broni).

The Addae festival is one of the biggest festivals among the Ashantis. The festival which is celebrated once every six years can be likened to the celebration of national day. The day of the festival normally fell on a Thursday but since Thursday is a working day, the celebration was shifted to Sunday. Before the celebration comes off on Sunday, a libation is poured on Thursday to pacify the god of the earth which is named Asaase Yaa because the libation is poured on a Thursday. The grand festival then became Akwasidae because it was shifted to Sunday.

According to legend, the Golden Stool, a royal and divine throne of the Ashanti people, was conjured from the sky by Okomfo Anokye, the High Priest and one of the two chief founders of the Asante Confederacy. The Golden Stool which he conjured from the sky landed on the lap of the first king of Ashanti, Nana Osei Tutu. It was believed that the stool houses the spirit of the Ashanti people: living, dead and those yet to be born. The Golden Stool was christened Sika Dwa Kofi by the king because the stool descended from the sky on a hot Friday afternoon.

The spider-god in the Ashanti folk-tales was also called Kwaku Ananse. The stories of Kwaku Ananse were first told in Ghana by the Ashantis. These stories were not written down but they were repeatedly told from generation to generation. The Kwaku Ananse stories gained root and spread throughout Ghana and to other West African countries. Ananse often acted as a go-between for humans and God. One of the stories narrated how he was able to persuade God to provide rain and light for humans. Ananse was one of the most popular of the animal tricksters in the mythology of West Africa. Ananse was named Kwaku because the Ashanti mythology reveals that Ananse was called Kwaku because the soul of the spider-god first appeared on a Wednesday."...
Pancocojams Editor's Note:
Most of the comments harshly criticized this article. Among those criticisms were the reasons that Stephen Atta Owusu gave for Kwame Nkrumah's changing his day name - i.e. "He chose Kwame because Akans called God Kwame. It was a means of creating an awesome myth around himself and to be feared."). Owusu was also criticized because he asserted that while Ashantis sometimes change the day name of their children, Ewes (another Akan ethnic group) never change their children's day name. However, commenters particularly criticized the author's explanations of why Akans call White men "Kwasi Broni".

Here are some comments from that discussion thread. I've assigned numbers to these comments for referencing purposes only.:

1. Author: Pimpinese
Date: 2015-03-20
"My friend, your article does make for interesting light reading, and that's all it does for me. However, I can't help but observe that you start off uniting Akans under the same umbrella of customs and traditions, but towards the middle and the end, you substitute Ashantis for Akans. No Twi land borders the sea for an Ashanti or a Twi person originally to have been the one to describe the white person as "bro"ni. I thought the Twi word for cloud was "mununkum", never in my 63years growing up in Oseikurom have I heard of "bro" referring to cloud.

Also the Alan concept of the Omnipotent does not mention a sabbath, and it's risible you should suborn our Akan culture to the Judaeo-Christian mythology."

2. Author: OYOKOBA
Date: 2015-03-20
"Nice try, but the article lacks depth, rigor and scholarship. I will give it a JSS grade.

Who told the author that the Akans call cloud "Bro"? Cloud is called "mununkum" and not "bro". That is outright lie and thus introduces a great doubt on how much weight we can give to the article.

":Abrofo" is/was ascribed to white people because our ancestors came to distrust them and saw them for what they truly are, and that was "wicked people", hence abrofo. or abro(wickedness) + fo. Got it? Good."

3. Author: Paa Kwesi
Date: 2015-03-20 17:26:09
""ebo" is fog in english, and it never anything to do with the sky such as the cloud, since "ebo" describes the earth conditions and atmospheric condition".

4. Author: kosoko
Date: 2015-03-20
" "The Akans say, albeit jokingly, that when God rested, the White man on Sunday took over the development of the world God had created". This is untrue. The Akans day of rest move from one day to another in the following week or the resting day usually falls on the day ascribed the local god or in some areas the the resting day falls on the day of the earth goddess--Thursday. When the Whiteman brought Christianity, it's day of rest with its day of rest on Sunday, 'akwasi' became associated with 'obroni'."

5. Author: BOY KOFI
Date: 2015-03-20 11:40:23
"The whiteman is called "broni" by the Fantis because they came from "abrokyir" which means "overseas".The whitemen arrived in the Gold Coast by the sea so it makes sense to call them the "people from overseas".It has nothing to do with "clouds".As for the reason why we call the whiteman Kwesi or John,I think it has to do with christianity and civilisation because they brought us the christian religion and conventional education.It has nothing to do with the creation of the earth.I have no idea if all akans refere to God as Kwame but I know the akans use Efua to call the earth,that's Friday.The Ghanaian mythology has lot of funny details because lot of historic events were not carefully recorded.Thank you."

6. Author: maame
Date: 2015-03-20 17:20:40
" "bro" refers to the horizon- the imaginary meeting of the sea and the clouds. why not the fantes being the first to call the whites kwasi because they first met them but you rather gave the credit to the asantis?"

7. Author: Mallam Kankane
Date: 2015-03-20 00:27:51
"And why was satan named Kwaku? Was he thrown from heaven on a Wednesday? That would have completed your 'story', hahaha!"

8. Author: Kobe
Date: 2015-03-20 23:45:19
"Asante alone doesn't stand for Akan. Fantes spell their names differently from Asantes - Kwesi, Kodwo, Kobena, Adwowa, Abena/Araba, etc.; though there are similarities, of all the Akan tribes, the whites had so much influence on the Fantes as evidenced by their names - both the people and their towns.

No story told of the whites in Gold Coast would be complete without the Fantes.

I find your article a good read but very basic"

9. Author: BOY KOFI
Date: 2015-03-20
"The whiteman is called "broni" by the Fantis because they came from "abrokyir" which means "overseas".The whitemen arrived in the Gold Coast by the sea so it makes sense to call them the "people from overseas".It has nothing to do with "clouds".As for the reason why we call the whiteman Kwesi or John,I think it has to do with christianity and civilisation because they brought us the christian religion and conventional education.It has nothing to do with the creation of the earth.I have no idea if all akans refere to God as Kwame but I know the akans use Efua to call the earth,that's Friday.The Ghanaian mythology has lot of funny details because lot of historic events were not carefully recorded.Thank you."

10. Author: Kowadis
Date: 2015-03-20
"Earth" is "Asase Yaa" in the
"non-Fanti" akan areas!

11. Author: BOY KOFI
Date: 2015-03-20 18:32:56
"The Fantes say "asase efua" so we can now see that not all the Akans have the same mythology.Thank you."

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