Life in Africa

Topics: Marriage, Family, Wife Pages: 10 (4237 words) Published: April 3, 2006
Marriage is a normal social institution in many countries. In America society leads its people to believe that marriage is the right thing to do. Many Americans feel if they don't get married they lack a major piece of themselves. America leads people to believe that if they don't marry they are incomplete. However, this is not the case in many African societies. In these societies people marry for other reasons. For instance, the men of the Ashanti of Ghana marry wives to help with the economic work. A wife can also give him children who can also help with household chores.

The Ashanti live in central Ghana in western Africa approximately 300km. away from the coast (Berry 13). The Ashanti are a major ethnic group of the Akans. Ghana is a new nation, barely more than 50 years old. Ghana, previously the Gold Coast, was a British colony until 1957 (26). It is now politically separated into four main parts. Ashanti is in the center and Kumasi is the capital. To the Ashanti, the mother's family is most important. A child is said to inherit the father's soul or spirit (ntoro) and from the mother a child inherit flesh and blood (mogya), (Lystad 37). This relates them more closely to the mother's family. The Ashanti live in an extended family. The family lives in various homes or huts that are set up around a courtyard. The head of the household is usually the oldest brother that lives there. He is chosen by the elders. He is called either Father or Housefather (39). Girls are taught cooking and housekeeping skills by their mothers. They also work the fields and bring in necessary items, such as water, for the group. Marriage is very important to Ashanti life and it can be polygamous. Men may want more than one wife to express their ability to be generous and support a large family ( Connah 78). Women in the Ashanti culture will not marry without the consent of their parents. Many women do not meet their husbands until they are married. Even so, divorce is very rare in the Ashanti culture and it is a duty of parents on both sides to keep a marriage going ( Lystad 45). The Ashanti religion is a mixture of spiritual and supernatural powers (Connah 97). They believe that plants, animals, and trees have souls. They also believe in fairies, witches, and forest monsters. There are a variety of religious beliefs involving ancestors, higher gods, or abosom, and ‘Nyame', the Supreme Being of Ashanti (108). The Ashanti also practice many rites for marriage, death, puberty, and birth. The Ashanti have a wide variety of arts. Bark cloth was used for clothing before weaving was introduced. With weaving, there is cotton and silk. Women may pick cotton or spin materials into thread, but only men are allowed to weave (Kweku). There are different patterns in weaving, each with its own name. Sometimes the pattern represents social status, a clan, a saying, or the sex of the one wearing it (Kweku). Patterns are not always woven in the cloth. It can also be stamped on in many designs. Pottery is a skill that is taught to a daughter by the mother (Kweku). There are many stages to making pots and there are many colors of clay available. The Ashanti also do woodcarving and metal casting. Marriage in American society is also extremely important. Marriage in American society is polygamous. Multiple partners are illegal in this society. There is usually a long courtship between two individuals before they decide to marry. The process that leads to marriage is very different in the Ashanti culture and the American culture. An Ashanti "became marriageable when she reached puberty" (Lystad 55). "Love does have something to do with it, but not much" (56). Unmarried girls who don't show shyness toward men are seen as less desirable than girls who do. Girls who attend coeducational schools are seen as less shy than other girls. "These school girls are rumored to be more sexually promiscuous than other, although this isn't...
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