The Guan people moved out of Timbuktu area and migrated southwards for a more peaceful place to settle. Among this group was the Awutu abe (people of Awutu). The culture of the people of Winneba is deeply rooted in their history and origins. It is said that they most probably split off and took a western corridor down south.

They pitched camp at Takyiman and moving down south in this western direction, they founded Efutu near present-day Jukwaa just north of Cape Coast. Their fearless spiritual leader and warrior, Kwamena Gyarteh Ayirebi-Gyan, led them,  with the support of a sizeable youthful militia comprised of both men and women. He was in possession of the deities and ensured that they were well protected from attacks by other migrating families, diseases, or want of food.

Winneba in focus

The chief deity was Otu and the lesser ones, Apa Sekum, Osipi, Dawa, Bassaw, Owonfo and in addition, the ancestral black stool. In Effutu legend, this leader, Kwamena Gyarteh Ayirebi-Gyan is often considered more of a deity than man; that is ‘Tuwa enyiwa enyiwa’ (Tuwa the deity with multiple eyes) personified. As the people moved on, they swelled in number and never suffered throughout their journey from disease or famine. Kwamena Gyarteh Ayirebi-Gyan is considered in Effutu history as the first priest-king. His high spiritual prowess enabled him to deal with the exigencies of this arduous journey.

“His high spiritual prowess enabled him to deal with the exigencies of this arduous journey.”

Kwamena Gyarteh Ayirebi-Gyan was known to possess supernatural powers and always had a hat on. Wondering why he never took off his hat, this curiosity led members of the community to mischievously remove his hat that concealed his extraordinary human features on his head. Under pressure from them and following her own curiosity, his wife took off this hat one day as he had a nap under his favourite tree. On realizing that the truth about his being had been exposed, he sunk into the ground. In a frenzied mood, they dug the earth to recover him but it was in futility. They made two cannon shapes (tubu) out of the clay dug from the spot and carried them along in their search for a permanent settlement.

In search of a better place to settle where they would have ample water to drink and fertile land to farm, they moved from Efutu and founded Amanfrom which has now become Oguaa, (Cape Coast). Moving along the coast eastwards, they mistook what they believed to be smoke from the hills ahead for a settlement. The smoke turned out to be a mist on the hill. The people had said of ‘yae oma ko’ meaning “see a settlement”

Today this hill which had been referred to as ‘oma ko’ is known as Mount Mungo derived from ‘oma ko’. They moved ahead and rather pitched a camp at Dego but abandoned it in no time. It was about this time that the sons of Ayirebi Gyan had come of age and were in control of their father’s leadership role in the movement of the sojourning group. The eldest of them was Gyarteh Sisi and followed by Edwey. Prince Edwey is known to have gone ahead of the party and founded Dwomma (Dwemma) after his name. Others believe that the name was derived from ‘dwom maaba’; that is to say ‘wait, coming soon’, as Gyarteh Sisii told his people when he left Edwey behind in search of a much better land eastwards. Dwomma was later named Mumford by the Europeans.

At Dwomma, Gyarteh Sisi requested his eldest son Osimpam Bondze abe to go further in search of much more suitable land. The search party came first in contact with a lagoon which was salty and described it as ‘bo ni’, meaning ‘hard water’, it was a Wednesday. This was later to be referred to as Kweku boni, now mentioned as Kweku Muni. Moving further east, the search party came across fresh water that was sweet and exclaimed ‘aninya nsu’, meaning ‘we’ve found water’. From this the name ‘Ayensu’ was derived for the river. In between these two water bodies, Osimpam Bondze abe and his search party had identified a suitable site for settlement and therefore sent the news back home to the King, Gyarteh Sisi. The site was agreed upon and a decision to get there along the seashore received the blessing of Gyarteh Sisi. The search party moved out but without Prince Edwey who opted to stay put. It is said that they landed by midday at a point between rocks along the coast. They landed and said ane mprekye! Wherever they went by sea, they landed there at the same point and frequent reference to that place earned it the name Penkye; that is where they land. Gyarteh Sisi and his men pitched camp, made mud houses roofed with thatch, and the settlement started to grow. Penkye then became the nucleus of the settlement today called Winneba.

The descendants of Gyarteh Sisi never forgot their religious obligations to their deity, Otu which had been left behind at Dwomma. Annually with the support of the militia; able-bodied men and women the leader of the settlement troop up the hills to Dwomma to perform rituals of gratitude to the deity. This pilgrimage continued for a while until on one such occasion they were able to relocate the deities excluding Sekuma to their present site at Penkye. The relocation of Otu led to its new name Penkye Out years to come. Osimpam Bondze abe’s compound in which it was located became Otu’s Household or in the local parlance; Otuano and its people Otuano abe. To date, the descendants of Osimpam Bondze abe travel to Dwomma annually to provide customary drinks to the stool elders there to enable them to collect the red clay used in consecrating Otu in preparation for any festival such as Akomase or Aboakyer.

In keeping with their tradition, a special shrine was erected for the deity. At the centre of it was an ‘osenkyew’ tree that provided shade for the deity in the compound of Osimpam. Also planted there was one of the cannons from Efutu; the other was used in lot casting to forecast future events within their community after the annual sacrifice at the shrine; this second cannon was called ‘Akwa. Just as the new settlement began to flourish and attract other migrants to cohabit, its founder, Osimpam Bondze abe died. The name of the settlement gradually took after its founder, Osimpam as Simpa.

The coastline of this settlement is a beautiful bay that directed the breeze making it windy at all times. Centuries later, the Europeans who visited the land constantly referred to it as the ‘windy bay’ owing to its serene and breezy sandy beaches and gently rolling landscape. From this appellation, the name Simpa gradually gave way to the more modern name, Winneba. The descendants of Kwamena Gyarteh Ayirebi-Gyan had founded Simpa now called Winneba; a patriarchal society because of their Guan ancestry. The principal name of the Otuano family was Gyarteh which was anglicised to Ghartey after Kwamena Gyarteh who became King Ghartey IV (1872 – 1897). But Gyarteh was the nickname given to Kwamena Gyarteh Ayirebi-Gyan for his fearless stance that enabled him to conquer the lion, “gyata”.

Others believe that Gyarteh is closer to the famous names of heroes of the old Sudan empire from where they emigrated; Mari Gyata, Diata and Jata. Other prominent names of the Otuano family are; Gyan, Gyansah, Bondze, Bortse, Donkoh, Bonney, Ayirebi, and their feminine and junior corollaries/conjugations. Years had been spent by the people from the time of departure from the Mossi kingdom now Burkina or as many refer to, Timbuktu, area down south. In the origins of Ghana, Eva L. R. Meyerowitz (A Note on the origins of Ghana, Oxford Journals, the Royal African Society, 1952, pp319-322) stated that Winneba (Afutu) was founded at the same time along the coast of present-day Gold coast around 1300. The Guan community started their sojourn between 1100/1200 and claim to have been eventually settled at Penkye much earlier than 1300 AD.

The principal name of the Otuano family was Gyarteh which was anglicised to Ghartey after Kwamena Gyarteh who became King Ghartey IV (1872 – 1897).