Clothing and Adornment in the Ga Culture: Seventeenth to Twenty-First Century

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This thesis is on the clothing components associated with Gas in the context of their socio- cultural functions from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century. The great number of literature on Ghanaian art indicates that Ghanaians including the Ga people uphold their culture and its significance. Yet in spite of the relevance and indispensable nature of clothing and adornment in the culture, researchers and scholars have given it minimal attention. The Ga people‟s desire to combine their traditional costumes with foreign fashion has also resulted in the misuse of the former, within ceremonial and ritual contexts. Another probable reason for this attitude might be the fact that most Gas are not familiar with the appropriate uses and meanings of Ga costumes. This research then investigates the aesthetic qualities, meanings, functions, symbolisms and significance of Ga costumes alongside foreign clothes, by assessing (1) the knowledge level of Gas on their costumes; (2) If the norms and values related to adornments are appreciated by the people and (3) the extent to which foreign clothing fashion has affected Ga traditional costumes. The study is examined under six chapters: chapter one, two and three deal with an introduction to the study, review of related literature and methodology respectively. While the fourth, fifth and sixth chapters, in that order, cover the data sourced from the field study, analysis of the questionnaire and the summary, conclusion and recommendation. By means of the introduction in chapter one, the meaning, role and significance of costumes, as well as the research questions, objectives, importance and the ethnographic background of the study are presented. Since some literary works have already discussed the origin, uses, cultural symbolisms and acculturation of costumes on a global spectrum, such works are consulted in chapter two, to achieve a comparatively standard work. The methodology in chapter three expanded both qualitative and quantitative approaches employed by means of interviews, questionnaire, observations, participations, oral tradition, photograph taking and collection; all of which are statistically analyzed, interpreted and described in line with the research questions. The population interviewed covers a sample size of about fifty three (53) people, and for fair coverage this group included traditional leaders, beauticians, educationalist, „ordinary‟ Ghanaians and youths. Discussions on the data revealed in chapter four that, archaeologist and historians have been able to prove through excavations and artistic impressions respectively, that as early as the seventeenth century Gas had existing forms of clothing that have transcended and transformed into the present ones. And that these fashion trends had in them artistic, historical and cultural revelations that distinguished gender, occupation and status. Other contemporary costumes, mostly of foreign tradition, and also patronized by Gas from the 19th century to the present time are further assembled in the study, revealing some adulterations and the indecent mode of dressing common with some of the people. Clothing and adornments are also impressively inter-twined with, and inseparable from the social, political, and economic lives of Gas, sending information on the philosophies, virtues, and the cultural milieu of the people. As such, these ideals are analyzed and discussed in line with the names, meanings, symbolisms, figures and plates, which establish why, how and when costumes are worn. Chapter five deals with respondents views on a variety of questions in which by means of the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS), the over 100 questionnaires administered are critically analyzed and interpreted. The study concludes in the sixth chapter, noting how some traditional clothes are unaltered whilst others have been affected by modernization and acculturation. In order to preserve and conserve this great historic heritage (Ga clothing and adornment) the study finally recommends further research, documentation, scientific means of preservation, as well as more efforts by the Ghana government, educational institutions, religious organizations and traditional leaders in sensitizing the people through seminars, workshops and durbars.
A Thesis submitted to the School of Graduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in African Art and Culture, December-2011