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In Ghana, there are different types of festivals. These festivals differ from community to community. Some of the festivals are ‘Odwira’ which is celebrated by Akuapems, ‘Akwambo’ by the people of Gomoa Ajumako, Enyan, Ekumfi and Agona, all in the Central Region. We also have ‘Aboakyer’ which is celebrated by the people of Winneba (Effutu), ‘Kotoklo’ and ‘Nmayem’ by the Krobo, ‘Homowo’ by the Ga, ‘Hogbetsotso’ by the people of Anlo, ‘Kundum’ by the Nzema and Ahanta, ‘Damba’ by the Northern and Upper Regions. What festival do the people in your community celebrate?
ii. The Festival Period
The Odwira celebration lasts for a week. It starts on a Monday and ends on a Sunday. Special rituals are performed on each day. We shall discuss briefly what happens on each day.
The path leading to the royal mausoleum is cleared. The purpose of clearing this path is to enable the ancestors who are believed to join the celebrations to travel home safely.
This day is an important day in the festival week. Before the Odwira festiva, Akuapem citizens are not allowed to eat new yams they have harvested from their farms. Therefore, it is on this day that the ban on the eating of the new yam is lifted.
Another important activity for this day is the fetching of the sacred ‘Odwira’ symbol from the royal mausoleum. This is done early in the morning by the ‘Adumhene’ (Chief Executioner) and ‘Abrafo’ (State Executioners). They go to the mausoleum with a sheep and a drink. They bring the Odwira which is in the form of a prepared sacred mixture and present it to the ‘Okuapehene’ (Paramount Chief of Akuapem) in the afternoon. After the presentation, the ban on singing, drumming, and dancing and all forms of noise making is lifted. Drumming and dancing start at the chief’s palace.
This is a day for remembering relatives especially those who died during the past year. The day is marked by wailing, drinking, and drumming. People put on mourning clothes and fast throughout the day. The chief sits in state and receives condolences and greetings from people. In the afternoon, the chief in turn goes round to greet and offer condolences to all stool occupants.
This is a day of general feasting. In almost every house, delicious meals are prepared. People are free to visit any home, including the chief’s palace, to eat. The day is not a feasting day for the living only; the ancestors are fed.
In the afternoon, bowls of mashed yam (some mixed with palm oil, some not) and boiled eggs are carried in a procession from the chief’s palace to the ancestors at a shrine called ‘nsorem’. This is a palace where, it is believed, most of the ancestors were buried.
The most important ceremony takes place in the evening soon after nightfall. The Black Stools are taken to the stream for the ceremonial cleansing. The purification that gives the festival its name ‘Odwira’ is then performed. This ritual symbolizes the cleansing of the traditional area and the people. This is one of the few occasions when the Black Stools are taken out of the stool house. Before the stools are taken out, the gong is beaten to warn people to stay indoors. This is because it is a taboo to see the Black Stool. The end of the ceremony is marked by firing of musketry. After this, the chiefs go to the stool room to renew their allegiance to the Paramount Stool.
The highlight of the festival is a grand durbar of chiefs on this day. The ceremony starts around noon. The Okuapehene, the queen mother and senior chiefs of Akuapem are carried in state palanquins for a parade through the principal streets of Akropong. They are accompanied by drumming, dancing, firing of musketry and a lot of merrymaking.
At the durbar, the senior state linguist pours libation for the prosperity of the state. The state executioner too recites the state’s pledge to the omanhene. The omanhene then delivers his welcome speech and outlines his programs to the people. In this speech he wishes the people well.
The durbar lasts until late in the evening amidst drumming and dancing.
Another durbar is held at Amanokrom which is the seat of the ‘Gyaase’ division of the Akuapem Traditional Area.
This day is set aside for the ‘Krontihene’ of Akuapem to hold his special durbar as part of the Odwira festival.