Special Events: Dipo initiation rite, Awukudae & Aboakyer festivals
TRAVEL WITH THE ANTHROPOLOGIST
A unique amazing journey where we attend three of the most important festivals of the country.
The Krobo region is famous for its pearls and for its initiation rites which only apply to girls – Dipo is the name of the “process” through which a young girl becomes an adult woman, fully integrated within her society.
Aboakyer, also known as the ‘deer hunting festival’, is organized in honor of the tribal God of Winneba, a fabulous opportunity to experience the climax of a Fanti festival.
Awukudae is the exceptional traditional ceremony of the Ashanti people, taking place on specific dates and celebrating the traditional chiefs in an incredible display and abundance of gold..
BIOGRAPHY – Carlotta Zanzottera, anthropologist
“If culture is not the same as cultural change, then it is nothing at all”
I would like to introduce myself with the following anecdote which happened when I was six years old:
Teacher: “which job would you like to get?”
Me: “I want to be an anthropologist”
“I want to travel to Africa and meet and talk to people”
“You mean a missionary”
“No, I mean an anthropologist”.
Back then I’ve just returned from my first trip to Africa when I decided that I would have done this for the rest of my life….somehow…little then I knew, I took a Bachelor’s in Philosophy at Milan University and a Master’s in Cultural Anthropology at Utrecht University.
My field of expertise is cultural change which I study through the lens of migration and globalization. I have done research on topics such as female initiation rites in modern Zambia and Ghana, the sense of identity of Turkish-Dutch second generation and the issues of integration of Eritrean unaccompanied refugee minors in the Netherlands.
Since a year I work with TransAfrica, going back where I started from: West Africa
Day 1: 24th April 2021
Arrival and transfer to the hotel.
Day 2 : Glass beads
Morning transfer to Akossombo, the capital of the Volta Region which is the land of Krobo people. Here we attend the Dipo celebrations. Krobo people are well known for their production of glass beads, usually family’s heritages, they are shown during the Dipo celebrations. Depending on the schedule of the Dipo rite, we will visit an atelier where they make glass beads according to the tradition; the process involves different stages: scrap glass is first grounded into a fine powder then it is meticulously made into patterns and placed into hand-made clay molds covered in kaolin in order to be baked. We will have the time to learn and to produce our own beads.
Day 3 : Dipo celebrations
Dipo: the female initiation rite among the 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! The day after they will dance for the community asking for money…
In according with the schedule of Dipo, we will join a Voodoo ceremony which is part of everyday life in the villages. The frenetic rhythm of the drums and chants of the adepts’ help calling in the voodoo spirit who then takes possession of some of the dancers. They fall into a deep trance: eyes rolling back, grimaces, convulsions, insensitivity to fire or pain. Sakpata, Heviosso, Mami Water are just some of the voodoo divinities who can show up. In a village, surrounded by the magic atmosphere of the ceremony, we will understand what people mean when they say: “In your Churches you pray God; in our shrines we become Gods!”
Day 4: Ashanti
In the morning, transfer to Kumasi, the historical and spiritual capital of the old Ashanti Kingdom. The Ashanti people were one of the most powerful Kingdoms in Africa until the end of the 19th century, when the British annexed Ashanti Country to their Gold Coast colony. The tribute paid today to the Asantehene (=King) is the best evidence of their past splendour and strength. With nearly one million inhabitants, Kumasi is a sprawling town with a unique central market, one of the largest in Africa. Every kind of Ashanti craft (leather goods, pottery, Kente cloth) is found here, along with just about every kind of tropical fruit and vegetable.
The program includes a visit to the Ashanti Cultural Centre: a rich collection of Ashanti artefacts housed in a wonderful reproduction of an Ashanti house. In the afternoon we participate – if available – in a traditional Ashanti funeral, 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.
If available, meet with a Fetish Priest who will allow us to participate to his rituals.
The Ashanti religion is the combination of spiritual and supernatural beliefs. They believe that plants, trees, and animals have souls.. Their pantheon is composed by ancestors, abosom or higher gods, and ‘Nyame’, the foremost being of Ashanti. Fetish priests are key-figures. Intermediaries between spirits’ world and human beings, they fall in trance, practice oracles and treat diseases.
Day 5: AWUKUDAE ASHANTI FESTIVAL
In the morning continuation of the tour of Kumasi, with the visit to the Royal Palace Museum hosting a unique collection of gold jewels worn by the Ashanti court.
The Awukudae festival of the Ashanti People
Awukudae literally means “The Wednesday party”. It is celebrated around traditional Ashanti chiefs to propitiate a long-lasting protection of the spirits and to strengthen the unity of the Ashanti people among each other and towards their chiefs. Attending the Awukudae is an opportunity to witness a colorful court’s ceremony punctuated by large drums that articulate the different moments of the ancient ceremonial.
Day 6: Slaves’ castles
Drive to the coast.
