The following was written by Kobla Ladzekpo and has been used with his permission.

Chapter II

HISTORICAL AND ETHNOGRAPHIC BACKGROUND

Historical Background

The boundaries of the new African nations are those of the old British, Belgian, French, German, and Portuguese colonies. They are essentially artificial in the sense that some of them do not correspond with any well-marked ethnic divisions. Because of this, the Ewe, like some other ethnic groups, have remained fragmented under the three different flags, just as they were divided among the three colonial powers after the Berlin Conference of 1844 which partitioned Africa. A portion went to Britain, another to Germany, and a small section in Benin (Dahomey) went to France. After World War I, the Germans-occupied areas were given to Britain and France as mandated territories by the League of Nations. Those who were under the British are now the Ghanaian Ewe, those under the French are Togo, and Benin (Dahomey) Ewe, respectively. And the Anlo Ewe are part of the Ghanaian group.

 

The Ewe speaking of West Africa inhabit the areas between the River Volta in modern Ghana and the River Mono on the western borders of the Ancient Kingdom of Benin (Dahomey) (see Map 1) . According to linguists, Ewe belongs to the Kwa group of Sudanic languages. The population of all Ewe speaking people has always been a subject of debate. Awoonor (1974:12) writes, "According to various uncoordinated census accounts and estimates, the Ewe may number anywhere between two and five million."

 

According to oral tradition, present-day Eweland is not the original home of all the Ewe speaking people. There are several accounts of their migration to the present land from various places such as the Sudan, Nigeria, Benin (Dahomey) , and Togoland. Manoukin (1952:12) writes, "All traditions agree that the Ewe speaking people came from somewhere in the north, and though each sub-tribe gives a slightly different version of the story, it seems to be generally accepted that they migrated from a place called Kotu or Amedzowe, somewhere east of the Niger, following a conquest, and thereafter settled down in a place called Notsie, usually considered to Juatja, in which is now French Togoland." Fage (1959:23) says, ". . . the line of migration of the Ewe is remembered as Ketu-Tado -Nuatsi (Notsie) ." Akinjogbi (1967:11) , Betho (1949:122) , and some oral historians put the line of migration as Oyo-Ketu-Notsie, or Oyo-Ketu-Tado-Notsie. Whether Oyo or Tado is left out from the line of migration by some groups through forgetfulness or because their stay was very brief and therefore insignificant is not known. At any rate, in all accounts Notsie was their last stop and center of dispersion.

 

The arrival of the Ewe people in Notsie is placed around (ca. 1500). There is no evidence of how long they were in Notsie. However, depending on what tradition one wants to follow, they either came from Ketu Notsie or Tado to Notsie. Manoukian (1952:12) writes, "According to these traditions, in the three main groups, a northern, a middle and southern group, each of which migrated to, and settled in, different parts of Togoland, their present home."

 

Notsie, the last stop and center of dispersion, was also a crucial and significant point in the history of the Ewe people, especially Anlo. Notsie is to the Ewe as Egypt is to the Jews. When they arrived in Notsie, their host King Adelã Atogble received them well and treated them nicely. After his death, his successor Ago Akoli was different; things were not the same during the new regime. The new king was very hostile and ruled the immigrants with an iron hand. For example, he ordered that all elderly people should be killed, but the Ewe managed to keep one old man in hiding; his name was Tegli. Also, King Ago Akoli ordered the Ewe to make a rope with clay (see Proverb #24) .

 

Notsie was divided into separate quarters inhabited by members of the different migrating groups. Because of the king's repressive acts, the Ewe a secret plan to escape. Tatar (1973:4) writes, "Along with the need for more land and food, malcontents, inspired by the tyrannical rule of Agakoli (King of Notsie in the late 1600's) , instigated another general movement west and south. The groups that migrated are those that make up the Ewe tribe of today." The city of Notsie was encompassed by a 17' X 30' wall to protect its inhabitants from attack. This wall was a barrier to the Ewe in planning their escape. However, they finally carried their plan through.

 

After several consultations with the old man Tegli at his hiding place, they came up with a plan. They instructed their women to throw water against one spot of the wall while washing their clothes and dishes. This plan was executed by the women. One day when the elders found that the wall was wet enough, they decided to implement the final stage of their plan. They gathered all their people together near the wet wall drumming and dancing. there was a lot of jubilation in the Ewe section of the city from the late afternoon throughout the night. About midnight, while the rest of the people of Notsie went to bed and music was going on, they went and brought Tegli, the brain behind the plot, from his hiding place. He call a few people to the wet wall and told them the essence of their gathering. He drew out the "Sword of Liberation" from its sheath, pointed it up, invoked the spirit of the gods and the ancestors and said a short prayer. Then he said, "O Mawugã Kitikata, wuwo na mi ne miadogo, azo adzo." (Oh great God "Kitikata," open the door for us so that we walk through.) With these words, Tegli thrust the "Sword of Liberation" into the wet wall and bored a big hole through which the Ewe escaped. Women, old men, and children were asked to leave first, while some youths and middle-aged men stayed behind drumming and dancing. After the others had all gone, the drummers and the few remaining dancers followed them. the last group walked backwards for two miles so that their footprints might not betray their whereabouts. the sword used by Tegli to bore the hole is said to be preserved to this day as part of the stool regalia of one of the chiefs of Ho, a town in Northern Eweland.

 

From Notsie the Ewe traveled together to a town which is now called Tsevi in the Republic of Togoland. It was there that they divided into different groups, one of which is the Anlo Ewe. The Anlo traveled from Tsevi as one unit, but later divided into two under the leadership of Wenya and his nephew Sri (Sroe) . After many discoveries and settlements, Wenya's group crossed a sandbar where he informed his followers, "mieva do kea ta" meaning they had reached the head or the tip of the sand. Subsequently, the settlement there was named keta. As they reached what is now present-day Anlogã, Wenya was found to be aging and tiring. when his followers asked him when they were going to leave, he answered, "Nye amea menlo afia deke yiyi megale nunye o." ( I am exhausted, coiled and I can't go any further.) The name of this settlement was also taken after "Menlo" and was contracted to "Anlo." Being the capital of the whole Anlo nation, the adjective "gã" meaning big was added. Sri and his followers took the northern route off the Atlantic Coast and founded various communities on the northern shore of the great Keta Lagoon; prominent among them is a town called Fiaxo. Later on Sri joined his uncle, Wenya at Anlogã. We do not know anything about the original inhabitants of these areas. However, it is believed that either they fled as the Anlo were coming, or became assimilated into Anlo population. This final migration saw the Anlo in their present homes by the early 1700's.
 

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