Akwambo

(redirected from Akwanbo)

Akwambo (Akwanbo, Path-Clearing Festival)

Type of Holiday: Folkloric
Date of Observation: Varies
Where Celebrated: Central Region, Ghana
Symbols and Customs: Durbar, Offerings, Path Clearing

ORIGINS

Akwambo is observed annually, mainly in the Agona and Gomoa Districts in the Central Region of Ghana. The festival commemorates the journey and arrival of the founding settlers of the four towns of Gyinankoma, Ekrawfo, Atakwaa, and Otabenadze. Celebrations are held at various times of the year, usually lasting for several days, and can include different activities according to local custom. However, most Akwambo festivals share certain common customs such as the ritual PATH CLEARING , a public gathering known as a DURBAR , and family or community reunions. There may also be music and dance performances, soccer games, and parades. In some areas, young people hold an all-night party.

SYMBOLS AND CUSTOMS

Durbar

A durbar is usually held near the end of the Akwambo festival. Community leaders and chiefs are carried on covered litters in a procession of drummers, dancers, singers, musicians, and soldiers. A public reception follows, during which speeches are made by politicians and other dignitaries. Also at this time community members may bring forward any concerns or problems needing the leaders' attention.

Offerings

During Akwambo, communal offerings are made to honor the town's ancestors. It is believed that the ancestral spirits continue to interact with the living by providing protection, good fortune, and blessings in the form of rain and successful harvests. Offerings normally take the form of libations poured on the ground or food items scattered on the water.

Path Clearing

Perhaps the most important part of Akwambo is the ritual path clearing that is done in honor of the first settlers who established the town. Every member of the community is expected to participate in clearing the paths and roads leading to the town, as well as those that provide access to streams, rivers, farms, shrines, and communal spaces. Unpaved footpaths are weeded and maintained, while paved roads are ritually swept with branches, brooms, and fans made of leaves.

FURTHER READING

Henderson, Helene, ed. Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2005.

WEB SITES

Ghana Embassy in the United States www.ghana-embassy.org

Ghana Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Environment www.ghanadistricts.com

Ghana Ministry of Tourism and Diasporan Relations www.touringghana.com

Ghana National Commission on Culture www.ghanaculture.gov.gh

Akwambo (Path-Clearing Festival)

Date varies
How and when the Akwambo Festival is observed by the Fante people, particularly in the Agona and Gomoa regions of Ghana, varies from place to place. It was first observed by the migrant ancestors of these people, whose primary task when they arrived in a new place was clearing paths to the rivers and other watering places. A day was set aside for this purpose, and for clearing the paths leading to farms and other communal places as well. Everyone who used these routes was expected to attend and help in the work or contribute financially.
In some places, path clearing is no longer necessary because there are paved roads. But the festival is still observed, especially at Agona Nkum, where it is part of a week-long celebration. A traditional part of the festivities is the parade of the Asafo groups. Each town has a number of Asafo companies which, during colonial times, functioned as militias. The literal translation of asafo is "people of war." Today they are community associations which together include representatives from nearly every family in town, but the military influence is still seen in the flags and weapons carried by members.
On path-clearing day in Agona Nkum the Asafo companies lead a procession beyond the town's borders where they pay homage to Oburata Kofi, the god of the well. Then, amid firing guns, dancing, and drumming, the procession returns to town, where community members meet with the town chief and other leaders to discuss town laws and other communal matters.
CONTACTS:
Ghana Embassy
3512 International Dr. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
202-686-4520; fax: 202-686-4527
www.ghanaembassy.org
SOURCES:
FestGhana-1970, p. 40