Godigbe Festival - Ewe Celebration in Aflao
Somehow, over time, it has become apparent that a very large proportion of the people I have met accretoce belong to the Ewe ethnic group. This group is particularly based in south-eastern Ghana and across state borders in Togo. In today's Togo lies also the place where the Ewe settled at the end of the 15th century after a long period of continuous migration: Notsie. It is now the capital of Haho Prefecture and is located about 100 kilometers north of the Togolese capital Lomé. Around the year 1700, however, there was a crisis in Notsie and the Ewe suffered greatly under the rule of King Togbe Agorkoli, which caused a large part of them to again mass migration. This time it went mainly to the settlement area in present-day Ghana and thus an important basis for the current spread of the Ewe was created. That is why this migration movement is very important in the collective memory of the Ewe and is commemorated, among other things, with the Godigbe Festival, which takes place every two years in Aflao – a city in Ghana, directly on the Togolese border with a quasi-Gayian border. smooth transition to the large neighbouring Lomé.
Luckily for me, that Godigbe Festival also took place in September 2015 and I was invited by acquaintances from Accra to participate in it. As so often I could guess at most what would await me but Of course I could not miss it – until then I only knew the already presented Street Art Festival in Jamestown and comparing these two really makes only conditional sense.
So, early on Saturday morning of September 26, we met at a trotro station in Madina to start our journey in the far east of Ghana. Since I hadn't heard the name Aflao before, I somehow assumed a very small place, but the city brings it to almost 70,000 inhabitants and is strongly influenced by the proximity to the Togolese capital. We were accommodated by a courtyard that was fully occupied with guests over the weekend. We all slept together on the floor in a large room and you can imagine that these were nically not the most relaxing days of my trip. However, peace and relaxation are rarely the primary goals of a festival.
Directly on Saturday evening we went to the square, where the festival was mainly celebrated and this was already in full swing on our arrival, which means in concrete terms: it was danced intensively and persistently to drum music. This dragged on into the late night and in fact I'm not quite sure if the dancers ever really stopped at night. In addition to what I call "main dance", there were also numerous sideshows, where, for example, "Spirits" danced for a short time in ecstasy, only to fall into a kind of trance again a short time later. Here I have to honestly admit that this exceeded my mental abilities and I couldn't comprehend what was going on, but it was definitely exciting and a photo motif was waiting almost every time rum was turned. But the spirits, I understand, are an elementary part of the festivities, because the Ewe believe that they can communicate with the spirits of their ancestors. That is why they have a correspondingly great deal of respect.
After these overwhelming first impressions of the Godgibe Festival, we went to the dormitory in which we tried to gather some energy for the next day, because it was to be expected that there would be more strenuous days ahead after the experience. The starting signal the next day (literally, because shots announced the beginning of the event) was the sacrifice and corresponding slaughter of three cows, before continuing with the usual mix of dance, music and speeches. It was also a very special moment for the people here when important chiefs took the honour stake and took their VIP seats. The people didn't tell me much, but some of the Chiefs seemed to have a very high rank with the Ewe and so it turned out that I knelt in the sand in front of one of them. For a long time it would have been almost unthinkable for me to get down on his knees in front of a politician, but special circumstances require special behaviour. After all, you don't go to Ghana to stubbornly stick to the usual way of life.
Every day of the Godigbe Festival has a certain dress code, which became particularly clear on Monday, when almost all the people on the premises were dressed in white (see portraits of the previous double page). This explained to me the very large luggage of my companions for a few days, about which I had wondered during the outward journey. On this day, too, intensive dances, the spirits and some speeches and prayers continued to the great highlight, which consisted of planned choreographies of various groups, which presented gifts to the Chiefs and the spirits in processions. It was therefore a kind of mix of competition and deference, which marked the end of this fascinating festival and reunited virtually all the different elements.
In the evening we had another big drink before we made our way back to Accra the next day. There were some crazy days there in Aflao, but again I was able to put together some pieces of the puzzle, how this country works and what moves some people. This festival is of great importance to the Ewe and many in Accra who could not attend regretted it very much. Every two years it attracts people from all sorts of corners from near and far who feel connected to this culture. At the same time, I haven't seen another white man in all the days, which was a big difference, for example, to Chale Wote. Unfortunately, it was never enough during my stays to participate in other major festivals. For future trips, however, this is definitely still on the list, because in order to understand the tradition and culture of the different ethnic groups or at least to gain an impression, their respective festivals are indispensable.