Homowo-Asafotufiam-Nmaayem – an invitation 13th September 2014

http://gadangmenikasemoasafo.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/homowo-asafotufiam-nmaayem-an-invitation-13th-september-2014/

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This is an invitation to all to join us at this years celebration of the Ga New Year in London.

The celebration is
0n Saturday, 13th September 2014
at Lavender Children’s Centre, Lavender Park Pavilion
Steers Mead, Mitcham, Surrey, CR4 3HL
3.30 pm prompt

and now a little bit about Homowo

Exodus 12.20 -29

Ye shall eat nothing leavened…tip it in the blood and strike the lintel for the Lord Almighty will pass over thoroughly to smite the Egyptians.

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

Adiban Kportor Let the food be in abundance

HOMOWO

This brief talk is an attempt to share with You my recently acquired knowledge or the celebration of the main Ga-Dangme festival; Homowo in the hope that it will answer some questions that people may have liked to ask but have never had the opportunity to do so I must issue a caveat here; my knowledge is only peripheral. It is based more on observation and analysis than on practice. It is based on reading and interpretation rather than on being formally taught on the subject.

The Homowo celebration is a public manifestation of public worship amongst the Ga-Dangme people which now portrays elements of our religious, historical, cultural and social aspects of our lives The Ga-Dangme people have a religion. We believe in the worship of God as a Supreme Being. . It is this one God who orders our lives and gives reason for our being.

We are organised as a theocracy. Our leaders have always been our, wolomei, chief priests who are the main medium to our One Supreme God.

Our chiefs are recent creations borrowed from other tribes who we settled amongst when we arrived at the Ga-Dangme region of Ghana. They perform administrative and political functions a convenience in our dealing with the other tribes and with our colonial masters. Our holy priests because of their spiritual nature did not want to deal directly with affairs of state or with the conduct of wars that were then a necessity especially since we settled among hostile tribes.

The Ga believe that we were an original part of creation. Our origins can be traced although not scientifically because of our oral traditions.

The celebration of Homowo therefore goes back as far as the origins of time although in cur present sojourn In Ghana it has now assumed cultural and social importance as a way of asserting our identity.

Why HOMOWO

Homowo is a yearly festival which celebrates the passing of the old year and welcomes in the new year. It is a culmination of a series of religious events throughout the year. It is a reaffirmation of our belief in our GOD Ataa Naa Nyomgmor – a God who is both male and female. It is a renewal of our faith in the wonderful might of our God in preserving us from year to year. In delivering us from the harsh difficulties of the past year in providing us with a bountiful harvest.

Above all it is a religious celebration to commemorate the deliverance of our tribe from the hands of the godless Egyptians and may have formed the period when we started our migration from the land of our origin as related in the book of Exodus.

There were rules and regulations attached to the celebration. The eating of unleavened food, the fact that all celebrants most be circumcised, the marking of the doors with the blood. So that we will be passed over by the pestilence sent by God to kill all the first born children of the land, the fact that the Homowo marks the start of the New year.

Homowo socially for us is the period when we gather to be counted as a clan, when all Ga born people if possible gather In the family house to celebrate the coming of the new year and to get to know each other. It is a communal feast in which all partake. Even those who are not Ga people are sent food as a token of goodwill.

WHAT IS HOMOWO

Homowo is a KPLE festival It is a manifestation of religious public worship.

The Wulomei start by taking their turn in Planting corn or maize. It Takes approximately 6 weeks for the new corn to be harvested starts by planting wheat at a special site It is during this period that the wheat is growing that there is a ban on music and drumming of any sort in Accra. It is interpreted as the period that the drummers are expected to repair their drums and prepare for the festivities ahead. It is also regarded as a period when the major deities go into hibernation or take their rest to fortify themselves for the coming year.

The month before Homowo:

There is no public dancing. Burials take place but without music or dancing Important people who pass away are kept unburied until after the festival because they cannot he buried without The pomp and pageantry their status.

It is said that this period of quiet has to be observed or else fish from the sea and game from the land are driven away with the noise my own interpretation is that this is one way in which we keep the balance with the ecology around us

,WHEN

We start our year in September and we’ tend to use more fish than meat and we have substituted unleavened Corn for the unleavened bread.

