The festivals of Ghana, an immersion into the traditions
The festivals in Ghana allow you to experience directly the traditions and culture of the African people.
Traditional Ashanti funerals are attended by mourners wearing beautifully red or black togas. We say “funerals” but it means a “festive” celebration: thanks to this ceremony the deceased return as an ancestor and will protect his family. Relatives and friends gather, socialize and celebrate his/her memory. The chief arrives surrounded by his court under the shade of large umbrellas while drums give rhythm to the dancers whose intricate moves are highly symbolic in war and erotic meanings.
In the Ashanti calendar certain days each year are set aside for a very special celebration at the Royal Palace. We will experience a great traditional ceremony in one of the last African Kingdoms, which still practices its ancient rituals in full. During the celebration, the King sits under a large colourful umbrella, adorned in vivid cloth and massive ancient jewellery (Ashanti gold jewellery are considered masterpieces of African art), surrounded by dignitaries and elders, and on the side of the King sits the Linguist holding the golden symbols of power. The position and distance from His Majesty represents all roles and positions of power in the royal court. The ceremony starts with a procession: attendants bringing gifts, story tellers reciting the deeds of the past Kings, drummers and ivory trumpet players, sword bearers, armed guards, carriers of ostrich feather fans, high fetish priests, and corpulent women dressed in vivid red performing dance with erotic symbolism. The Queen Mother joins the ceremony surrounded by her court.
Dipo initiation, Krobo people
A female initiation rite aims at turning a girl into a woman. The entrance into womanhood is led according to the tradition and girls who successfully go through this rite can become good wives. The girls undergo a series of rituals, tests and tasks to prove both their chastity and their being ready for adult life.
During the final steps of the Dipo rite, the girls are elegantly decorated: colorful assorted beads adorn their exposed upper parts while from waist to knee they are covered in beautiful fabrics. Their breasts are bare for everyone to see. During the ceremony, the girls appear in public in their ceremonial dress and then their heads are shaved leaving only a small portion of hair on the head; a piece of raffia is tied around their neck to indicate they are Dipo-yi. On the next morning, the girls are given a ritual bath in a river and then are required to taste foods like sugar cane and peanuts. They will learn women’s tasks and once the rite is over they will retour from a secret place adorned with glass beads necklaces and wrapped in beautiful textiles: it is the time of the celebration: they are the new born!
Millet Festival, Krobo people
Millet Festival, a celebration full of colors and jewels. The festival consists in seven days of religious and social celebration during which people renew their love, unity and solidarity and express their gratitude to God for all the blessings received (good harvests, abundance, good health and protection from enemy).
In the past there was the Ngmayem Festival celebrated only by priests however, in the 1940s, the late paramount king “Konor Oklemekuku nene Azu Mate Kole II” transformed this celebration into the communal festival we know today, to promote solidarity and development among people.
This festival also provides youth with the opportunity to learn their culture, make friends and choose spouses. Traditional chiefs arrive with their entire court and are dressed in their most beautiful attires; an enthusiastic crowd surrounds them and the parade is accompanied by the rhythm of the drums.
Bakatue at Elmina
Bakatue is the main festival celebrated in Elmina. Literally “Bakatue” means the “opening of the lagoon”.
This festival commemorates the foundation of the town and is also celebrated to invoke the deity Nana Benya in charge of the constant protection of the town.
During the festival the Paramount Chief and all the fetish priests make sacrifices to the River God and pray for peace.
There is also:
a royal procession made up of chiefs dressed in gorgeous fabric along with the members of the Asafo companies holding their colorful flags;
a boat cruise on the lagoon with on board women wrapped in traditional Kente cloth.
This is a spectacular festival ending up with music and dances around the Chiefs.
Aboakyer at Winneba
Aboakyer, also known as the ‘deer hunting festival’, is organized to honor the tribal God of the town. In this festival, God Penkye Otu receives the sacrifice of a deer. The festival originated about three hundred years ago, when Winneba was first settled. People believed they managed to establish their homes here only thanks to the help of their God and they are still under its protection. This festival is the expression of their gratitude. Aboakyer Festival involves two groups (Asafo Companies) of people in Winneba: the Tuafo and the Dentsifo. They compete with one another to go into the bush and be the first to catch a deer equipped only with clubs; the group which first catches the animal rushes back home singing war and victory songs. The deer is then presented to the Omanhene who places his bare right foot three times on it. After completing this ritual, the deer is lifted up and carried through the town streets by singing and dancing crowd to the shrine of Penkye Otu. In the final act of the festival the Tuafo and the Dentsifo come together in front their God and sacrifice the deer.
Fetu Afahye at Cape Coast
The festival is a harvest festival. The offering of the first products to the titular spirits constitutes an important moment of the festival. The apex of the celebrations is the “durbar”, procession made up by the traditional chiefs with the symbols of their power and the warriors’ societies named “asafo”, with their famous flags.