SPRINKLING OF SPIRITUAL FOOD FOR THE DEITIES OF THE SHIFKPON (LAND): Ethnic Ga Dzaasetse (divisional chief) and Acting Mantse (King) of Weija division of Ga State, Nii Ogbedada Nii Boafo Danyina-Nse I, sprinkling spiritual food (Kpokpoi) to the direction of where the shrines and Deities of the commuinty are resident during the annual Homowo Festival of the Ga people of the Greater Accra Region of Ghana.
Homowo derives from two Ga words 'homo" meaning hunger and 'wo' meaning to hoot at. Homowo therefore means hooting at hunger. According to legend, during the process of migration, the Ga nation experienced famine and severe hunger. However, they mustered up courage to till the land, planted corn and called upon Ataa-Naa Nyonmo, the DzemaWodzi, Wodzi, and Sisadzi, the ancestral spirits through libation to bless the farms to yield in abundance. In response to their prayers deluge of rains, followed, the crops
grew and yielded in abundance. Being experts in fishing they also caught fish in abundance which included giant red snappers called tsile and giant tunas called odaa.
Their sheep and goats also multiplied as they fed on abundance of green pasture. They celebrated this abundance of food and victory over hunger with a specially prepared diet from unfermented corn powder called kpokpoe which has now been corrupted to kpekple, and palm nut soup of fish. They hooted at and ridiculed hunger as they ate the kpokpoe with the palm nut soup prepared from fish only (notably tsile and odaa), poured libation and offered some of the diet symbolically to the DzemaWodzi and ancestral
spirits, Sisadzi. Homowo which is celebrated annually between August and September is to commemorate that day when hunger was defeated, hooted at, and ridiculed. Given the political structure of the Ga people, it is to be expected that this hooting at and ridiculing of hunger might take different forms.
The independence of the traditional areas and the possibility of an individual belonging to more than one traditional demands that the celebrations be organized in succession such to enable interested parties to attend any of them. The dates for the celebrations in the traditional areas are decided upon by consensus a council of Wulomei representing the various traditional areas. The first to begin is Nungua because the
Nungua people are supposed to be the first of the Ga people to arrive in Ghana folowed by the people of Gamashi. Teshi is the last to celebrate being the youngest of the Ga towns which broke away from La and was established in 1710.
The preparation for the festival begins with the planting of crops before the rainy season that begins in May. In June, a ritual called gbemlilaa (locking the way) bans drumming and music to enable people attend to crops with seriousness. This is followed by nshobulemo or ritual to calm the sea. Another ritual called okomfemaa bans fishing in the lagoons until the Homowo festival is over. The Homowo is preceded by yam festivals in the villages of the hinterland. This is the village version of celebrating victory over hunger, but falls short of hooting and ridiculing hunger which is reserved for the capital towns. When the date for the Homowo festival of a traditional area is near, the people of that traditional in the villages are expected to return to their homes in the respective capital towns. The villagers begin to arrive a week before the celebration beginning on Thursday, the sacred day of the earth when farm going is prohibited. The first arrivals on Thursday are called Soobii (Thursday people).
The villagers arrive with pomp and jubilating songs bringing their harvested crops especially maize and palm nuts along. They arrivals parade the streets all day and retire only during the night. Friday of the arrival week is dedicated to remembrance of those who died during the year. In the early morning hours of Tuesday, the sacred day of the sea when sea going is prohibited, kpokpoe and palm nut soup are prepared for the feasting.
The Mantse of the traditional area, clan heads, family heads and head of families pour libation to Maawu, Sisadzi, DzemaWodzi, and Wodzi and sprinkle white kpokpoe mixed with palm soup to the DzemaWodzi, Wodzi and Sisadzi to thank them invite their blessings, and to signify the beginning of the feast. The next day, Wednesday, is the day of ngoowala when young visit the elderly to wish them log life and the elderly, in turn,
shower the young with gifts of all sorts including money.
