Publication Date

Spring 2002


Ghana: Arts and Culture


Sticks and stones will break my bones but words can never hurt me. Nearly every American child is taught the phrase. The Anlo Ewe of Ghana, however, have more reverence for the damaging potential of language. Their songs of abuse, or halo, are at once an artistic medium, a social control , and a source of humor and entertainment. At the same time they are a form of verbal warfare, with victims and casualties the same as in any other type of war. This mode of communication is at times beautiful and profound, yet because of the damage it can cause it is no longer practiced. In Southern Volta region where it originated, there is still a wealth of information about halo, but due to the restrictions against its use and its volatility, knowledge about the practice is not openly shared. The following paper will examine these songs' function, composition and performance. I will attempt to address how this tradition ended, how these songs are now perceived and how the mode of insult is woven into the fabric of the Anlo Ewe community.