FESTIVALS AND EVENTS IN GHANA
Fancy Dress Festival
The Fancy Dress Festival is a masquerade festival held on the first day of January every year by the people of Winneba in the Central region of Ghana. It is a colourful festival that features brass band music. In its early years, the music for all groups in the festival was traditional adaha music. Brass band music had been introduced to the region in 1880s by European missionaries and military groups. In 1934, Catholic priests introduced brass band music to the festival by bringing in a band that had received training from Presbyterian missionaries in the nearby town of Swedru Bibiani. The band was not skilled and it knew only one song (“Abaawa Begye Wo Letter Kema Woewuraba”; in English “Maidservant, This is a Letter for Your Madam”), which it played throughout the day. In reaction to the annoyance of hearing one song played continuously, A.W. Yamoah arranged to provide training in brass instruments for some of his family members. The resulting new band was more skilled than the one from Swedru Bibiani. The Nobles group also formed a brass band. However, because most members of these bands preferred masquerading over playing in a band, for festival days bands typically are recruited from outside the local groups.
Fancy Dress Festival in Nyakrom in Agona District, Ghana
The Hogbetsotso Festival is celebrated by the chiefs and peoples of Anloga in the Volta region of Ghana. The festival is celebrated annually on the first Saturday in the month of November. The name of the festival is derived from the Ewe language and translates as, the festival of exodus or "coming from Hogbe (Notsie)". The celebration of the festival was instituted about four decades ago. Various ceremonies are held during the festival. They include a peace-making period in which all disputes are ended with the finding of amicable solution. It is believed that the reason for this traditional period of peace making is that the people believe their ancestors lived in harmony with themselves all through their escape from Notsie and that it was this character that made their sojourn a success. There is also a purification ceremony of the ceremonial stools (where the Ewe believe the ancestral spirits reside) through the pouring of libations. This is followed by general cleaning where all the villages are swept and rubbish burnt. This cleaning ceremony starts at the Volta Estuary and ends after several days at the Mono River in the Republic of Benin. Various forms of dancing, singing and merry-making characterize the entire festival.
Dancing at Hogbetsotso Festival
“Aboakyir” literally means “game hunting”. This popular festival is celebrated on the first Sunday in May by the chiefs and people of Winneba. The festival begins with a competitive hunt between two traditional warrior groups in a nearby game reserve. Each warrior tries to catch an antelope. It is an adventurous event to test the strength, bravery, determination and intuition of the two rival groups. The winner presents the catch to the Paramount Chief who sits in state with sub-chiefs and subjects. The antelope is sacrificed as an invocation for a good harvest and a bountiful fishing season. A durbar and procession of the chiefs and warrior groups in their colourful regalia is the highlight of the celebration. Brass bands, dancing, performance of folklore and parties make this an unforgettable event.
The Kundum festival is celebrated by the Ahanta or Nzema people of the Western region of Ghana. Kundum is both a harvest and religious festival. It is celebrated to thank God for the abundance of food as it ushers in the harvest period of the area. The festival is believed to have first been celebrated in the 16th century. Originally, the festival lasted for four weeks but due to modernity, it has in recent years been reduced to eight days. The festivals occur separately in each town that make up the Ahanta paramountcy with town scheduling the Sunday in which their festival will start independent of each other. The celebration consists of three main components which include dancing, drumming and easting. The people who partake in the celebration wear distinctive dress, footwear, and sometimes masks. The festival begins by taking the drums to the five different shrines on outskirts of town. At the shrines, requests for the good of the town are made and rum is poured on the ground as offering. The traditional purpose of the dancing is to drive the evil spirits and devils from the town and therefore preserving another successful year.
Kundum Festival parade
Literally translated to mean "opening up of the Benya Lagoon into the sea", Bakatue symbolizes the beginning of the 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 colourful 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. People at the festival are invited to take part in the regatta and merry-making.
Fetu Afahye Festival
This festival is celebrated annually on the first September by the communities in the Cape Coast Traditional Area (Fetu). It is characterized by a durbar of chiefs and processions of "Asafo Companies" (traditional warrior groups) and numerous social organisations. Every member of the group adorned in rich and colourful clothes, thus creating the grandeur of the festival which literally means "adorning of new clothes". A procession of the "7 Asafo Companies" in their unique costumes depicts a fusion of the "Fante" and European cultures, typically Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish and British which have been sustained over many centuries. Customary rites include the slaughter of a cow to the 77 Deities in the area to obtain their blessings.
The Pan African Historical Theatre Project now known as PANAFEST is a cultural event held in Ghana every two years for Africans and people of African descent. It was first held in 1992. The idea of this festival is to promote and enhance unity, Pan-Africanism, and the development of the continent of Africa itself. Activities that occur at this festival are performances and work in the areas of theatre, drama, music, and poetry, among other things. Since 1994, the festival has attracted participation by official delegations, individuals and groups from African, Caribbean and South American countries, as well as groups and individuals from Europe and the United States. The government of Ghana considers this a major national initiative and appreciates the agencies, communities, civil society organizations and corporate bodies which have mobilized resources to complement government efforts over the years.
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