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AKWAABA: The symbolism of the proverbial Ghanaian Hospitality

April 9, 2013



 Akwaaba is an important expression in Ghanaian custom because it symbolizes Image






acceptance, friendliness and cooperation.

‘Akwaaba,’ which simply means welcome, in some Akan dialects, has become a symbol for expressing the celebrated Ghanaian hospitality, especially to foreign guests.

Customarily, Ghanaian hosts are expected to extend Akwaaba to strangers and intimate relations alike whenever they receive them on both formal and informal occasions. And it must be expressed as often as necessary. This is to demonstrate warmth, acceptance, and peace.

The extension of Akwaaba is normally followed with the offering of seats and the serving of water or drinks or both.

The expression of Akwaaba is so important that the Government of Ghana has placed the word at some of its entry points to demonstrate to foreigners that, they are, indeed, welcome to Ghana. Ghanaians pride themselves as the friendliest people in Africa. Thus, on both official and informal occasions, Akwaaba is expressed to initiate relationships or to cement existing ones.

Critique of this portrait:

This picture appears to be the portrait of an unknown photographer to present a nonverbal communication of Akwaaba to guests.

The theme of the picture seems to be: “Akwaaba; a symbol Ghanaian Hospitality”.

The picture features a model who is obviously dressed for a formal traditional occasion. She is wearing two designs of the ‘Kente’ cloth and a Kente headgear.  These have been complemented with some bead necklaces and some golden rings.

The model carries a pot, which appears to contain some palm wine, and she has a calabash, with which she would serve the drink.

She has a broad smile, which is an indication of joy and friendliness.

The outfit of the model, the Kente, is unique to Ghana so the picture seeks to communicate some information, which is akin to Ghana. The pot and the calabash are widely used in typical African communities, including Ghana, for carrying water and drinks and for serving them, respectively, to guests to demonstrate hospitality.

This picture is well framed with a balanced depth of field and it has a great appeal.

The effort of the photographer to capture the so-called Ghanaian hospitality in a photographic portrait is, therefore, highly commendable.

However, without the caption of ‘Welcome’ or ‘Akwaaba’ a viewer might find it difficult to interpret the picture as one meant to express welcome and portray Ghanaian Hospitality.

It may simply mean a beautiful woman, who is happy, and is ready to serve what she is carrying in the pot.

Though the picture may not be easily associated with its theme, especially to the foreigner who is alien to Ghanaian customs, it demonstrates the concept that the photographer, as an artist, has the privilege to develop his own concept, determine his own theme, and capture it with his lenses and caption it and sell it to the world.

It is, therefore, no wonder that this picture has been embraced and copied many times for sale and use.


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