Festival of the Central Region
It started around the 1920’s and is celebrated on the 1st of January every year and draws large crowds from all over. There are four fancy-dressing groups who participate in the festival competition, wearing masks and accompanied by brass band music. The festival begins in the morning of New Year Day with street dancing and is open to all the performing groups who parade through the principal streets of Winneba. The groups converge at the Advanced Teacher Training College Part where the competition takes the form of a march past and three different dances (Highlife/Blues) performed by the groups. A team of judges award marks and at the end of the day the most versatile group is crowned the winner.
Edina Bronya Festival
This festival is a novel Christmas introduced to the people of Elmina during the Dutch era of the colonial period. The period coincides with the Dutch Festival, which falls on the first Thursday of January every year and marked in Elmina to signify the bond of friendship between the Dutch and the people of Elmina. A fish-catching ritual is performed at the banks of the Benya Lagoon by the Asafo Companies in their full regalia. The Paramount Chief and his retinue are present at the banks and musketry is fired. On the eve of the festival, the Paramount chief climbs up Fort St. Jago and fires shots at midnight to usher in the New Year. The Paramount Chief rides in a Palanquine the next day to pay homage to the various clans. Libation is poured using locally prepared wine and there is sprinkling of mashed yam as well as shaking of hands with family heads to signify peace, prosperity and good health in the coming year. The Paramount Chief and his elders converge in front of Elmina Castle where a sheep is slaughtered. There is merry making, drumming and dancing throughout.
Aboakyer literally means, “Catching a live deer”. The two Asafo companies using only sticks and clubs move to their respective hunting grounds in the morning of the first Saturday in May climaxing the festival. The first company to bring a live deer for the Omanhene to step on three times is declared the winner of the year. The Deer Hunt Festival is celebrated in remembrance of Winneba's fetish war god, APA Sekum, who was said to have helped the people in various ways. The deer is captured alive and sacrificed to the fetish god. On the eve of the climax of the festival, the “Asafo” companies perform rituals and outdoors their gods. This ceremony is a crownd puller. In the morning of Aboakyer day, the Paramount Chiefs, sub-chiefs, dignitaries and the public assemble at the durbar grounds to wait for the catch amidst drumming and dancing. There is jubilation through the streets until the deer is deposited at the shrine to await its slaughter the next day. In the afternoon, the public admire the works of the gods in the traditional area. This festival is reminiscent of the Jewish Passover festival, because family houses or stools receive the smear of sheep blood and sprinkling of the dough mix meal on the first three days before merry making begins. A significant event is the display of colourful flags by the various “Asafo” companies in the traditional area.
Edina Bakatue Festival
Literally translated means the “Opening of the Lagoon” or the “Draining of the Lagoon”. It is celebrated to commemorate the founding of the town, Elmina by the Europeans. It is also celebrated to invoke the deity, Nana Benya's continuous protection of the state and its people. During the celebration, the Paramount Chief and his sub-chiefs, elders, fetish priests and priestesses, and indeed the entire state offer the sacred food of eggs and mashed yam mixed with palm oil to the river god and pray for peace. All rituals are performed on Mondays. Fetish priests and priestesses and drummers take turns to perform their rituals. There is a performance of the spiritually possessed chief fetish priest as he responds to spiritual revelations. There is a royal procession made up of gorgeously dressed chiefs and stool carriers, some riding in beautifully decorated palanquins. After performing some rituals at the riverside, the chief priest casts his net three times and announces the lifting of the ban on fishing, drumming, funerals and other social activities in the traditional area. There is a spectacular ride on the lagoon by women resplendent in “Kente” cloth and local festive headgears. A royal procession leading to the chief’s palace amidst traditional music ends the festival.
The people of Agona in the Central Region celebrate the festival literally meaning “path-clearing”. The Asafo companies weed footpaths leading to the streams or rivers, farms and other communal places, as well as paths, which lead to shrines. The following day, the whole community assembles at the ancestral shrines and the chief pours libation to the ancestral spirits to thank them for their protection during the previous year and then request for more blessing, abundant rainfall and good harvest for the ensuing year. At the stream or riverside where some of the sacrifices are offered, alligators and other species of fish come out to enjoy the mashed yams sprinkled on the water. With their bodies smeared with clay, the people then parade with twigs and tree branches through the town in groups amidst drumming, dancing and firing of musketry. In a procession, they go through the principal routes and then to the durbar ground to meet the chief and his elders. There is a vigil kept at night and patronized mainly by the youth. It is a time when people come together to renew family and social ties. Performing groups, which are dormant, are revitalized and new groups initiated.
The Pan-African Historic Festival (PANAFEST) is a major biennial event-involving forum for Africans and people of African descent as well as friends of the continent committed to the noble cause of Pan Africanism. The venues for the Panafest are the historical towns of Cape Coast and Elmina. The festival is a celebration of African cultural values, history and civilization. This consists of:
- Performances and workshops in theatre, drama, music, cinema, poetry, colloquia and lectures.
- Colourful traditional durbar of chiefs and people of Ghana.
- Tour/excursions to places of interest such as the slave castle dungeons. Panafest brings together participants from all over the world.
Oguaa Fetu Festival
The Fetu Afahye celebrated by the people of Oguaa or Cape Coast Traditional Area is named after the 17th Century Fetu or Effutu Kingdom located some 19 kilometres inland of Cape Coast. A main feature of the festival is the state purification rites, which include the Paramount Chief’s yam festival, and is observed in the form of offering mashed yams to the gods. There is also a display of traditional priests and priestesses on Monday night which attracts large a crowd, mainly the youth and tourists.
Another significant feature is the observance of “Bakatue”. This ceremony involves cutting through the sand bar separating the Fosu lagoon and the sea to allow the lagoon access into the sea presumably to bring more fish into the lagoon. The Omanhene (Paramount Chief) as part of the event pours libation to the deity, Nana Fosu. The Omanhene’s net is cast three times into the lagoon to signify the lifting of the ban on lagoon fishing. Various fishermen’s groups in the municipality organize a regatta or boat race on the lagoon. A grand durbar climaxes the festival.
The Odwira Festival, which is celebrated by the Denkyira people, runs for weeks, beginning at Jukwa, the traditional capital, and ends at Dunkwa-on Offin, the administrative capital. It signifies cleansing or bathing their ancestors and lesser gods. Drumming and firing of guns are done to announce the festival in the palace. There is wailing and weeping by the women amidst the firing of guns by the Asafo companies. Its significance is to remember the departed. On Friday, the two Asafo Companies (traditional warriors) joined by the inhabitants, take to the streets of Jukwa amidst drumming and dancing. Later the Chief is carried in a palanquin to a sacred place where sacrifices are made to departed royals of the Denkyira State.
The festival in Jukwa ends with a durbar of chiefs and people of the area. After the first week in Jukwa, the festival is moved to Dunkwa-on Offin, the administrative capital for the climax of the festivities.