All the people of Banda are under a common paramountcy. The stool rotates between Banda Ahenkro (Samrakuu) and Kabrono. All the towns of the various ethnic groups are quite mixed up in terms of settlement patterns. Ligbi towns may be located in between Nafaana communities while the Ntorrre share the town of Brohani with the Nafaana. Also known as Numu, the Ntorre are predominantly found in the Ivorian border town of Soko and other small communities in Ghana’s western neighbouring country. Cross-cultural marriages do not exist between the Ntorre and Nafaana but they are not enemies. The two, however, intermarry with all the other groups in the entire catchment area. Ligbi towns in Banda include Kankan and Saase as well as Menji and Namasa. Known as Huĕla by many French anthropologists, the Ligbi, who call themselves Doghona, have Sorobango, north of Bondoukou as one their principal towns. Apparently, all these groups including the Nafaana originally came from Côte d’Ivoire.
The Ligbi and Ntorre are linguistically alike but they are not the same. Both belong to the Mande-Tan sub-group of the larger Mandinka comprising the Bambara, Dyula and Mandingo, who are scattered throughout the northern parts of West Africa, starting from La Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Mali through to The Gambia. The Ligbi and Ntorre are Muslims; they practice the patrilineal inheritance system. They are both exogamous except that among the Ligbi there is rather a tendency for marrying patrilineal cousins.
The Nafaana are comparatively more than the rest of the groups in the Banda area. They speak Nafaana, a language of the Senoufo group. It bears linguistic affinity with Tagbana, a language predominantly spoken in the Korogho and Siguĕla areas of northern Côte from Kakala in Côte d’Ivoire to Fuula/Fugalla (Banda); a fact collaborated by Nafaana oral traditions. The Nafaana stretch across Bui south and south-westward through Duadaso (Gbarakasu) through Brodi and Sampa in North Jaman District.
It is interesting to note that this non-Akan group practices the matrilineal inheritance system. From the accounts of Tauxier, these people, like their linguistic kinspeople, originally practiced patrilineal system. What could have accounted for this socio-structural transition?
The most plausible explanation is an influence of their contact with Akans, first the Bono and later the Asante who penetrated the area to plunder its gold. The two later became allies, with the Banda, including the latter joining the Asante army to fight some of their wars and even achieving very high offices. Since then, a strong bond has been established between Asante and Banda.
The Nafaana and Awutu are generally African traditional religious adherents and Christians, with few of them as Muslims by conversion. of course, later generations became Muslims at birth. When it comes to names, these two groups have Akan names as well as indigenous names.
While one finds Akan names such as Dory, Wired, Fore, Poke, etc among the Nafaana, there are like Sié (first born mal child), Obaan, Bilé, Perh, Lamena, Sah, Woeli, Sorsah, Senyunoh, etc. which are peculiar to them. All these are males. Female names include Séli, Blétey, Enyunoh, Yéli, etc.
There are also names derived from deities such as Kupo, an Nchoriba deity; Tain, the name of a river which circles the entire Tain and parts of North Jamah Districts. The Ewe in the area who are originally from North and South Tongu have their communities along the river banks at Akanyakrom near Bui and at Agbadziekope, right on crossing over to the Northern Region side of the dam site. Agbolekame is five miles from Jama village.
Ewe language and customs do not need any elaboration here except that the people have been in the area for well over 60 years now have intermarried with local Nafaana, Mo and Gonja women.
DEGHA, EWE AND GONJA
The Northern Region side of the Black Volta is predominantly inhabited by the Degha (Mo or Ndjomo as their Gonja neighbours call them), the Gonja and to a lesser extent, the Safalba of Mandari. The Degha (pl.) are found at Jama, Teselima and Banda Nkwanta within the immediate environs of the catchment area. They speak Degh, a language close to Vagli and with five per cent borrowing from Gonja and few from Twi.
In fact this writer’s researches in the area indicate that these people might, after all, be remnants of Vagla who migrated southward and over time found the language slightly altered structurally with the primary vocabulary remaining the same as the original Vagli. (Konder 1998), Illusions of Difference over time and space. A study of the Vagla and Degha, unpublished. However, a kind of Guan influence has created a situation where many of the Degha were originally Gonja, but due to the inheritance system most of these people have become the former rather than the latter.
The Degha are one of the three groups in Ghana that practice the double unilineal descent system where movable property are inherited on the matrilineal side while offices are acceded to on patrilineal basis. The system creates room for greater choices among the Degha who easily move from side to the other at will.
Gonjas are among the Guans of this country and occupy a vast area. Bole, the district capital of the district that bears the same name, occupies one of the five royal skins that ascend to the Yagbon skin on a rational basis. The Gonja or Ngbanya speak Ngbanyito, a language that has high affinity with other Guan languages, notably Béré in Côte d’Ivoire, Awutu, Chumburu and Nawuri. Béré is not a dialect of Gonja as some linguists claim.
Something that binds all the people within the catchment area is privileged familiarity generally known as playmates. All the groups discussed here take liberties with one another without the party at receiving end taking offence. It exists between Nafaana and Gonja; Gonja and Banda; Mo and Gonja; Mo and Vagla; Banda and Kassena. It even extends beyond the people of the catchment area.
Banda Nkwanta village is a microcosm of all the groups discussed. It has all of them as natives. Being a predominantly Muslim community with an ancient mosque of arabesque architecture, there is a closer relationship with the people of Bungase who are also Muslims than there is with any of the other societies. Ligbi is widely spoken here with Degh, Nafaana, and Gonja as other languages. There has also been a heavy Vagla presence in this community as well as in Jama and Teselima in very recent times. The chief of Banda Nkwanta is a Gonja as is the usual practice. There is a long story to that which time and space do not allow for discussion here. Young men who accompanied the first Gonja chief to Banda Nkwanta in the early 1900s had to look for wives from Bungase and Banda Nkwanta. Marriage among all the groups except the Ewe and this is not at all complex or expensive.