Location: Coastal Ghana and Togo
Population: Est 1.5 million
Arts: The Ewe occupy parts of both Ghana and Togo, separated by the Volta River, and the arts and rituals of these groups are quite different. The Ewe who live in Ghana use small carved wooden dolls for fertility purposes, similar to those of their larger neighbors, the Asante. They use pairs of small figures representing twins in a similar fashion to those of the Yoruba. They also weave remarkably complex textiles which rival the famed Kente cloths of the Asante. Across the river in Togo, the Ewe have been more influenced by cultures like the Fon who practice "Vodun," and their carvings, as well as their use, reflect this. The total output of the Ewe, regardless of location, is limited to these few forms, most of which could have possibly been borrowed from neighbors. The small carvings and textiles thus represent almost everything which might be encountered on the western market.
The face and body form of small Ewe statuette is quite distinctive, with cavities used for eyes and mouths. There is little in the way of details or decoration, although sometimes the hairdos may be ridged and blackened by the application of heat. The ones that come in pairs are carved to represent the death of twins, a concept borrowed from the Yoruba of Nigeria. Individual figures, which all look much alike, and are usually under 10 inches in height, might be kept under the pillows of young women to insure fertility. Some scholars believe they are merely dolls produced for children to play with. In the Ewe villages of Togo, small carvings are bought at market from known artists and then empowered by a Vodun priest or diviner. A variety of maladies and personal problems might be addressed in these rituals, with the statue as the intermediary.The original carvings can be rendered practically unrecognizeable after all the libations and magical attachments added by diviner. In addition to the ubiquitous small sculptures, the Ewe weave glorious and complex textiles, known as "keta," which are made of long cotton strips that are then sewn together. Though they are similar to the Kente of the Asante, there are distinguishing charactersitics which can be discerned by experts. There are those who think the beauty of the keta exceeds that of the kente, and undoubtedly the subject still arises as the two cultures mingle together in Ghana today.
History: The Ewe can be traced back to the region of "Ketu," which was Yoruba territory during the 14th century, in what is now the Republic of Benin. The aggressive Yourba eventually pushed the Ewe into a westward migration, and they ended up roughly where they are today, mostly in Ghana and Togo. Though the majority of cultures in this region choose leaders based on their mother's lineage, the Ewe appoint chief and attendants using male ancestors as their guides.