As per the definition of the well-known Wikipedia “a festival is an event ordinarily staged by a community, centering on and celebrating some unique aspect of that community and its traditions, often marked as a local or national holiday”.
Festivals are celebrated to meet specific purposes, like commemoration, thanksgiving, honoring ancestors among other reasons but eventually, everyone gets to have some fun, share the unique cultural norms while fraternizing with new and old pals.
In Ghana, it is common to have relatives in the Diaspora return home to re-unite with family members, initiate local projects and have a good time. So it comes as no surprise when the streets of Osu were flooded with people cheering Ga Mantse ( Ga chief) and his subjects as they led the Homowo festival.
Now here’s some history on this exciting occasion. Homowo festival is celebrated by the Ga people of Ghana. The Ga people belong to the Ga-Dagbe group of Kwa people who inhabit the Greater Accra region of present day Ghana. The Ga communities comprise of six main independent traditional areas; Gamashi, Osu, La, Teshi, Nungua and Tema.
Interestingly, though all these traditional areas celebrate Homowo, it happens at different times of the year. This festival originates from the migration of the Ga- Adangme from a place in Nigeria, Ile-Ife to Ghana. While embarking on this journey, many of the migrants perished.
Fortunately for them, when they got to the present day Greater Accra region, they engaged in farming and fishing and to their utmost surprise, they had a bumper harvest. So they decided to celebrate their good fortunes by this festival, Homowo which is celebrated to hoot at famine.
According to Osabu-Kle’ s research on the people of Ga, the preparation for the festival begins with the planting of crops before the rainy season which begins in May. In June, a ritual called ‘gbemlilaa’ (locking the way) bans drumming and music to enable people attend to crops with seriousness. This is followed by ‘nshobulemo’ or ritual to calm the sea. Another ritual called ‘okomfemaa’ bans fishing in the lagoons until the Homowo festival is over.
It is noteworthy that Homowo is preceded by yam festivals in the villages of the hinterland. This village version of celebrating victory over hunger do not feature hooting and ridiculing hunger at this stage; the hooting aspect is reserved for the capital towns at the grand ocassion. When the date for the Homowo festival of a traditional area is near, the people of that traditional in the villages are expected to return to their homes in the respective capital towns. The villagers begin to arrive a week before the celebration beginning on Thursday. This Thursday is deemed the sacred day of the earth thus visiting the farm is prohibited. The first arrivals on Thursday are called ‘Soobii’ (Thursday people).
The villagers arrive with jubilating songs bringing their harvested crops especially maize and palm nuts.
Friday of the arrival week is dedicated to remembrance of those who died during the year. In the early morning hours of Tuesday, the sacred day of the sea when sea going is prohibited, ‘kpokpoe’ and palm nut soup are prepared for the feasting.
The Mantse (Chief) of the traditional area, clan heads, family heads and head of families pour libation to Maawu (God), Sisadzi- ghost, DzemaWodzi – ancestral spirits, and Wodzi – spirits or gods sprinkle white kpokpoe (Traditional food made from maize) mixed with palm soup with generous amount of fish and meat to the DzemaWodzi, Wodzi and Sisadzi to thank them, invite their blessings, and to signify the beginning of the feast. This sprinkling of food is done in a possession where celebrants follow the traditional chief doing the ritual while they cheer and hoot at hunger.
The next day, Wednesday, is the day of ‘ngoowala’ (asking for long life) when the young ones visit the elderly to wish them long life as the elderly, in turn, shower the young with gifts of all sorts including money.
So watching such a beautiful event recently spearheaded by Nii Nortey Owuo III, Osu Manste, amidst drumming, dancing, sprinkling ‘Kpokpoi’, through the streets of Osu I made a lot of sense to me this time.
I did enjoy every aspect of Homowo with the basic understanding that, it was a time where the people of Ga shared the key precepts of gratitude, blessings, good fortunes, longevity and paid famine back with Hoo-o-oting!
For more history of the Ga’s google http://carleton.ca/africanstudies/wp-content/uploads/Ga-People-and-Homowo-Festival.pdf2 Comments