People & Society

Togo is the most populated country in West Africa, with over four million people and about 30 tribal groups; the largest being the Ewe in the South and the Kabre in the north. Ewe, the largest ethnic group in Togo migrated from Nigeria to the coast of Togo between the 14th and 16th century, where they started living in loose village groupings separate from the other tribes. The other ethnic group Kabre were very cohesive though less influential and had their stronghold in the surrounding areas of Kara and Sokode.

Togo has a rich and multifaceted culture full of traditional rituals and practices. The Ewes for example give lot of importance to spiritual life and life after death and this is the reason why the most important event in cultural terms is the funeral. They believe that after a person dies, his reincarnated soul or djoto will return in the next child born in the same lineage while his death soul or luvo may linger amongst the living.

Religion

Half of the population believes in animism, a tribal sort of spiritualism practised through the worship of souls, 30% are Christians and the remaining 20% are Muslims.

 

Language

French is the official language. Mina is widely used in commerce whereas other African languages spoken in Togo are Ewe, Kabre, Cotocoli and Hausa.

 

Food

Togolese food habits have been influenced by the country’s colonial legacy. The Germans left a legacy of beer and the French the baguette, which is preferred to any other kind of bread. Maize is the staple diet and is cooked in a variety of ways from eaten off the cob to ground into flour and mixed with water to make porridge called pātes or akume.  Pātes or porridge is a savoury dish served with 'sauces'  - thick stews usually made of vegetables, like okra and spinach. Sauces are also made with meats, smoked fish, including fish heads, cow skin and large bush rats, known locally as ‘grasscutters’ or agouti.

Another very well known Togolese dish is fufu. The preparation of fufu is a community ritual involving endless hours of pounding yams till it resembles baker’s dough, a hard, laborious task done exclusively by women. The noise the fufu pounders make is one of the most recognisable sounds in Togo. Fufu is eaten with a variety of meat and vegetable sauces, just the way pates are.

The locals don’t eat very often, but when they do, they head for the inexpensive roadside stalls that sell roasted and boiled maize and corn on the cob, peanuts, omelettes, brochettes and cooked prawns. The bigger towns have bars, cafes and restaurants patronised by foreign visitors, businessmen and government officials.

Culture and Crafts

Togo’s mixed culture and warm people are the main attractions. They mainly believe in animism where they respect and worship the soul. This form of spiritualism has lead to a society in which funerals are important events in the lives of the Togolese people.
The main crafts are wood sculptures, batik work and leatherwork.

Education

Most of the schools in Togo are state schools, but there are also private schools, run by Christian or Islamic organisations, or by individuals. Some of the private schools in Lomé have excellent facilities and provide a first-rate education, keeping in mind the lack of development and years of political upheaval. The Togolese government has built primary schools all over the country in an effort to educate the population. The government claims that 70% of children in Togo spend at least five years in primary education

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