The cost of Ghana (formerly known as Gold Coast) has more than 50 ancient forts and castles. By vehicle we reach Elmina and visit castles and dungeons, reminiscent of the ancient gold, ivory and slave trade. Elmina is the oldest and largest European building in Africa and links the history of Africa to the world history. In 1482 Christopher Columbus and Bartolommeo Diaz arrived with ten caravels to build a castle under Portuguese authority. The story of Elmina started: a castle, a port, a village in contact with Europe and the Americas for more than five centuries, long before the start of colonial rule. The Castle of Sao Jorge da Mina is rich in history; it was subsequently ruled by Portugal, Holland, the United Kingdom, and now Ghana. The castle has been used as a warehouse to trade gold, ivory, and eventually slaves. What we visit today is the outcome of successive extensions, and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Facing the castle and the ocean, a unique fishing harbour with hundreds of large colourful canoes that every day defy the waves and currents. In the old town with its vivid atmosphere we discover the Posuban: shrines of the “Asafo companies”: ancient warriors’ companies, still existing, and pouring libations onto statues. The atmosphere in the ancient alleys harkens back to a time when Elmina was a busy Atlantic trade citadel.
Day 7: Cape Coast
The day starts with the visit of Cape Coast castle, built by the Swedish in 1653. From 1657 to 1664 it changed hands many times as it was conquered by the Danes, the Dutch, the Fanti (a local tribe), the Swedes and finally the British. Today, it hosts a museum on the history of slave trade.
In the afternoon transfer to Winneba where the atmosphere will be joyful, people are getting ready for the next day festival. We will walk around taking the opportunity to join the excitement. Fetish priests and worshippers pour libations to the shrines and then walk across the town with their fetish.
Day 8: ABOAKYER FESTIVAL
We will attend the Aboakyer celebrations.
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 rmed with only 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.
Day 9: African Metropolis
Morning transfer to Accra, the capital of Ghana.
Today we will focus on James Town: the original settlement of the city inhabited by Ga people. Other than enjoying the atmosphere we will visit the reminisces of the time of the slave trade and the old lighthouse. We will try to visit one of the many boxing gyms: the popular sport among the youngsters and lastly, we will see JamesTown Cafe to see what they are doing to foster community, the exhibit at ArchiAfrika, and the graffiti space across the way.
We end the day with a visit to an atelier specialized in “fantasy coffins”. These unique handcrafted coffins can reflect any shape: fruits, animals, fish, cars, airplanes…. Imagination is the only key! Started in Accra, these flamboyant coffin designs are by now collected worldwide and exhibited in museums.
Day 10: Accra West End
Today we focus on the very modern soul of Accra. We will visit an art gallery and meet with the artist/gallerist.
It won’t be surprising that Accra is the set of the show “an African city” the equivalent of “Sex and the city” created by a Ghanaian woman. Depending on the flight schedule, we will stroll around the design and cloths shops form the show, hopefully having the chance to meet some designers who could explain us their works.
Transfer to the airport for the flight out.
- Assistance at airport upon arrival (day 1) and departure (day 10)
- Guided by Anthropologist
- Transfers and tour in minibuses/microbuses and/or 4WD vehicles
- Tours and visits as per the programme
- Accommodation in standard rooms, as per itinerary
- All meals as described: B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner
- Mineral water in the bus/car during the visits, one bottle per day
- Entrance fees to parks, concessions, protected areas and cultural sites
- First Aid box
- All service charges and taxes
The price do not include:
- International flights
- Earlier (prior day 1) and/or later (after day 10) transfers from and to airport
- Visa fees and any airport departure taxes
- Any meal or sightseeing tour other than those specified
- Mineral water and drinks at meals
- Fees for personal photos and videos
- Personal and holiday insurance (compulsory)
- Tips for drivers, guides and hotel staff
- Costs relating to delayed or lost luggage
- Any item of personal nature such as phone calls, laundry, etc.
- Whatever is not mentioned as included
Due to the characteristic of the trip, the itinerary might be modified in order to match with the traditional events
Twin rooms (two beds apart) are very limited. Please check the availability with TransAfrica when booking
- VISAS: Ghana- single entry visa to be obtained before the departure
- VACCINATIONS: Yellow fever – compulsory; malaria prophylaxis – highly recommended.
- MEALS: lunch: picnic or at local restaurants (pre-selected menus); dinner at the hotel restaurant (pre-selected menu)
- LUGGAGE: due to the itinerary please contain the weight in 20 kg (45 Lbs)
- TRAVEL INSURANCE: Not included. Mandatory for medical assistance, repatriation, material and physical damages. We are not responsible for any material and physical damage during the tour
- TRANSPORT: microbus or minibus
- DRIVING HOURS: The driving hours do not include time for stops and visits
- All our trips are designed to be flexible so that we can adapt it to weather conditions, focus on the group’s interests and take advantage of opportunities that arise once there.
- Considering the special nature of the journey, some parts may be modified due to unpredictable factors and are based on unarguable decisions of the local guide. Costs originating from such variations will be sole responsibility of the participants. Of course, the guide will do his/her utmost to adhere to the original program.
- Prices could change in case of major changes in services costs, beyond the organizer’s will