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Opinions of Monday, 23 September 2013

Columnist: Allotey, Henry Kpakpo

The Ga Homowo, a dying festival?

It was in the 80’s when growing up in Tema that the month of August assumed significant meaning to me. I always look forward to this month because as a Ga man, it holds significance to me. You may be wondering why the Month of August holds such significance to me. I believe every true Ga looks forward to the month Of August. Why August? Because August is the time for the Ga Homowo festival! The Homowo festival was a time for all true Gas to join and eat the revered and cherished kpokpoi. Ah! How I love that food. Yummy yummy! It was a delight to observe our mothers and sisters skillfully cook the kpoikpoi and prepare that thick, delicious palm nut soap. Our mouths use to drip with saliva as we watch the fishes in the soup, especially the tuna swimming majestically in the soup. We couldn’t wait to eat this delicious, traditional food but not before the wekutse or family head has said the traditional prayers. The Month of August was always a delight to us the Ga youths in those days.

Why have I used past tense throughout my reminisce? Because the month of August no longer holds significance to majority of Gas anymore. Majority of Gas no longer look forward to the month of August because their joy and their pride which is the Homowo festival is almost dead and surviving on life support system. But to the uninitiated, what is the meaning of the Homowo festival and why does it hold so much significance to the Gas? A brief history will do.

Homowo Festival is celebrated to recall the trials and success of the people of the Ga traditional area over a huge famine which befell them during their journey from their ancestral homeland to inhabit their current settlement. During this difficult time they gathered up courage to farm the land, cultivated corn and called upon their gods through libation to bless the farms to yield in abundance. The rainfall that followed is believed to be an answer to their prayers. The Homowo festival is therefore a celebration of victory over the hunger they faced. During the celebration a special meal made of unfermented corn powder called kpokpoi and palm nut soup of fish is prepared. They hooted at and ridiculed at hunger as they ate the kpokpoi with the palm nut soup prepared from fish only (notably tsile and odaa), poured libation and offered some of the diet symbolically to the gods and ancestral spirits, Sisadzi. Homowo which is celebrated every year between the months of August and September to observe that day when hunger was defeated, hooted at, and ridiculed. Thus, the main objective of this festival is commemorating the success story of the Gas in fighting famine.

This festival should rank as the most important festival in Ghana. A festival that ridicules hunger is worth celebrating since it has always been the desire of every government to eradicate poverty and hunger yet this noble festival is dying. Dying a slow and painful death and as usual, those who matter are standing aloof watching as our heritage disappears into oblivion. What has accounted for this? What is leading to the death of this important festival?

The biggest problem that has plagued the Ga state is chieftaincy. Do you know that almost all the Ga traditional areas have chieftaincy issues? Let us count them! Tema have two chiefs. Nii Adjetey Krakue and Nii Adjei Krakue. Two brothers who should have worked together to lift the deplorable condition that Tema finds itself in yet they have become bitter rivals in Tema. How can Tema celebrate a successful Homowo when they have a protracted chieftaincy problem that has racked the community for the past 15 years?

Nungua has battled chieftaincy problem for over 20 years now. Nii Odeifio Welentsi who claims to be the Nungua mantse has wrestled with one lawsuit after another. The security services have always deplored heavy police and Military personnel to patrol the township during every Homowo season because of the potential for violence by rival claimants to the chieftaincy title. How can Nungua celebrate a successful Homowo when the citizens are scared because of violence and anarchy?

Teshie has been without a Chief for the past 30 years! Incredible right? Yes but not surprising. The celebration of the Homowo is led by Chiefs who sprinkle the kpoikpoi and offer prayers to the gods. How can Teshie celebrate the Homowo when they have no recognized Chief to lead them?

La has a disputed chief who goes by the name Nii Tetteh Kpobi Tsuru. He is not recognized by the whole of Lamei so Homowo celebration has never been smooth in La.

Osu has two disputed chiefs all laying claim to the stool. We have Nii Nortey Owuo and a certain Nii Dorwuona all calling themselves chiefs. The people of Osu have had difficulty celebrating the Homowo as both factions always threaten fire and brimstone whenever the festival is imminent. How can the people of Osu celebrate the Homowo when they are not clear who should lead them in sprinkling the kpoikpoi to the gods?

Ga Mashie is even worse. Almost all the clans in Ga Mashie have rival stool claimants. From Gbese to Atukpai, you have people claiming to be chiefs. Even who is the Ga Mantse is under contention up till now. How can the people of Ga Mashie celebrate a successful Homowo when confusion as to who leads them is all over the place?

Incredibly, our cousins the Dangbes have managed to preserve their festival up till date. Asafotufiam is always a big thing in Ada. It is well and happily celebrated by our brothers in Ada. Nmayem and other festivals are also peacefully celebrated by our Krobo cousins yet the Homowo being a festival of the Gas hardly attracts publicity when it is due.

It is clear that as long as we have greed manifesting itself in Chieftaincy disputes, we the Gas must forget about making our cherished Homowo Festival enjoyable. The Homowo festival is hardly mentioned and poorly organized by our chiefs. Our youths no longer look forward to this distinguished festival. Most even stay away because of the potential for violence and other anti-social activities by our greedy chiefs.

Must we Gas watch and allow our cherish festival to die? What becomes of our identity if we allow the Homowo to die? Is there any hope for Gas who looks forward to this festival? This calls for sober reflections and deep thinking by all who love the Ga state. The Ga state is in a deplorable situation. Our language is dying, our identity is dying, our festival is dying and our very existence as a people is also dying. Unless we get a savior who will rescue the Gas from the hopeless situation we find ourselves in now, am afraid we may soon disappear.

So somebody may ask, what is the solution? How do we resurrect our noble festival to ensure its splendor in times past? How do we get back our identity as Ga people? We can solve 90% of our problems if we deal with the problem of chieftaincy that has plague our state. My next article will look at how chieftaincy problems have destroyed the Ga state and how we can salvage what is left.

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