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Diasporia News of Saturday, 24 October 2015

Source: Ibrahim Hardi

Today is Bugum(fire)festival!!!.

The origin of the Bugum Festival dates back to the time when one tindana lost his dear son. The name of the Tindana and the said son are known as Tindana Suhizee and suhipieli respectively. It was claimed that the event took place before the arrival of the ruling class in modern Dagbon, Mamprugu and Nanung. The descendants of the ruling class are present day chiefs and kings in Dagbon, Mamprusi and Nanung. The story has it that,that powerful Tindana child went out to play with his colleagues and as they played, he became tired and went and laid down under a tree. He soon fell asleep. The other children forgot of him and went home when they finished playing. In the evening, the parents (tindana and wife) did not see him. The tindana thought he was with the mother and the mother also thought the child was with the father. After supper that the mother called on the tindana to take the child to bed. It was at that moment that they found that the child was not with any of them. The tindana ordered his subjects to go round the neighborhood in search for the son. They did not find him. Even, the children he went out with could not remember.
The tindana quickly assembled his warriors and told them what had transpired. The warriors were instructed to look for the son. In those days because it was at night and dark, the people lit torches in search of him. Finally they found him under a tree deeply asleep. They sent him to his parents who were desperately waiting for his arrival,because he was their only male child who could be the next tindana after the father. The parents thought that the tree stole the child and hid him. They therefore considered the tree an evil tree and threw the torches they were carrying on that tree and shamed it. The community at that time regarded that particular tree as an evil tree and many feared it. The tindana decreed that the event should be marked yearly to commemorate the event. Every year they assembled in front of the tindana's palace to celebrate the festival. This tindana used to be the first to lite the fire with his torch. The tindana would not go far and dropped his torch and wished the warriors well in their journey to the evil tree and returned home. The people continued the practice and used to go to the evil tree and threw their torches on it. The introduction of the lungsi in centuries back added beauty to the festival. While marching to the evil tree, they played and danced ziem, a dance for the tindaamba 'land priests'. The people used to and still dress as warriors when celebrating Bugum Chugu in Dagbon this days.
When the people are celebrating Bugum Chugu, they dance ziem till date. Ziem is a dance for the tindaamba. It is older than any other dance in Dagbon. It is played with gungong, which is older than any instrument in Dagbon. The people also play ziem when they are going to war. It is played when there is a communal labor. They again play ziem when a tindana 'land priest' dies. The early kings quickly adopted the playing of ziem during the installation and death of Yaa Naa and chiefs to make them acceptable to the aboriginal Dagbamba. In the olden days not all villages had the gungong, because of that villages which were closer to each other used to meet in one village where they celebrate the Bugum Chugu and danced Ziem. Even now, it is still happening. Bugum chugu is not celebrated by the Moslem world. There are many reasons why I argue that Bugum chugu has nothing to do with Islamic religion and claim that it is a traditional festival of the Mole-Dagomba. It is not one of the important festivals of Islam. So the idea that it originated when the Ark of Noah landed and the people in it came down with torches and also to search for the son of Noah who did not board the boat is not true.
Dagbamba (Dagomba) may originate from Aad because they are proof of word in dagbani similar to Aad. E.g days of the week and many others. Dagbani is a Gur language and all tribes who celebrate the festivals are some Gur tribes, Gonjas and Chekosi. They also have local names for the festival. One may argue that because they are among the Gur people that they adopted the festival. Still researching but for now the writer does not know if the celebrants are mainly west Africans or there are people elsewhere in the world who also celebrate the Bugum Festival.

Bugum Chugu is a typical traditional festival celebrated with traditional and local tools such as torches and the celebrants dress like warriors and they often carry cudgels and cutlasses along. They play and dance ziem as they celebrate the festival. Bugum Chugu is completely different from other Islamic festivals imported into the country. Muslims do not partake in the celebration of Bugum Chugu as they claim that it is satanic. But with the introduction of imams at various chief palace, they are compelled to say a prayer for the community members and to advise them of good behaviors in the coming year. They will not regard a true Islamic festival as satanic. The festival has not got Arabic name unlike the rest of Islamic festivals celebrated by the people and other Muslim communities. The Festival is simply called Bugum Chugu.

Ibrahim Hardi, contact is 0208235615.

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