Check The Most Widely Celebrated Festivals In Ghana Every Year
Festivals are rituals that recur at regular intervals, and which have as their purpose, the expression of beliefs held by a particular community. There is also the conscious expectation that certain very specific ends will come about as a result of the performance of the festivals and the performance is motivated by the desire to gain some form of satisfaction and is expected to be affected.
Festivals take place at special times set aside by a community in order to commemorate some events of historical, cultural or religious significance and by the performance of certain rituals; such events are re-enacted, giving both individuals and the communities a sense of meaning and cohesiveness. (Akintan, 2013).
Let’s take a look at the following powerful festivals celebrated in Ghana and the people who celebrate them.
1. AFENORTO FESTIVAL
Afenorto Festival – meaning “Period of Rest at Home” festival is the traditional festival of the chiefs and people of the Mepe Traditional Area. It is celebrated annually to renew the sense of oneness of the people. It thus provides a unique opportunity for reunions, particularly bondage with the extended family and ancestors.
In 1874, General Sir Garnet Wolseley moved against the armies of the ambitious Ashanti Kingdom who were attacking the coastal tribes of the Gold Coast: the “Sagrenti War” (i.e. Sir Garnet War) as it came to be known. Frightened by the magnitude of their forces, the Anlos chose to align with the Ashanti.
The gallant soldiers of Mepe, on the other hand, fought alongside the British colonial army for the freedom of the people of the coastline, an alliance that won most of the battles. By this exceptional valor, Anlos gave Mepe the accolade “Mepe kukuruku, tsagblatsa, nekotsoe be yewoe bi dzo wu xe” – literally meaning “kernel shells (i.e. Mepe) had proven that they could produce superior quality fire compared to that which ‘baphia nitidia’ (i.e. Ashanti/Anlo coalition) could”.
Baphia nitidia is a prickly tough wood well known for its burning prowess. Mepe celebrated its battle victories by dancing to tunes of “Agbekor” war drums. This became an established tradition, with their forefathers setting a day aside (at the end of July) for the annual commemorations of what came to be known as “Agbekortu”. The period was chosen to deliberately overlap the recurrent floods caused by the yearly overspill of the Volta River. During this time, most economic activities (particularly, clam picking, fishing and farming) along the banks of the river came to a standstill.
So, all citizens returned home (to Mepe) on a forced occupational holiday. “Apekpoe” (family and clan meetings) were convened to resolve differences, build bridges, and deliberate on issues of welfare. As the dynamism of culture has never been in doubt, so Afenorto underwent some transformations in substance but maintained virtually the same pattern since its outdooring in 1955. The undying characteristics of Afenorto Festival are as follows: Firing of musketry and sounding of “Atupani” (talking drum) Libation at “Vesime” – a location where twins were traditionally outdoored.
A procession of chiefs and people of Mepe Traditional Area to durbar ground amid firing of musketry, drumming and dancing. Chieftaincy and customary regalia are displayed with splendor. The order enroute to durbar ground is as follows: First comes Dzagbaku division dressed in white, followed by the Adzigo clan in green; Sevie follows cladded in yellow; Gbanvie comes next in red. At the rear is Akorvie dressed in assorted colours with the emblem of cockerel embossed.
The grand durbar is held on the first Saturday of August. The celebrations span a little over a fortnight. At the grand durbar, the chiefs and Queen Mothers sit majestically in state with their mace – their symbol of authority.
The paramount chief presents the welcome address to the guest of honour – usually a government official, who in turn gives a speech in apparent response to the paramount chief. The grand durbar ends in the afternoon with the return of the chiefs in their palanquins to their
respective palaces with pomp and pageantry.
The ensuing days are marked by special merry making some of which are targeted at raising funds to support developmental projects in the area. State harvest, regatta, fun beach, and dances are some of the activities. The town equally places a lot of premium on education and this is evident in the Afenorto program featuring the annual speech and prize-giving day for all schools in the area.
After the cleansings of ancestral/ritual stools and final observance for the dead, the curtain is officially drawn on the festival. Non-residents then return to their various places of residence to patiently await the occasion to come around the following year.
2. HOMOWO FESTIVAL
Homowo is a festival celebrated in Greater Accra, Ghana by the Gas in the Month of May, every year. The history of Homowo festival is coined as a result of famine that raged the forefathers of the Ga people. However, literature has it that, the famine was eventually followed by a bumper harvest of plant food and fish. Thus, Homowo is explained as the act of ‘hooting at hunger’.
The Chiefs and/or Clan leaders of the Ga Traditional Areas sprinkle their traditional food known as ‘Kpokpoi’, which is prepared using cornmeal and palm oil on the streets. During this beautiful festival, the chiefs of Ga Clans pour libation, singing and praying to their ancestors to seek their support and to give them more food, thus the reason for sprinkling the Kpokpoi all over the street is to signify the abundance of food from their harvest.
3. HOGBETSOTSO FESTIVAL
Hogbetsotso festival is celebrated by the chiefs and people of Anlo in the Volta Region of Ghana. This is one of the biggest traditional festivals celebration in Volta Region and Ghana as a whole. Anlo has several towns which include Anloga (capital), Keta, Kedzi, Vodza, Whuti, Tegbi, Dzita, Abor, Afiadenyigba, Anyako, Konu, Alakple, Tsito, Atiavi, Deʋegodo, and many other villages.
The festival is celebrated annually on the first Saturday in the month of November. The name of the festival is derived from the Eʋe Language, which means ‘the festival of exodus’ or “coming from Hogbe (Notsie)”. The celebration of the festival was instituted about four decades ago.
Various ceremonies are held during the festival. They include a peace-making period in which all disputes are ended with the finding of an amicable solution.