Homowo is generally celebrated around August’. which is the end of the Ga calendar, It also coincides with the harvest It occurs after the harvesting of the first corn. Corn being the staple diet of the Ga people very utilitarian in nature and used for- all our meals. For breakfast, for lunch and also for dinner and even sometimes as a snack,

It also coincides with the period when there is a lot of fish around.

The Dantu wolomo provides the dates for the celebration in the different states amongst the Ga people

NUNGUA START usually on the first Saturday of July

They are followed by LANTE DZAN WE four weeks later.

TEMA celebrate a week later oil the FPLDAY

GA MASHI FOLLOws a WEEK LATER ON A SATLJRDAY

OSU LA. TESHI, KPONE FOLLOW 10 DAYS Later ON THE TUESDAY

The Krobos and the Adas have allocated specific days for the celebration, For instance the Adas celebrate on the bank holiday in August

THURSDAY

In Ga Mashi the Thursday prior to the Saturday of the main celebrations is when the returnees arrive, These are mainly Gs born children and their children who are working outside the Area who arrive to take part in the celebrations SOOBII. They tend to come with exotic meats and foods that are not readily available in the main parts of ACCRA.

Contrarily to popular belief the Ga are not only a sea faring people they are also farmers and have villages spread around the hinterland of Accra. This is where the palm soup comes 6cm indeed it must have been the Ga who taught the other tribes of Ghana the delicacies of Palm-nut soup. They also bring firewood and bush meat for these Ga people Homowo represents the coming home to be welcomed and they bring their contributions To the festivities.

FRIDAY

The cult of the twins

Friday is the day reserved for the cult of the twins. The Ga believe that twins have some special significance or powers, some close intuition However there is need for appeasement of sorts. This is prevalent in most ancient societies.

Genesis 27 talks about Isaac asked the elder twin Esau to prepare him a meal so that he will be blessesd, their mother Rebekah organised the meal and let Jacob present it to their father.

The Ga ensure that both are blessed and a meal – fotoli cooked for them.

Haadzin anin takes no chances and the meals are prepared for both twins and taken to Korle so that no rivalry should exist between them. So that The problems of birthright are resolved there is the ceremonial food that is cooked for them. This comprises of mashed yams mixed with palm nut oil with an egg Normally called oto this Is the food that Is given to people on their birthday, Medicinal plant nyanyara put in water and they are bathed in this water The residue is carried by their other siblings in a procession to the Korle lagoon. Korle is one of revered female deities that inhabit the Korle Lagoon. Korle is one of the spirits responsible for fertility. Indeed she is known as the mother of all mothers

This procession in our time was a sort of carnival and provided the social angle for the celebration of Homowo. The Haadzin anin was the time for all secondary school students to meet their colleagues from other schools.

SATURDAY

The main celebration in GA Mashi takes place on a Saturday. The food is cooked very early and by noon all who will partake are gathered in the house o f their origin. Before the food is dished and eaten by all who have friends who are Ga or not Ga have some food dished out and sent to these so that they will also partake in the festival of goodwill.

The elder in the house prays by pouring libation before the food Is dished out and Alt members of the family are expected to partake of the food from one bowl sharing the bowl, On the local public scene, the Nai wolomo prays at home: he pours his libation at home. The Ga Mantse goes to the seaside to offer his payers. The position chosen for this place is where the Ga were supposed to have entered Accra which is right inside the Ussher Fort which is now a prison and therefore the wolomo cannot go in there The Gbese Mantse takes the lead in the sprikling of Kpokpoi followed by the Ga Mantse.

The ceremony continues with the traditional sprinkling of Kpokpoi in other traditional areas of Accra. This is done for the purposes of renewal so that All can eat including seen As well as unseen animals and persons and spirits. It is also believed that as a spiritual people the ancestors have gone before us need to be nourished and thus the offering of kpokpoi so that hey can join in.. After the sprinkling of kpokpoi there is now opportunity for all to partake in the meal.

