For many decades, the Odwira Festival has been a staple of Ghana’s colourful, vibrant and diverse cultural expression, bringing together people from all walks of life to celebrate themes of victory, gratitude and harvest, in unity. However, even before Odwira became a part of Ghana’s cultural landscape it had long been celebrated by the people of Akropong, Amonokrom and Aburi in the Eastern Region.
The Festival was initiated by the 19th Okuapimhene of Akropong, Nana Addo Dankwa 1 who ruled from 1811 to 1835. First celebrated in October 1826, its significance is linked to the victory of thepeople of Okuapemman over the then-powerful Ashanti army during the historic battle of Katamansu near Dodowa in 1826. Odwira is also a time of spiritual cleansing, when the peoples Okuapemman, and all who celebrate, present themselves anew and pray for protection.
Traditionally, the timing of the festival also coincides with the harvest season when there is abundant food; during which time the people give thanks to the Ancestors. Being a Yam Festival, gratitude for the harvest is especially expressed in the “feeding the ancestors”.
During the Festival, bowls of mashed yam (some mixed with palm oil and others left white) which have been specially prepared by the Okuapemhene and other stool occupants are carried in procession from the Ahemfi to feed the ancestors at Nsorem. A little-known fact is, the Odwira Festival is also celebrated by the Ga peoples of Jamestown in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana as a result of their long association with the Akans through intermarriages.
Key Cultural Activities
Odwira Unlimited 2019 presents the perfect opportunity to experience the vibrant culture of Okuapemman. Here are some key cultural activities you can expect at the festival:
Monday 16th September
Path Clearing Ceremony
Early in the morning after preparatory sacrifices, the Adumfo and Ankobeafo will clear the pathway leading to Amamprobi (the Royal Mausoleum). The Path-clearing ceremony holds great symbolic value; it opens the gates so that the Ancestors may come in and eat and also keeps the line of communication open between the living and the Ancestors
Tuesday 17th September
Outdooring the New Yam
On this day, the New Yam crop is introduced to the people. This ceremony takes the form of a mock battle where young men from the town compete in breaking, with their fists, pieces of the New Yam. This is then scattered on the main streets of Akropong. It is after this ceremony that the people can eat the New Yam.
Bringing in the Odwira
Early in the morning, the Banmuhene, Adumhene and their members go to the Royal Mausoleum (Amamprobi) to usher in the ‘Odwira’. Later in the afternoon, the group returns from Amamprobi with a purifying, strengthening mixture which has been prepared. They also bring other sacred materials, all combining to form the symbol representing the ‘Odwira’, which is then ceremonially presented to the Okuapehene.
Lifting of the ban on Drumming
Shortly after the symbolic presentation of the ‘Odwira’ to the Okuapehene, the official ceremony lifting the ban on drumming, singing, weeping and all forms of noise, imposed six weeks earlier, is performed. This is done amidst drumming and dancing.
Wednesday 18th September
Remembering the Departed
Starting from dawn, there is a general mourning in remembrance of dead relatives in almost every house. This continues until dusk. This day is marked with drinking, weeping and wailing. In many homes, no cooking takes place at this time.
At about 11am, the Okuapehene sits in state at the palace with his elders to receive condolences and greetings from all and sundry.
Around 2pm, the Okuapehene, accompanied by Ankobeafo and Asafo groups go around to greet and offer condolences to all stool occupants of Akropong.
Thursday 19th September
- Symbolic cleansing of the Traditional Are and the people
Early morning, before dawn, the Black Stools of the Paramountcy are taken to the Adami Stream for purification. The ritual of purification is done to symbolise the cleansing of the Traditional Area and the people. This is one of the few occasions where the Black Stools are taken out of the Stool House. This ritual of purification is done with security precautions in place
- Renewing of allegiance
All Chiefs within Akuapem converge on Akropong, the traditional Capital, and starting from 7am – 4pm each Chief goes to the stool room to renew his allegiance to the Paramount Stool
- General feasting
This is also a day of feasting. In almost every house, goats, sheep and fowls are slaughtered and sumptuous dishes are prepared. There is communal feasting and general merry making
- Introduction of New Chiefs
In the morning around 8:30am, New Chiefs and persons elevated to the statis of Chiefs are presented to Okuapehene to whom they swear an oath of allegiance
- Feeding the Ancestors
At about 1pm, bowls of mashed yam (known as Oto), some mixed with palm oil and others left plain, which have been specially prepared by the Okuapehene and the other Stool occupants will be carried in procession from the Ahemfi to feed the Ancestors at Nsorem. It is significant to note that, many of the bearers of this sacred food to Nsorem are possessed by the Spirits of the Ancestors
- Customary Blessing
At 5pm, the Okuapehene, still sitting in State, will receive blessings and good wishes from the Elders to the Ofori Stool and its occupants. At night starting from 7pm, all divisional Chiefs will meet in the Stool House to renew their allegiance to the Ofori Stool
- Night Curfew
The adoration ceremony of the “Odosu” by the traditional executioners will be performed at night. The gong-gong will be beaten to impose curfew on the whole town to enable the Banmuhene and his executioners perform this ceremony
Friday 20th September
- The Grand Durbar of Chiefs
From mid-morning, preparations will be made towards the highlight of the festival, which is the Grand Durbar of Chiefs
- Asonahene goes to Nsorem
Shortly before the great Durbar, the ancestral food of the Asonahene Stool will also be sent to Nsorem
Saturday 21st September
In the morning, the whole of Akuapem will move to Amanokrom to attend the grand Durbar of the Gyaasehene
Friday 27th September
The Friday after the Odwira Sunday is known as Fofie. As a bookend to the entire period of celebrations, that day is reserved for the Queenmother to celebrate her Odwira and take the opportunity to engage in an ocular demonstration of her love to the people and a demonstration of her mother lover
Here’s what else you can expect from #OdwiraUnlimited2019:
- The opportunity to visit renowned local attractions like the Aburi Gardens, Boti Falls, Bosomase Falls, Amenepa Falls and the Akrofi Christila Theological Centre
- Historical sites of significance like the Abontsi slave market, Okomfo Anokye’s home, the Akonedi Shrine, the Tetteh Quarshie Cocoa farm, as well as the Chief’s Palace will be open to visitors
- Participate in hiking, expeditions, mountain climbing, marathon, outdoor games and workshops
- Experience local entertainment and modern twists to traditional art through Drumming and Dancing, Cultural Durbars and displays of Traditional Ghanaian Music
- A delectable variety of local dishes
- Shopping for local couture like Kente and the traditional smocks as well as sculptures, beads and ornaments
- A Museum display and exhibitions showcasing the culture, history, fashion, arts and crafts of the Akuapem people, to inspire and enrich your experience
For a change of scenery, introduction to new traditions and a warm welcome to the ancestral home of the Okuapemman, live your roots at #OdwiraUnlimited2019