Hogbetsotso Festival: A historic celebration of Anlo heritage

Stories and facts

The Hogbetsotso festival, pronounced Hogbechocho, is an annual cultural event celebrated by the chiefs and people of Anlo in the Volta Region of Ghana. Major towns involved in the festivities include Anloga (the capital), Keta, Kedzi, Vodza, Whuti, Srogboe, Tegbi, Dzita, Abor, Anlo Afiadenyigba, Anyako, Konu, Alakple, Atsito, Atiavi, Devego, Atorkor, and Tsiame, among others. The festival takes place on the first Saturday of November each year in Anloga, the ceremonial and ritual capital of the Anlo state. The name Hogbetsotso is derived from the Ewe language and translates to "the festival of exodus," signifying the people's journey from Notsie, now in present-day Togo.

The Anlo people, an ethnic group from Ghana's eastern coast, originally lived in Notsie. According to oral tradition, they migrated from southern Sudan through regions such as Oyo in Nigeria, Ketou in Benin, and Adja Tado in Togo before settling in Notsie. Under the oppressive rule of King Togbe Agorkoli, the Anlo devised a plan to escape. They softened a section of the town's earthen wall by having women pour wastewater on it. Eventually, they broke through and fled, cleverly disguising their footprints by walking backwards.

The Hogbetsotso festival features various traditional ceremonies, beginning with a peace-making period where disputes are resolved amicably. This tradition stems from the belief that their ancestors maintained harmony during their escape from Notsie, which was crucial to their success. A purification ceremony follows, involving the cleansing of ceremonial stools believed to house ancestral spirits through the pouring of libations. General cleaning activities then take place, sweeping the villages and burning rubbish, starting at the Volta River and ending at the Mono River in Togo.

The festival culminates in a grand durbar of chiefs and the people of Anlo. Chiefs dress in vibrant regalia, including kente cloth, and receive homage from their subjects. The event is characterized by dancing, singing, and various forms of merry-making, reflecting the rich cultural heritage of the Anlo people.

The 2019 Hogbetsotso festival saw the attendance of notable dignitaries, including former Ghanaian Presidents Jerry John Rawlings and John Dramani Mahama. The theme for that year was "Uniting Anlo through its value for the benefits of its citizens and the nation at large."

Marking the 60th anniversary, the 2022 festival was themed "60 years of Anlo Hogbetsotso Za: Uniting for development, Sustaining our Unique Cultural Commonwealth for Future Generations." The grand durbar at Hogbe Park in Anloga featured high-profile attendees such as Vice-President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Kwahumanhene Daasebre Akuamoah Agyapong II, and Ga Mantse King Tackie Teiko Tsuru II.

Central to the Hogbetsotso festival is the Agbadza dance, a traditional dance of the Anlo people. Originally a war dance imitating birds in flight and known as atrikpui, Agbadza is performed vigorously during the grand durbar as an expression of joy and homage to ancestors and deities. Though traditionally rooted, the Agbadza dance is now performed at various events, including parties, funerals, and naming ceremonies, and is enjoyed by people from diverse backgrounds. Another notable Ewe dance performed during the festival is the borborbor dance.

The Hogbetsotso festival not only celebrates the rich history and culture of the Anlo people but also serves as a unifying event that brings together communities, fostering peace and development in the region.



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