Then comes the main dancing of Oshii by the chiefs and elders in the traditional area,

SUNDAY

Yara Woo

Early in the morning there is mourning for the recently departed members

of the family

Noo wala

Ngoo Ngoo Wala Ngoo wala Chose Life Chose life

Afi naa akpe wor May the year end meet us

Gbi Kpawo anina wor May we meet the eighth day again

Worye Gbo worye Gbeina May we celebrate Gbo and Gbeina festivals

Wor fee momoo May we be renewed

Alonte din ko akafo worten Let no evil come between us

afi aya ni afi aba Let the year go and come back again

worsei afi worta shi neke noo Let us sit down like this again next year

tswa omanye abla wor Strike and let the glory surround

This is the renewal aspect of the ceremony when all are required to wish each other new life, It is done so that all: who have differences during the past year have an opportunity to patch up Moreover it is -cask for new fruitful life without any mishaps go that we can all meet again next year

Some subsequent rites of the Homowo celebration includes

There is AYEKOO when all the young men who participated are thanked for their services by the people in the town, The importance of this ceremony is that food is normally left over in the morning by traders for these young people to pick up as they do their rounds They have been sent by Sakumo wolomo and are therefore not soared if they pick food from any-where in the market, They are not supposed to be caught as thieves on this particular day This part of the ceremony has now degenerated into a general looting and most trader who are not Ga find that some criminal elements exploit the situation to steal things other than food.

Purification of the sea – Nshor bulemo takes place after Ayeekoo, one characteristic of this ceremony was that often the Anglican archbishop takes place side by side on the beach.

In the evening Homowo officially ends with kple noowala

THE Thanksgiving TO THE KPLE DEITY- THIS incorporates Dancing BY

THE Cult Priest AND PRIESTESSES

LOCAL VARIATIONS

The celebrations vary from area to area

At LA the main highlight is the Kpaashiimo and SHKAMO which takes place on the Thursday of the Homowo. Strangers often find that people they do not know take the liberty to engage them in all sorts of embraces during the procession through the town.

At TESHI there is KPANSHIMO when all the various youth groups dress themselves in sort of fancy dresses and go singing through the town, On that day the libel laws cannot be evoked and they sing about all the scandals that have taken place during the period. The chief is a usual target but all is taken, in good faith,,

Ade Sawyerr

9th September 1998

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One thought on “Homowo-Asafotufiam-Nmaayem – an invitation 13th September 2014

