The people of Ekumfi Ekumpoano, a small, quiet fishing village of about 500 people, located 13 kilometres off the main Accra-Mankessim Road from Essarkyer in the Central Region celebrated their annual Afahye Festival last weekend. It was all drumming, singing and dancing at Ekumfi Ekumpoano last Friday and Saturday.
According to 100-year-old Akora Kwame Korsah, one of the Kingmakers of the village, Eku Akyen, who came from Mankessim Edumadze to settle at their present location, founded the village. The village eventually became Ekumpoano after the founder. More people joined him at his settlement when he married Aberema from the next village called Abiram.
Akora mentioned that Eku came to settle with his sister Ekua Akyeneba, whose sons, Nana korsah and Kwame Korsaah became the first Odikro and Abusuapanyin respectively of Ekumpoano.
The festival, which is preceded by rituals and preparations which last 26 weeks after they call Ahobaa, which involves libation pouring and other activities in remembrance of the ancestors, reaches its climax on the last Saturday of November. The Ahobaa is a ceremony held in June in remembrance of their ancestors. The 26 weeks, each known as “Egow”, are counted after which the festival is held in the last week.
During the 20th “Egow”, a bonfire known as Otse is made and everyone takes part, picking two branches from the fire, which is waved to create a beautiful cascade of fire. For the next four weeks at midnight on Sundays, the Otse is held amidst drumming and dancing and this is intended to cement the bonds of brotherliness that exist among the people.
The last week before the climax is devoted to rituals, which aims at cleansing the village of all its ills and misfortunes, and to clear the way for more fruitful and prosperous year.
The high point of the festival is on Saturday night when the god of the village, Obosom Seigura, visits its subjects in a breathtaking ceremony that is revered by the people.
In the morning of Saturday, with a lot of excitement and an infectious euphoria that is not easy to ignore, the Asafo company and the people gather at the end of the village.
At 11am last Saturday, the Asafo group, the only one in the village, with its two drums and four gongs, struck a danceable mid-tempo rhythm that got all the women bobbing up and down, bending with their torsos down while twisting and wriggling their backs, in a merry dance so infectious that more people joined as the company went through the village via the only main street in the village.
While the drums and gongs provide the beat, the people abandoned themselves to the joy of dancing to this cultural music, which had been performed by generations.
A couple of steps forward, a turn on their toes, with the left hand outstretched and other beautiful dance movements, all added up to bond members of this village together as had been one by their predecessors.
Through the village, past their small square, the central point in the village, to the beach and through the street that leads in and out of the village and back to the square, where they broke up to reassemble at 4pm for the final part of the celebration, which is woven around drumming, singing and dancing.
But perhaps what was to happen in the night, which most of the people spoke of with awe and the children with fright, was the appearance of the god.
With our curiosity heightened by several versions of how the god appears and vanishes, we were ready as early as 6pm to watch proceedings.
But we were advised to go and rest till about 9pm when the real event began. However, we noted that Nana Kwabena Kyea, the linguist of the god, Obosom Seigura, was seated on a stool with a basin containing a number of musical gourds in front of him.
A few elders facing a square stone pit in the middle of the square surrounded him. By 4pm,the whole town including the Asafo group had gone on another procession amidst drumming and dancing, ending at the square.
This time the Asafo company featured old Kwaw Mensah who hopped and jumped in another virtuoso performance using the flag of the company.
By 9pm,it was as if the whole village was incensed. They went on a real big procession. Once again, drumming, singing and dancing in wonderful unplanned, yet graceful movements to the gongs and drums.
On and on they went until about midnight when, suddenly, the music ended and all the men went towards the beach.
Then the young men, in unison, started singing while running and went round the square pit three times, ending with a loud shout.
That was followed by the women who, running in tune with the drums and gongs, also ran around the square stone pit three times like the men.
Finally, six women, with their gourds singing also went round the square stone three times, after which there was a long shout.
Suddenly, all the lights in the village went off and a woman sitting by me whispered to a mother whose child was coughing to take her home.
The woman explained in whispers to me that the god would be approaching soon and no one should make any noise. With a deafening silence, the whole village waited with bated breath the arrival of Obosom Seigura, whose appearance the whole village believed would bring good tidings to the people.
After about 30 minutes in the dark, as the silence grew louder, it was suddenly broken by the shattering peals of a bell normally used by traditional priests.
Several people got startled due to the long wait, during which only a selected number of men moved about to send mothers of children who made any noise away from the square.
Six peals of the bell was followed by a stream of appellations from the god’s linguist who, from then on, showered praises on the god, a tall, well-built figure who appeared eventually in a white gown, moving at a snail pace from a groove situated at the entrance of the village.
Moving ever slowly, while the villagers waited in reverential silence, the god moved to the beach and back three times, each time stopping in front of the square stone for more incantations and then finally departing towards where he had appeared from.
In the dark, one could not really tell where he finally went but as soon as the bell went silent, the lights all came on and there was a loud shout from the people who broke into jubilation, with some shouting that all would be well.
The drummers and the linguist played the drum significantly three times and then all departed from the square.
In a chat with Nana Mensah, who also watched the event, he mentioned that the god visited every year and since his childhood the people had grown to respect the rules and regulations in the village, aware that they live, there with their ancestors and the spirits and so it was important that one lived a good life to benefit the whole society.
Though Ekumpoano is a vast land, the village is restricted to a small area due to the number of citizens who currently live there.
Sources: 1. Daily Graphic 3 December 2005. Page 19
2. Ghana Home Page 6 December 2005.