Damba Festival: Northern Ghana's largest cultural celebration

Damba Festival

Stories and facts

The Damba Festival is the largest and one of the most significant cultural celebrations in Ghana, observed by the people in the Northern, Savanna, North East, Upper East, and Upper West Regions.

In recent years, Damba has grown into a multinational event, attracting visitors from across the globe and celebrated annually in Germany, the USA, and the UK.

Damba, a name rooted in the Dagbani language, is known as Damma in Mampruli and Jingbenti in Waali. The festival takes place in the month of Damba, the third month of the Dagomba calendar, which corresponds to Rabia al-Awwal, the third month of the Islamic calendar.

Initially, Damba marked the birth and naming of the Prophet Muhammad, but over time, its focus has shifted to celebrating the rich heritage, history, and chieftaincy of the Dagbon and related kingdoms. Dagbon, recognized as the birthplace of centralized kingdoms and royalty in both Ghana and Burkina Faso, has deeply influenced the festival's significance.

The Gonjas of the Savanna region have also adopted Damba, celebrating it in their specific months. The festival comprises three main sessions: Somo Damba, Naa Damba (King's Damba), and Belkulsi (farewell procession).

The Damba Festival kicks off with the Yidan Moli announcing the start of the month to the Yaa Naa. On the 11th day, the Somo Damba begins, followed by the Naa Damba on the 17th day, and concluding with Belkulsi on the 18th.

Throughout this period, participants engage in prayers, drumming, dancing, and the exchange of gifts among families and friends. Other activities include the Binchera Damba, a fashionable smock show for the youth, and Shinkaafa Gahimbu, involving the picking of rice by court clerics.

A notable part of the festival is Yila Bohambu, where nightly musical rehearsals are conducted by ladies of the courts across major palaces in Dagbon. During Binchera Damba, young people showcase their smocks in various palace dances. Somo Damba involves prayers and dancing, while Shinkaafa Gahimbu focuses on rice picking led by the Yidan Moli at the Gbewaa Palace.

Nahu Glibu, the rounding of the cow by chiefs, and Naa Damba, featuring dances and horse shows, are also key events. The festival culminates in Belkulsi, a colorful farewell procession.

The 2023 Damba Festival, celebrated from mid-September to early October, saw unprecedented participation. The climax, scheduled for October 4, 2023, was postponed to October 5 due to heavy rains at the Gbewaa Palace.

Despite the weather, tourists and celebrants from around the world gathered at various palaces and centers across northern Ghana for the vibrant ceremonies. Dignitaries from Togo also attended the celebrations at the Gbewaa Palace.

As part of the 2023 festivities, a historic football match was held between Kumbungu and Savelugu at the Aliu Mahama Sports Stadium, filling its more than 20,000 capacity. This event, reflecting the playful relationship known as Dachahali in Dagbani, was attended by paramount chiefs from Tolon, Savelugu, and Kumbungu.



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