  1. Thanks Ade Sawyerr for the write up. Nonetheless, may I crave your indulgence to add this little piece.
    Ga Country, Homowo Festival And Significance
    Compiled by Jordan Nii Oto Dodoo, West Legon.
    Homowo is a celebration of the people who live within the Accra Plains. Actually, Homowo, as a festival is replete with a year-long minor traditional rites and activities that climax in communal eating of a traditional meal made up of steamed unleavened corn meal mixed with red palm oil called “Kpokpoi” that is eaten with palm nut soup, prepared mostly only with fish and vegetables.
    It begins with some High Priests (Calendar Priests) within the various communities that make up the Ga country or State deciding the days for each event by counting out age-old cowries and special pebbles to determine the days on which each cardinal rite is performed. The performances of these rites culminate in the grand celebration being held on the actual Homowo feasting day. Thus, to the indigenous Ga, Homowo is not celebrated only on the Saturday, Tuesday or Friday that one would see celebrants feasting on the traditional meal.
    The Ga country or State occupies part of the south-eastern part of Ghana, known as the Accra Plains, excluding the Volta delta. Its coastline stretches from Langma (Cook’s Loaf) from the west to Tema in the east. The geographical unit is dry and mainly of arid lands. Its lands lie between the Akwapim-Togo range in the north rising over 1000 feet and sloping gradually in a south-westerly direction to its lowest elevation of 300 feet and the coast of the Gulf of Guinea. The vegetation is mostly orchard and tall grassland, narrower in the west and broadening up to some thirty miles in the east. The Plains cover the Guinea coastline to the foot of the Akwapim mountain range.
    The striking feature of the landscape is the formation of lagoons on the stretch of the sea coast. Actually, the monotony of the plains is only broken by the Shai Hills in the north-east, and by the Legon, Okaikoi and Weidjian (McCarthy) hills in the south-west. The rivers which drain the land in the wet season cause the mouths of the valleys to be blocked along the sea by sand bars to form numerous lagoons. These lagoons are found in the Ga country or State:
    a. The Ga lagoon after Kpong b. The Sakumo-nukpa (Senior or Great Sakumo) lagoon at Tema c. The Sango lagoon after Nungua d. The Kpeshie lagoon at La e. The Klote lagoon at Osu f. The Korle lagoon at Accra g. The Sakumo-fio (Junior or Little Sakumo) lagoon near Bortianor.
    In the Ga country or State, the climate is marked by periods alternating dry and wet seasons. The extremes of the dry seasons are during November and March whilst during the wet season, the peaks of rainfall are in June and September. Thus, the Ga divides the seasons as follows:
    1. Maawe: Cold season from early August to the first half of September. 2. Gbo: Rainy season from the last half of September to December. 3. Aharabata: Harmatan cold season. The dry north-east trade winds from the edge of the Sahara desert causes humidity to drop on the coastal area. It occurs Mid-December to early February. 4. Otso Krikri (Oflo,Ofeo Okwe): Hot season with dry winds and minor rains. Late February to April. 5. Agbeona (Gbeona): Rainy season from May to July. Peak rainfall in June, but most of the rain are carried inland by south-east trade winds. Thus, it leaves the Ga coasts chilly and stormy. 6. Alemle: Cold and dry season with little sunshine. It starts late July to August.
    No one can authoritatively indicate how and when exactly Homowo came to be celebrated by the Ga people. In Ga country or State, oral traditions are considered as sources of history and of all knowledge expressed in social life and frequently strengthened through customary worship and annual ceremonial festivities. Awareness of tradition acts as a constraint on social behaviour and ensures social cohesion. Though today, no one bothers so much about the origins of the festival almost everyone accepts the opportunity the Homowo festival offers for family re-unions. Nonetheless, Ga mythology offers two explanations for its celebration.
    The first explanation has it that famine broke out among the people during their journey through Ile Ife in Nigeria and Tado in Togo to where they are presently in the Accra Plains, that led to the numerous deaths among their kinsmen. But when at a later season, they had a bumper harvest both at sea and in their farms, the people literally hooted and jeered at hunger that had plagued them.
    The second relates that the festival is derived from the Jewish Passover feast in the Bible (Exodus 12). This second explanation is based on the use of unleavened cornmeal for the ritual food, red clay to the door posts, and the hurried and communal manner in which the festive food is eaten.
    The festival is related to the vocation (farming and fishing) of the Ga people which in turn is related to the seasons found in their country. The cycle of the festival begins with coming of the rains in early May, when seven principal high priests do the ceremonial ritual sowing of the corn or millet, and ends up late in September when all the corn or millet is harvested into communal barns. But the actual Homowo day or “Kon-yeli” (day of feasting) mainly falls in August among the Ga-Mashi or Accra Central indigenes; on a Tuesday ten days later in the suburbs of Osu, La, Teshie, Nungua, Kpone, Gbugbla (Prampram) and Ningo. The people of Tema celebrate theirs on a Friday.
    It all starts with the sowing of the ritual corn or millet where a ban is placed on noise-making in all forms in the community. The Ga people see the period as traditional Lent period reserved for propitiation before the Almighty God that created the heavens and earth. The ban is lifted thirty days later with special ceremonies by the seven high priests that had earlier gone to sow the corn or millet. At Ga-Mashi, this is climaxed with a special drumming session by the Ga or Gbese Mantse at an event known as “Odadao”.
