Odwira Festival: A cultural extravaganza in Eastern Ghana

Stories and facts

The Odwira festival is a significant cultural event celebrated by the chiefs and people of the Fanteakwa District and Akuapem in the Eastern Region of Ghana. Held annually in September and October, this festival brings together the communities of Akropong-Akuapim, Aburi, Larteh, and Mamfe to commemorate their historic victory over the Ashanti in the 1826 Battle of Katamansu near Dodowa. The inaugural celebration took place in October 1826, under the reign of Nana Addo Dankwa I, the 19th Okuapimhene of Akropong.

The festival is a time of spiritual purification and renewal, where the community seeks protection and blessings. It is also celebrated by the people of Jamestown in Accra due to historical ties formed through intermarriages between the Ga and Akuapem people. The timing of Odwira coincides with the harvest season, allowing the community to express gratitude to their ancestors for the bountiful yield, especially yams, which are central to the festival’s rituals.

Odwira follows a well-established tradition that spans nearly 200 years. Initiated by Nana Addo Dankwa I, the festival is now celebrated across the 17 Akuapem states. The celebration's key components include a period of quiet meditation, known as Adaebutu, where a ban on noisemaking and funerals is enforced for forty days preceding the festival.

The festival officially begins on Odwira da Monday, marked by the ceremonial clearing of the path from Akropong to the Royal Mausoleum, led by the State Executioners (Abrafo) and their chief, the Adumhene. This act symbolizes the preparation for the ancestors to join the celebrations.

On Odwira da Tuesday, the Gyaasehene, one of the five Divisional Chiefs, officially informs the Banmuhene, the custodian of the ancestors, that the Okuapehene is ready to celebrate Odwira. The Banmuhene then brings blessings from the ancestors to the Okuapehene. Representatives of the seven stool houses in Akropong also present the new yam harvest, which is a significant part of the celebration.

Odwira da Wednesday is a day of communal mourning, where families wear black and red to honor the departed souls. The Okuapehene visits each of the seven stool houses to offer condolences, and the entire community participates in mourning the deceased from the past year.

Odwira da Thursday is dedicated to affirming loyalty to the Omanhene and giving thanks to the supreme God. The Okuapehene, dressed in colorful robes, receives homage from the community. A young maiden parades through the town to present a special dish to the Omanhene, and later, the Banmuhene performs a ritual at the first resting place of the first Omanhene of Okuapeman. The day concludes with a curfew and a sacred cleansing ritual of the stools and regalia by the State Executioners.

The festival reaches its climax on Odwira da Friday. The chiefs, elders, and people of Okuapeman gather at Mpeniase to pay public homage. The Okuapehene delivers a state of the Kingdom address, outlining the past year's achievements and future plans. The day attracts numerous visitors, including government officials and the clergy, and is marked by various activities, concerts, and pageant shows.

Odwira is a celebration of rich traditions, arts, fashion, music, and food. It is a cultural adventure that showcases the heritage of the Akuapem people. The festival invites visitors to experience the unique traditions and hospitality of the Akuapem community, making it a lively and inclusive celebration of Ghanaian culture.

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