It is believed that the reason for this traditional period of peacemaking is that the people believe their ancestors lived in harmony with themselves all through their escape from Notsie and that it was this character that made their sojourn a success. There is also a purification ceremony of the ceremonial stools (where the Ewe believe the ancestral spirits reside) through the pouring of libations. This is followed by general cleaning where all the villages are swept and rubbish burnt.
This cleaning ceremony starts at the Volta River and ends after several days at the Mono River in the Republic of Togo. The climax of the festival involves a durbar of the chiefs and people of Anlo. The chiefs dress in colorful Regalia/ Kente and receive homage from their subjects at the durbar grounds. Various forms of dancing, singing, and merry-making characterize the entire festival.
4. VOLO FESTIVAL
Volo Festival is an annual festival celebrated by the chiefs and people of Akuse in the Volta Region. It is usually celebrated in the month of March. During this festival, visitors are welcome to share food and drinks.
The people put on traditional clothes and there is durbar of chiefs. There is also dancing and drumming. This festival is celebrated to commemorate the end of the exodus of the people of Volo from Togo, who were forced to flee from the tyranny of an impious ruler King Agɔkɔli (Agorkorli).
5. DZAWUWU FESTIVAL
Dzawuwu Festival is an annual tradition and thanksgiving festival celebrated by the chiefs and people of Agave Traditional Area in Dabala, in the Volta Region of Ghana. Usually, it is celebrated in the month of February.
During this festival, special portions of food are sprinkled to the gods of the people for protection. Libations are poured and the people renew their loyalty to their rulers.
It is celebrated to mark the bravery of the Agaves in the past who fought and won several wars. It is the time to pay homage to those who have departed.
6. ABOAKYER FESTIVAL
The festival is celebrated by the chiefs and people of Winneba in the Central Region of Ghana in May, every year. On the first day of the festival, the two Asafo (Warrior) groups in Winneba take part in a hunting battle. The competition is aimed at getting the best to catch bushbuck alive to be declared winner and brave as they present the live animal to the chiefs and people at a colorful durbar. The animal is then sacrificed to begin the Aboakyer festival. The festival is used to receive a productive harvest and spiritual guidance from their gods for the coming year.
Aboakyer, a name in Fante Language means “hunting for animal”. The essence of this festival is to commemorate the migration of Simpafo meaning “Simpa People” (the traditional name given to the people of Winneba) from north-eastern Africa, in a town of Timbuktu in the ancient Western Sudan Empire to their present land in the Central Region of Ghana.
7. KUNDUM FESTIVAL
The Kundum festival is celebrated by the people of Ahanta (or Nzema). It is celebrated to thank God for giving them abundant food for harvest. According to oral history and folklore, the festival began when a hunter, Akpoley, during an expedition, chanced on some dwarfs dancing in a circle. After observing the dwarfs for a while, he returned to his town and introduced it to his people.
Ritual dancing is associated with expelling the devil and evil spirits from towns and villages. During the festival, the dance is exhibited by most inhabitants of Axim and her neighboring towns. It comes from the Nzema people and subsequently graduated to the Ahantas in the Western region of Ghana.
Kundum is both a harvest and a religious festival. The start of the festival is based on the day the fruit of a certain palm tree became ripe.
The festival lasts for four weeks, but for the first three weeks most activity, particularly drumming and dancing only takes place at night and on the outskirts of the towns at a place known as Siedu or Sienu. The festivals occur separately in each town that makes up the Ahanta. The towns each schedule independently on which Sunday their local festival will start.
The people who participate in the celebration wear distinguished dresses, footwear, and sometimes they cover their faces with masks. The festival begins with musicians taking the drums to the five different shrines of the town. At the shrines, where they make the requests for good things for the town.
8. ODWIRA FESTIVAL
The Odwira festival is celebrated by the chiefs and people of Fanteakwa District in the Eastern Region of Ghana. The Odwira Festival is celebrated by the people of Akropong Akuapem, Aburi, Larteh, and Manfi. This is celebrated annually in the month of September.
The festival celebrates a historic victory over the Ashanti in 1826. This was the battle of Katamanso near Dodowa, during the reign of the 19th Okuapimhene of Akropong, Nana Addo Dankwa 1 from 1811 to 1835. It is a time of spiritual purification where the people are renewed and receive protection. It is also celebrated by the people of Jamestown in Accra.
9. AKYEMPEM FESTIVAL
Akyempem Festival is an annual festival celebrated by the peoples of Agona Traditional Area in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. It is usually celebrated in the month of September or sometime in October.
During the festival, visitors are welcome to share food and drinks. The people put on traditional clothes to the durbar of chiefs. Drumming and dancing are not exempted from the activities. During the festival, the stools of the land are purified, and traditional rites are performed. There is also pouring of libation to the gods as thanksgiving and asking for the general well-being of the people and their prosperity. Thus the festival is celebrated to mark an event that took place in the past.
10. DODOLEGLIME FESTIVAL
The Dodoleglime Festival is celebrated by the chiefs and peoples of the Ve Traditional Area in the Hohoe district in the Volta Region. The festival is celebrated in November every year.
“Dodoleglime” means coming out of the wall in the Ewe dialect.
The festival is celebrated to mark the migration of the people from Notsie, a village located in Togo, after being enslaved by the wicked king Agorkoli, during the 17th Century to their current milieu in the Volta Region of Ghana. The people celebrate this festival to commemorate and honour the brave event of their ancestors, who planned their freedom by escaping from the treatment of Torgbe Agorkoli.
Festivals are good things. They bring people together. It fosters cultural assimilation. Ghanaians, Africans, and the Western parts of the world cannot do away with their cultures. Thus, cultures are essential and they add up to a country’s development.