There are some variations in the celebrations in the capital towns after the kpokpoe feast. At Teshi, Tema and Labadi, for example, the feast is followed by the Kpashimo dance and parade. At Nungua, it is followed by Obene dance during the night and Kpele dance during the day. The most popular celebration after the kpokpoe feast is the Kpashimo of Teshi which attracts foreigners.
It begins on Sunday after the feast and ends on the next week Saturday with Sesebumo. Most people from the traditional areas of the Ga State, foreigners, and other Ghanaians domiciled in the Ga State converge at Teshi to watch the last celebration of the Homowo season, Sesebumo.
The Kpashimo of Teshi begins on Sunday with sesefaa (the carrying of a wooden dish containing water and sacred leaves) and ends on Saturday with Sesebumo (the overturning of the wooden dish and its contents) to cleanse the people, make their wishes come true, and bless them. During sesefaa, the kpa groups from the seven quarters of Teshi are led first to the palace of the Mantse. The Mantse pours libation and provides
some amount of money as a customary gift of appreciation. The kpa groups proceed to the palaces of the divisional chiefs, heads of clans, heads of families, asafoiatsemei, asafoianyemei and Wulomei of the town by turn who also pour libation and provide gifts of appreciation. This opens the way for kpashimo.
Kpashimo is of two types. The more gentle type is in the form of traditional songs and dancing and it is called Amlakui-Akpa meaning the Kpa dance of the nobility. The sese carrying group engages always in this type. The other type is very democratic and aims at exposing the wrongs committed by the nobility and commoners alike during the past year with the view of making them change their behaviour for the better. The kpa groups from the seven quarters of the town engage in this type. After sesefaa, the kpa groups break into their separate groups ad begin to expose the wrongdoings of the nobility beginning with those of the Mantse. The wrongdoings of the head of State of Ghana and his Ministers may also be exposed. They then proceed to expose the wrongdoings of individuals. Any person whose wrongdoings are exposed is expected by tradition to provide some gift usually money to express his or her appreciation. This goes on from Sunday to Friday while the sese carrying group continues to engage in AmlakuiAkpa and people desiring special blessing shower the sese with gifts of money. Paper notes are handed over to the sese group leader while coins are put into the sese. The sese group parades through the principal streets of the town once a day.
Saturday is the day of Sesebumo to bring an end to Kpashimo and the Homowo festival as a whole where all attention is focused on the sese group. In the morning, the sese group goes to the Mantse, and elders as it did on Sunday to greet them. The pour libation to invoke blessings from Ataa-Naa Nyonmo (the same as Ofe or Maawu), DzemaWodzi, Wodzi and ancestral spirits. They repeatedly sing the song:
Sese yaabu dza neke afi.
Mee loo abaaye ?
(Sese shall not overturn again till next year.
What fish shall we feed on? )
After greeting the nobility, the sese group rests till the afternoon. In the afternoon,the sese group leads the kpa groups of the seven divisions of the town who are also followed by the towns people and visiting spectators through the principal streets of the town all singing “Sese yaabu dza neke afi. Mee loo abaaye?”. The procession ends at Sangonaa near the Sango lagoon. At Sangonaa, the song and kpashimo get louder, more vigorous and intense till finally the carrier of the sese overturns it and its contents. This overturning of the sese marks the end of the Homowo of the Ga people and the lifting of the ban on drumming.
One of many liturgies of the Ga-Dangmes "Oshe-Boo" is as follows:
Aaa-wooooooo, Aaa-wooooooo, Aaa-wooooooo !
Aa-gba-ei, Bleku-stoo, Nsu-nsu, Enam-enam, Manye-aa-manye-a, Adeban-kpotooo, Aaawo, Aaa-wooooooo,!
Aaa-wooooooo, Aaa-wooooooo, Aaa-wooooooo!
BY: Kweku Darko Ankrah