Festivals in Ghana are celebrated for many reasons pertaining to a particular tribe or culture, usually having backgrounds relating to an occurrence in the history of that culture. Examples of such occurrences have been hunger, migration, purification of either gods or stools, etc. Ghanaian festivals are a colorful and vibrant part of the culture. Each year festivals and durbars are held in various parts of the country to celebrate the heritage of the people. Throughout the year festivals and durbars are held in various parts of the country for reunion, development purposes and to strengthen beliefs of society. Most people believe that festivals help them forge close bondage with their ancestors and ask for their protection. Festivals are also held in order to purify the whole state so that people can enter the New Year with confidence and hope.
importance of festivals in Ghana
The importance of each festival’s celebration includes:
Planning developmental project. The festival is used as an occasions to meet and plan developmental projects in the area since most citizens are likely to attend.
Purification of gods. The period is used to clean ancestral stools and perform important rites.
Thanksgiving. The festival is used to thank the supreme God and the lesser gods for the guidance and protection
National and political significance. Prominent people in the government are invited to explain government policies and programmes.
Dispute resolution. The occasion is used to settle family and individual disputes for peaceful co-existence.
To promote tourism. Some festivals celebrated in Ghana attract many foreign tourists to the country. An example is the Aboakyir festival. Tourism is the third foreign-exchange earner for Ghana.
To preserve and maintain cultural and traditional heritage.
Festivals are very important in terms of: history religious, social, economic, cultural, moral and political
It makes the people know more about their history. For instance, the Nyidwoo festival of the people of Esumegya makes the people and for that matter Asantes it know more about their origin. Also, the Homowo Festival reminds the people of Ga-Adangme to know much about how they have come out of hunger by settling at their present day area. It makes the people recollect the noble past of their ancestors, and to express their gratitude to them.
The people believe in the existence of the ancestral spirit, hence they ask for forgiveness of offence committed, petition the supernatural powers for material prosperity, peace and long life. There is continuity between the dead and the living.
It serves as reunion of family members, relatives and love ones. At this time, quarrels and misunderstandings are settled.
It provides a forum where marriages among people within a particular geographical area can be transacted. The youth at this stage get the chance of arranging marriages, (to court). Besides, the period is characterised by merrymaking and entertainments.
It brings most of the citizens together. This helps them to initiate development projects and to contribute financially towards these projects. Visitors who also come to witness the festival contribute economically to the locality.
It gives the people chance to asses the efficiency of their chiefs. Most citizens who left the town for so long a time return to see whether the traditional ruler (the chief) had implemented development projects agreed upon. Homage is paid to the chiefs. Sub-chiefs also renew their allegiance to their immediate boss.
For example, local chiefs to paramount chief (Omanhene) and in Asante Omanhene to the Asantehene. Government ministers even take advantage of the festival which has brought a lot of people (Citizens) together to announce development projects, government policies to the people and to educate them on important issues affecting the locality, town or an area.
The rich cultural heritage of the people are usually being manifested during festivals. With the people of Asante chiefs, they may be decorated in the traditional Kente cloth gold ornaments and carried in a palanquin especially the Asantehene or the paramount chief (omanhene). Ghanaian hospitality can also be seen in this regard. The ways the people speak and relate to others portray their culture of friendliness.
It strengthens all to play their roles as good citizens. It provides a forum where the chief must be more effective, morally upright, and
Accountable to the people. For instance, the Apoo festival celebrated by the chiefs and people of Techiman traditional area gives the people chance to talk about the inefficiencies of the chief as well as his ill doings.
Now let’s take a look at the festival celebrated in Ghana one by one according to their months of celebration. Now that we are in July let’s look at the festival that is coming up.
Firstly let’s talk about BAKATUE FESTIVAL
Which is Literally translated to mean “opening up of the Benya Lagoon into the sea”, Bakatue symbolizes the beginning of a fishing season, which is the main livelihood of the people of Elmina. It is celebrated annually in Elmina on the first Tuesday in July and originated centuries ago, long before the arrival of the Europeans. The splendid ceremonies include a durbar of chiefs, a colouful regatta of canoes on the Benya Lagoon and processions. A solemn “net casting” ceremony symbolizes the beginning of a new fishing season, and the catch is offered to the deities of the traditional area.
Bakatue is the major festival of the chiefs and people of Edina (Elmina) Traditional area, a geographical stool land more appropriately referred to as “EDINAMAN”. This year’s Bakatue fell on Tuesday, 3rd July, 2018. As part of the festival, a National Regatta was held with six (6) groups of fishing communities competing amongst themselves. Special prizes will be presented to the winners and runners-up for the event on Saturday, 7th July at a Grand Durbar of chiefs and people of Elmina at the forecourt of the Elmina Castle.
The Chief of Staff, Hon. Frema Osei Opare, was the Special Guest of Honour for the Bakatue Festival (National Regatta) on Tuesday, 3rd July, amongst other dignitaries which include government functionaries.. Togbe Afede XIV, President of the National House of Chiefs and the Paramount Chief of Asogli State is the Special Guest of Honour for the Grand Durbar of the chiefs and people to be held on Saturday, 7th July at the forecourt of the Elmina Castle. The Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Hon. Catherine Abelema Afeku, is the Guest of Honour for both the Bakatue and the Durbar of Chiefs.
Activities lined up for the celebration include Procession of the Omanhen and other chiefs to the river embankment for final rituals; Variety display on the Benya Lagoon; Benya lagoon rituals: casting of Omanhen’s net; Firing of gun to lift the ban on drumming and fishing; Procession of Nananom to Ahenfie amidst drumming and dancing; Soccer Gala; National Regatta; Clean up Exercise; Beach Carnival; Display of made in Ghana products for sale to tourists and the general public.
Bakatue falls on the first Tuesday of July (the month of Ayewoho) each year. It is celebrated in honour of the founder (Akwaa Amankwah) of the central town, Elmina, the headquarters of the Edina Traditional Area.
The mystical significance of the festival is that it invokes fertility, abundance of food and fish as well as good health, happy marriages and worthy children. The festival also brings the sons and daughters of Edina together in a very unique way as it has a sacred upliftment of hearts. In addition, it calls for peace and unity among the inhabitants of Elmina and peaceful co-existence between Elmina Township and its satellite traditional allegiance settlements. The ritual of Bakatue is centred on the shrine, fetish priests and the Omanhen and his elders up to the Iibation on the lagoon embankment.You are invited to take part in the merry-making.