    The actual Homowo Day is heralded by the arrival of indigenes that had traveled out of the community to look for greener pastures. Those who had gone out to sea arrive on the Monday preceding the festival. These people arrive with fish caught at sea or in the rivers. On Thursday, those who had travelled inland to live and farm in other towns and villages return on the Thursday (“Soo Bii”) before the Homowo feasting day.
    Some arrive in mummy trucks draped with flags and colourful buntings. It is a joyful sight as the convoys of mummy trucks go by with passengers singing and stamping their feet rhythmically to the staccato refrains of songs they have composed on their own.
    The travelers assemble at the outskirts of the community (and in Ga-Mashi, at Mukpono or Korle Dudor) from where they march in groups, singing and carrying loads in baskets covered with nets and decorated with farm produce such palm nuts, corn and vegetables like pepper, onions, garden-eggs and okra. In Accra, they march up to Bukom Square in groups corresponding to the seven quarters of Ga-Mashi where they are welcomed by the Ga Mantse. They later break up and each group goes to its quarters to disperse finally to their individual homes.
    The Ga Mantse then carries firewood to present to the Sakumo High Priest to use in cooking the ritual meal and also, as a symbolic gesture for his submission to the authority of the High Priests of the land.
    Meanwhile, earlier in the day, women in the town would have gone out to collect special type of red clay known as “ntsuma” which they also take to the gathering point at Mukpono to join the “Soo Bii” to march into the town. In the evening, the corn brought in from the farms by the travelers is soaked in water to get it ready for the grinding mill the next day.
    Friday is the traditional yam festival and lustral day of all twins in the communities. Clad in white, twins, their parents and relations make merry in their homes with feasting, singing and dancing. At sunset, they troop out with pomp and pageantry carrying young twins shoulder high to the Korle Dudor or the seashore to cast away the leftovers of the feast.
    Whilst the feast of twins is going on, elderly women in the various households make sure that the surface of the milled unleavened corn dough is plastered with little amount of water. They feverishly ensure that all necessities such as red palm oil, smoked fish and vegetables for the preparation of the festive food are stored well. In the night, the women besmear and polish the hearths with the special red clay gathered on Thursday. The men folk also paint the lintels and gate posts of the family house with some of the red clay. This reminds one of the applications of blood of the Paschal Lamb during the Jewish feast of the Passover. (Exodus 12:6-7)
    Early at dawn on Saturday, the women wake up and begin the preparation of the Kpokpoi. They start with boiling of the palm nuts and pounding it in huge mortars for the preparation of the festal soup. The festal meal is then made by initially steaming the unleavened corn dough. This is then mashed by having it pounded in a mortar before having it salted and mixed with red palm oil to produce the festal food of Kpokpoi.
    Thus, by mid-morning all cooking is virtually finished and the Kpokpoi and palm nut soup are dished into traditional earthenware pots and bowls. At noon, everyone will gather in the ancestral home to partake of the feast. Normally, some of the meal is sprinkled at the doorsteps and around the house. The meal is sprinkled for the spirits and in remembrance of the departed family members and not the gods of the Ga people as Ga people do not involve any deity in this Passover feast. The traditional food for those deities or gods found among some of the Ga people is called Fotoli. It is a special preparation with millet. Kpokpoi has never been part of any rite of a fetish in Ga country.
    Family heads sprinkle the Kpokpoi in households whilst chiefs or Mantsemei do same within the areas of their influence or authority. Each Mantse goes to certain prominent or principal family houses, lanes and streets to sprinkle the festal meal. In a hilarious but royal procession, they are most often accompanied by drumming, flourishes of horns, singing and dancing.
    After the sprinkling of the meal, all male members of the family mingle together no matter the age, position or status in the community or life. They gather around the family bowl and eat from the same bowl. A lot of scrambling characterizes this as everyone tries to lay hands on the best chunk of fish in the bowl.
    It is not out place to see a father scrambling with the son over a fish or even pleading for a morsel. People forget about class or status while partaking of the festive meal of Kpokpoi and palm nut soup. It is due to the scrambling, which can have ones apparel soiled with palm nut soup, that reddish brown or red dress is worn on the occasion. Meanwhile, the women cheer and applaud the youth for their smartness at outwitting the older folks in the scramble. The feast is rounded off with drinks traditionally offered by the person who carried the bowl during the sprinkling of the meal.
    The day following the Homowo feasting day is spent in visiting relations, friends and in-laws to exchange the traditional “Ngoo Wala” (have long-life) greetings. The day is also used in settling old disputes and misunderstandings. Ga Mashi “Ngoo Wala” falls on Sunday whilst others have theirs on Wednesday or Saturday. At La, this is characterized by a “Kpaa shimor” where songs are composed and sung on the failings or heroism of personalities within the community.
    Homowo comes not only with feasting and merry making but also with family reunions, opportunity for renewing and reviving mutual understanding, fellow feeling, respect and regeneration of social consciousness.

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