The chiefs and people of the Nyimfa Division of the Ekumfi Traditional Area will begin activities marking the official celebration of this year’s Akwambo Festival on Wednesday (September 5, 2018), with a vigil in all the three towns forming the division.
Traditionally, Akwambo is the beginning of the New Year in Fanti folklore. Until recently, when leaders of various churches begun undermining the importance of traditional activities, it was the most important event in the lives of the Fanti people of the Central Region.
The three towns making the Nymfa Division are Ekumfi Ekrawfo, Atakwaa and Otabenadze. According to Mr. Kofi Adams (definitely not the NDC Organiser), Regent of the division, who is taking charge of activities following the journey of the substantial Chief of the division to his ancestors, official ceremonies begin with the pouring of libation and the sounding of Asafo drums, to be followed by a vigil by the fireside in all the three towns.
Thursday is the cleansing day for the division. It begins with clean-up activities in the three towns. This involves clearing of weeds, de-silting of chocked gutters and sweeping of corners in the settlements. This will be followed by the traditional atonements to the gods for wrong-doings during the past year, and an invitation to the gods to continue to provide guidance throughout the New Year. It also marks the formal invitation to the ancestors of the various clans to ‘come home’ and participate in the activities. In Akan tradition, departed ancestors are regarded as the official link between the living and divinity.
Friday is the turn of the whole Ekumfi State to mark ‘Ahobaa’ Kese, which commemorates the great sacrifice by Ahor, the legendary elder from Gomoa Main, who gave himself to be killed for sacrifice to end a calamity which hit the land with a strange disease that devastated the entire settlements in the Fanti-speaking areas of Southern Ghana, long before colonisation.
Following this sacrifice, the whole of the Fanti-speaking settlements in Ghana have set aside two different occasions to commemorate Ahor’s great sacrifice. Ahobaa Kakraba and Ahobaa Kese rotate among the various Fanti groups – Gomoa, Ajumako, Ekumfi, Enyan, Abura and Nkusukum. Ahobaa Kakraba is the time for mourning, during which libation is poured at shrines and ancestral groves and other important traditional edifices. It is generally a period for mourning, and it is observed in May and June. Ahobaa Kese, observed in August and September, is a time of feast, during which the people celebrate Ahor’s great sacrifice. It is also the day during which the various clans remember the dead and pray for their souls to have a peaceful rest.
All work and no play, they say, makes Jack a dull boy. A series of sporting activities have been lined up to celebrate Akwambo. On Friday, gala matches involving town folks and teams, composed of natives residing away from home, will take place in the Ekumfi Ekrawfo town. Women participation in Akwambo festivities have been a regular feature. The women of Ekumfi Ekrawfo are expected to engage their counterparts from Atakwaa and Otabenadze in special football gala matches. Of course, the aged cannot be consigned to their homes during such festivities. Fun games, featuring members of the various clan members and their chiefs, will end the day’s activities.
The peak of the celebrations is on Saturday, when the grand durbar takes place. This year’s durbar is scheduled to take place at the Ekumfi Ekrawfo Town Park, where the chiefs and people of the three towns will assemble to mark the official celebration. The durbar is under the distinguished patronage of newly-installed Odeefo Akyin VIII, Omanhen of the Ekumfi Traditional Area.
Mr. Joe Ghartey, Minister for Railways Development and a native of Ekumfi Nanaben, will deliver the key-note address as Special Guest of Honour. Majority Leader Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, who is also Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, is expected to speak at the function. Mr. Kwamena Duncan, Central Regional Minister, will also grace the occasion, together with the Member of Parliament for the Efutu Constituency Mr. Afenyo-Markins.
A series of activities have been planned for Saturday evening. Bash Gardens, owned by Mr. Bashiru Hayford, Head Coach of the Black Queens, the national Women’s football team, will vibrate with an all-night dance, at which Miss Akwambo will be crowned.
According to the official programme outlined by Mr. Ebo Quansah, Chairman of the Akwambo Planning Committee, Nana Kwaku Dei, Nkosuohene of Prako in the Eastern Region will chair the activities at the durbar grounds on Saturday. Nana Dei, known in private life as Mr. Ransford Tetteh, is Acting Managing Director of the Graphic Communications Group Limited. He is also the former President of the Ghana Journalists Association.
Church services on Sunday will ask for divine intervention for prosperity for the people and the area in general. Expect the various denominations to organise their annual harvests to raise funds for God’s work. The Methodist Church, for instance, will organise a mammoth fund-raising harvest towards the construction of new chapel complex.
On the afternoon of Sunday, the Ekrawfo Town Park, also known as Yellow Park, will rock with a challenge football match between Ekumfi United, the local football team participating in the Central Regional second division league, and Shama United.
Mondays are reserved for taking stock of all activities marking the Akwambo Festival, which also pave the way for the various chiefs and heads of clans to prepare the way for their ‘Aguadoto,’ special rites for purifying their black stools.
Akwambo symbolically rekindles the bond between the living and ancestors. It also traces the route the people took from Mankessim to the present settlement. According to oral tradition, when the Fantis migrated from Techiman and grouped at Mankessim (literally meaning a big settlement), the various groups settled permanently around Mankessim.
The Ekumfi people moved East of Mankessim and to occupy the area from the roundabout towards Accra to the border with Gomoa, between Essuehyia Junction and Ansteadze. The story is told that the Nyimfa Division was led by Ankomah, who was the pathfinder. After a hectic walk from Mankessim, Nananom (the chiefs) were tired and asked Ankomah to stop. The people settled at that location, which was named Gyinankomah, after the command from the chiefs (Ankomah Gyina).
From Gyinanakoma, some of the people moved on to Amenyikrom, named after the leader who was called Amenyi. From Amenyikrom, others moved on to found a new settlement. Those visiting the new settlement said they were going to ‘Krow Fofor No Do.’ That was corrupted to become Ekrawfo. From Ekrawfo, a hunter called Atta set up a hunting ground in a forest. That became a settlement and was named Atakwaa. From Atakwaa, the people moved up to the foot of a steep hill, which became the border between Ekumfi and the Ajumako Traditional Area.
Initially, the settlement was called Abrewa Anfow. Literally, it meant old woman cannot climb. The hill was so steep that it was a struggle for even vehicles to negotiate. Now, that settlement spots the name Otabenadze. I must be honest, I have no idea how the new name came about.