BY: Dr. Jemimah Etornam Avornyo Kassah
Ho, the town with one of the shortest names in Ghana, is the capital of the Volta region and also of the Asorgli state. The Asorglis are made up of four sub-units, which are also towns (with allied villages): Ho, Akoefe, Kpenoe, and Takla. The Asorglis pride themselves, and justifiably so, in being the people who actually broke down the walls of Notsie during the reign of Agokorli the tyrant, leading to the escape of the various Ewe sub-groups present in Ghana today. Under the leadership of Torgbe Kakla, they broke down the fortified walls with an implement and helped the Ewes escape. Togbe Kakla is said to have had three sons (Akoe, Letsu, Asor) and a daughter, Esa. The descendants of Akoe and Letsu founded Akoeƒe and Kpenoe, and later, Takla. The descendants of Asor founded present-day Ho, and Esa founded Saviefe, close to Ho. “Asorgli” refers to the nature of the fortified wall they broke down in Notsie before their migration.
“Asor” refers to a particular species of thorn used in mixing with clay before constructing the defense wall at Notsie. To date, during the Yam festival, delegates go to the modern-day Notsie in Togo to commemorate the historic departure.
According to both oral and written history (Spieth, 1906; Reindorf, 3rd edition; Amekpordi, 2012), the Asorglis were once at a point vassals of the Akwamus and used to pay tribute to them in the form of slaves. This went on for several years until several chiefs rebelled and refused to pay the tribute. The Akwamu chief, Akoto, was sorely vexed and declared war. After heavy losses on both sides, Dangme settlers in Ho-Dome, led by Howusu, helped the Asorglis defeat the Akwamus in 1833. Sorely vexed, a stronger Akan army now comprising the Ashanti, Akwamu, Anlo, Adaklu, and other allies decided to wage a second war in 1869 to punish the Asorglis for the earlier defeat. The beginning of the battle went in favour of the Akan and allies, but not for long. The old German bell at Ho-Kpodzi still bears the scar of a bullet from that war to date.
In the heat of the war, the Asorglis had to seek refuge in surrounding towns such as Sokode, Matse, Takla, Agortime, etc., for safety, but they strewed grass leftover after weeding (known as “Ho”) over their settlements and properties before escaping. Other allies came to the rescue of the Asorglis, and the people of Kpenoe and Takla were instrumental in turning the fortunes of the war around and crushing the Akan army. The Akan army was forced to flee, but a few were captured to serve at court. This explains the prevalence of Akan words, customs, and names among the Ewe of mid-Volta.
According to Amekpordi (2012), Bankoe was pronounced as Banyakɔ (“muddy area”), referring to the muddy nature of the land at the time. Banyakɔ was later corrupted to become Bankoe. They describe themselves as “Hoɖemakɔwo” – “Ho that cannot be carried.” In Ewe, the word “ho” refers to the rubbish that is collected and packed after a parcel of land is cleared by weeding. ‘Hoɖemakɔ’ means “packed rubbish that cannot be carried or collected‟ due, in part, to the fact that dangerous creatures can be found lurking underneath packed mounds of cleared vegetation. In like manner, the Hos will destroy you if you dare touch them. They are therefore like ‘ho’ that cannot be touched or carried, but they can carry other people’s ‘ho’. And if they can carry your ‘ho’, it means they have superior power.
I hope you enjoyed reading! Be proud of where you are from.
Source: Dr. Jemimah Etornam Avornyo Kassah, a Fisheries Scientist & Historian.