Awo Awo Awo Awooooo! Mother oh Mother
Agban ee Agban the diety
Bleku Tsor Let Bleku rain/pour down
Esu Esu Water, plenty of Water
Enam Enam Fish, let us have a lot of fish
manye Manye Glory, let glory reign
Adban Kportor Let the food be in abundance
It is that time of the year again when I get a lot of calls about what is happening this year and when is Homowo. Well, Septemeber is here and our Homowo celebration is on the second Saturday of the month – 8th September 2018.
As usual, i get asked a lot of questions about the significance of Homowo to the Gadangme. I have a short answer for those who are probing and a longer answer for those who genuinely want to learn. For me Homowo is a mixture of a harvest, social and spiritual celebration for the Gadangme of Ghana that usshers in the new year.
The harvest season starts with the various high priests of the principal deities being informed of the calendar. Each of the deities then go through the weekly processes of harrowing the grounds in the principal groves of their deities and then planting the first corn seeds of the season.
A ban on drumming and noise making is then declared for a month. Several reasons have been given for this and as Ga has become more urbanised, several people have complained that this is an imposition on those who do not believe in the festival. To a large degree they may be within their rights since the principal visible duties during this period are the goings and comings of the spiritual people. My understanding is that there are ecological balance systems at work here; a period of quiet and abstinence does every one some good. I know that Lent for most Christians is a period where they give up some favourite things and do penance and the Muslims also have their season of Ramadan where there is fasting. I assume this is a fallow period when the drummers repair their drums and people generally reflect on their live,s meditating on how the old year has dealt with them and looking forward to the promise of the new year. The secular ones amongst us should just see it as a period when we all rest our dancing shoes. In the middle of this ban on noise making there is an important event relating to the purification of the sea. Legend has it that during the time of the Anglican Bishop Angloby, he always made it a point to accompany the Nai Wulomu to this ritual of the purification of the sea -nshobulemo – so that the fish harvest will be plentiful.
The social aspects of Homowo involve the coming together of the family for a feast. Those who live outside Ga are expected to come home with sundry gifts of the earth – the harvest from the farmlands that formed an important part of the Ga society; every clan on the coast had a village in the hinterland. This coming home event in the past took place at Okaishie where those arriving by bus or train are met and helped to carry this goods to the family homes. This event on the Thursday before the Homowo is termed Soobii.
The Friday provides another opportunity for more socialising outside the family house. The day of the Twin festival is a yam festival on its own. Otor the festive yam birthday food is cooked for the twins, they are then bathed in water soaked with the nyanyara leaves. The dirty water has to be disposed off into the Korle Lagoon at Korle Dudor and there is a procession from various houses with the twins following the people who carry the water. In days gone by, the 1960s, this was the main event of the long holiday period where those of us in secondary school dress in our best clothes to meet our friends and their friends. But why this twin celebration? The Ga consider that twins are special and they are given special names.
The Christian religious slant on this is that this food is to make sure that the younger twin does not cheat the older out of their birthright: plaisble but very Biblical.
The main festival is on the Saturday in Ga. Most adults contribute financially towards the cost of the food and the festivities. Usually by way of a levy and others make general donations. The whole family assembles in the morning whist the special food of kpokpoi is cooked – unfermented corn and palmnut soup.
Before all join in to share from the same bowl, the head of the household pours libation and some of the kpokpoi is sprinked around the house. Some of the food is also dished out in bowls and sent to neighbours who are not Ga so that they can partake of this festival with the Ga – though not enough consolation.
Sunday is the day for noo wala – wishing all well and sorting out all quarrels in the family. If there have been any deaths in the family, that is when the formal arrangements can begin because for a month before Homowo, there are normally no burials.
Other events take place after Homowo; we have the Aekoo-Yaaye, the general looting of foodstuffs from traders by the youth who claim that they are sent by Sakumo so if they eat they they will not die.
the last rite is Kple noowala but again the is a festival reserved for the traditional worshippers.
The republican nature of the Ga and their traditional relationship as city states is manifested in Homowo qith the dirrent groups celbrating on different days
- Nungua start the celebrations because they were the first to settle – the main feature of their celebration is the Kpledjoo
- Lante Djan We, a division of Asere celebrate four weeks later
- Tema celebrate a week later on the Friday
- Ga Mashi follow a week later on the Saturday
- Osu, La, Teshie and Kpone follow 10 day later on the Tuesday
- The La shankamo takes place on the Thursday – a day reserved for general hugging
- The Teshie Kpanshimo is on the Sunday – the libel laws are suspended and the Asafo groups sing their songs about scandals over the past year
The Krobo and the Ada and Dangme have allocated specific days for the celebration, For instance the Adas celebrate on the Bank holiday in August