Feature Article of Monday, 27 July 2015
Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame
By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Garden City, New York
July 20, 2015
The decision by the Christian Council of Ghana (CCG) to join in the celebration of the Homowo Festival this year ought to be welcome with all the zestfulness that it deserves. Indeed, one wonders why it took such a long time for our Christian religious leaders to recognize the unifying significance of Homowo. While growing up in Ghana in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Homowo was the only truly national festival with which I closely identified. At a certain point in time, I even envisaged myself to be a Ga. There are, of course, tens of other major festivals like Odwira, Ohum, Akwasidae, Brakatue, Aboakyir, Hogbotsotso… you name it.
But, quite significant and interesting to observe, all these other festivals are unmistakably ethnic, and for the most part, rural in orientation, except Homowo. The latter may very well have gained advantage over the others because it takes place in Accra, and therefore has a metropolitan and cosmopolitan thrust and edge to it. Couple the preceding with the flurry of media publicity, and it becomes quite logical and obvious that Homowo would be given the pride of place. Then also, the palm-nut soup that goes with kpokpoi/kpekple is “fabulicious”! Sometimes I even wonder why I hadn’t married an Accra girl. Well, it isn’t that I never tried. It is a rather long story; one that I prefer to reserve for another column in due course.
Talking about metropolitanity, Kumasi, of course, comes into the picture; but the royal capital of Asanteman is “metropolitanically” homogeneous and ethnic in a way that Accra is not. Kumasi is also culturally conservative. This may explain why the annual Akwasidae Festival, though lavishly celebrated by the Asantehene and his subjects, is not as “national” in spirit as Homowo. Then, of course, we also have such municipal cultural centers as the twin-cities of Sekondi-Takoradi, Cape Coast, Sunyani, Tamale and the other regional and district capitals. Kumasi may be aptly considered to be uniquely blessed with Anokyekrom of the Ghana National Cultural Center, which could organically play host to the Akwasidae Festival in ways that could not be said of the other so-called Centers of National Culture.
Of course, I am well aware of the fact that Okyeman and Asanteman also celebrate the Odwira Festival, though this fiesta is far more elaborate in celebration among the chiefs and people of the Okuapeman Traditional Area. Whatever the validity or lack thereof, vis-a-vis the foregoing observations, it well appears that Homowo is quite unique in the manner in which it is celebrated, because it tends to be more people-centered than the other festivals which tend to have the paramount chiefs of the various traditional areas and their sub-chiefs at the apex and center of the same. With Homowo, it is the Ga-Chief-Priest (Wulomo?) and the ordinary people who matter most. Other than Odwira and Akwasidae, if I recall accurately, most of the other festivals revolve around “the fruits of new/ seasonal harvests,” therefore the Earth-Goddess-Mother is very much at the center. I know, for example, that Ohum is about the harvest of “new yams,” or the first wave of the yam-harvesting season.
With Homowo, the Ga-Mantse or Ga-Paramount Chief and his divisional chiefs are significant and relevant to the celebrations, but the latter really belongs to the people. The fact that the different major townships and principalities also have different dates for celebrating Homowo, makes the latter decentralized in an organically coherent manner, because participants from the other discrete localities and principalities also fully participate in the festivities of each of the other townships and boroughs. One does not routinely witness this communal spread in the way that the Ohum Festival is celebrated in Akyem-Abuakwa, for example.
The preceding notwithstanding, the reason that the General-Secretary of the Christian Council of Ghana, Rev.-Dr. Kwabena Opuni-Frimpong gives for calling for a national celebration of Homowo is, at best, pedestrian. Yes, the philosophy behind Homowo is “Hooting at Hunger” or actually banishing the ravages of hunger from the Ga-Nation-State. There is a very good summary book that deals with this subject, so there is no point for me to belabor this subject. It is called Festivals of Ghana or some such title. It is authored by A. A. Opoku, I believe. The author was quite a distinguished broadcaster with the nation’s seminal leader in this sphere of mass communication, namely, the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC).
You see, you cannot really presume to smugly hoot at hunger when your country’s economy is in IMF-World Bank receivership; and you have to literally borrow on a daily basis to feed your employees, family and yourself. But, of course, there is also that tired Akan maxim which states that “Even debtors are allowed to eat” or, rather, “Debtors have a right to eat.” What I would have our Accra Metropolitan Christian Community work hard at, is to peaceably negotiate the terms of the 40-day ban preceding the celebration of Homowo, so as to make the laudable and spiritually enlightening decision by the Christian Council of Ghana to actively participate in this year’s Homowo festivities even more meaningful.
And, of course, while it cannot be gainsaid that the Ministry of Tourism could take a lucrative advantage of making Homowo global in celebratory scope, nevertheless, the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Culture ought to be brought into the swing of this fiesta to complete the cycle of existential renewal that is the essence of Homowo.
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe is a former poet of Anokyekrom of the Ghana National Cultural Center.