The sociocultural concept of ohia, poverty in Akan: Konadu’s song Ɛnneϵ mϵkɔ na maba

Published in: South African Journal of African Languages
Volume 36, issue 2, 2016, pages: 163–171
DOI: 10.1080/02572117.2016.1252009
Author(s): Kofi AgyekumDepartment of Linguistics, Ghana


This paper looks at the concept of ohia ‘poverty’ from Akan sociocultural perspectives. It considers poverty from the Akan background and how the poor see themselves and the factors they believe are responsible for their poverty. Social, cultural, individualistic, fatalistic and religious explanations to poverty are explored within the theoretical framework of language ideology, which reflects the beliefs people have about their language and the justification and rationalisation they make about the language structure and use. It is argued that to understand the concept of poverty among the Akans one has to resort to their cultural beliefs, perception, worldview and social structures. The data for discussion is based on a song text entitled Ɛnneϵ mϵkɔ na maba ‘Then I will go and come back’ by a renowned highlife musician Alex Kwabena Konadu. Konadu captures the concept of poverty through the image of the Akan family system. The paper uses stylistic devices like deixes, parallelism, repetition and symbolism to analyse the data. The rich imagery and symbolism in the song text highlight how the society conceptualises poverty based on their past experiences.

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