Put on your helmets so that you can lean over the verandah without getting sunstroke, and look at the people who throng the village highway through Nsawam. They are the country relations of the natives we met in Accra; they are dressed in similar costumes to those worn by the blacks we have been meeting daily since we landed, they follow similar customs, and live on the same kind of chop.
The two principal tribes among the inhabitants of the Gold Coast are the Fantis and the Ashantis. There are several other tribes, who have played and are playing an important part in the history of the country, but they are minor elements as regards numerical strength.
Most of the natives you are now looking at here in Nsawam are Fantis, but mingling with the crowd there are several Ga folk, who are not of Fanti origin.
The Fantis form the bulk of the Colony's population; the Ashantis predominate in the dependency which bears their name. The homelands of the smaller tribes are along the coast; the Gas, for instance, are installed in the coast country round Accra, and for this reason they are often called "Accra people."
According to the traditions which have been handed down among the people, the Fantis and the Ashantis originally belonged to the same stock. The coast tribes are considered to be the descendants of an earlier race of settlers, who were driven within narrow bounds by an invasion of Northern people, the parent race of the Fantis and the Ashantis.
The invading race - so the stories go that are told to the pickins (children) - was composed of twelve tribes, and each tribe was called by a name that indicated the occupation of its members. Names, of which the English equivalent is Oil Palm, Cornstalk, Plantain, Leopard or some other animal or product familiar to the native, are still common among both the Fantis and the Ashantis. To-day, individual families, as distinct from tribal communities, follow a particular occupation - such as farming, weaving, or trading - for generation after generation, and they adopt the old name applicable to that occupation, no matter to what tribal family they belong. But in the "once upon a time days," probably, the "leopards" were all members of one, and one only, of the tribal families, whose special occupation was hunting; similarly, the "cornstalks "were members of a tribal family devoted, probably, to agriculture; and the "oil palms" of another tribal family that specialized in trading.
In further support of the traditional belief that the Fantis and the Ashantis were originally one people, there is the fact that their languages have a common origin - they are both Twi-speaking people. Quite a different language is spoken by the Accra people and other coast tribes.
A cotton "cloth," as you must have already noticed every day and many times a day since we landed, is a feature of the Gold Coast style of costume for grownups, whilst a string of beads serves as full dress for most of the pickins. The men wear their cloth toga fashion, frequently without any undergarments, sometimes over a common woven singlet, sometimes over trousers, and sometimes over singlet and trousers; there is a half-comic, half-tragic suggestion of the sublime and the ridiculous in European clothes, which are generally rags of cast-off garments, peering through the folds of a picturesquely draped toga in cloth of artistic design and colour. The women wear their cloth hanging from under the arms like a high-waisted skirt; sometimes it is drawn round over a white muslin or flowered print jumper, but very often it affords a display of bare arms, shoulders, and low neck. The most fashionable clothes among the Fantis are, as you see from the costumes of the crowd you are studying, Oriental in design - indigo blue or white ground, with geometrical patterns in terra cotta and coppery hued shades of brown; these cloths are precisely similar in designs and colourings to those worn in the Far East as sarongs by the Malays and Javanese.
In the Gold Coast Colony most of the farmers are Fantis; in the dependency of Ashanti the land is worked by the Ashantis. In both territories, most of the farmers are smallholders; the exceptions to this rule are the headmen of a village, the petty chiefs, and the paramount chiefs, all of whom are big landowners. All the farmers go in for mixed farming: cocoa and staple chop crops - such as yams, maize, Guinea corn, and plantains; unfortunately, there is a growing tendency to sacrifice food crops to cocoa. It is impossible to discover the area of land cultivated by any farmer, or how many cocoa trees he possesses. Ignorance of such details is a valuable asset: practically every farmer has to pay tribute in money or in kind to someone above him - the yeoman to a headman, the headman to a village chief, the village chief to a petty chief of the district, the petty chief to a paramount chief. The less each one knows about what he possesses the more chance he has of getting off cheaply in the payment of tribute.
Both in the Gold Coast Colony and Ashanti the labourers on a farm consist almost entirely of the farmer's large family of near and distant relations; most of the work is done by women and children.
In the Colony, the Gas are frequently to be found acting as wayside cocoa dealers; you will see numbers of them, when we go out early one morning to watch cocoa being taken to market, standing in the country lanes trying to cajole the farmers as they come along into selling their cocoa to them, instead of taking it direct to the factories of the European buyers and shippers in the neighbouring village.
Here comes the car to take us to some of the farms around Nsawam.
"Ready," we reply to our host's summons, and suiting the action to the word we leave one entertainment to go on to another. The pleasure of moving on to fresh scenes in this country is always tinged with regret at leaving behind something of which we should have liked to see more . . . and some one of our countrymen who has made us very welcome.
Loading Cocoa In Surfboats At Accra