Ghana is a country rich in culture, and traditional festivals play an important role in preserving and celebrating this heritage. From the colourful parades of the Akwasidae festival in the Ashanti region to the bonfires of the Bugum Chugu festival in the Northern region, each festival is a unique expression of Ghanaian identity. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most popular festivals in Ghana and provide practical advice for travellers who want to experience them for themselves.
Festivals by Region
The Ashanti Kingdom’s Akwasidae festival is held every two weeks and is a celebration of ancestral spirits. Chiefs and drummers dressed in colourful regalia process through the streets, paying homage to their ancestors and calling upon their blessings for the future.
Greater Accra Region
The Homowo festival is a harvest festival celebrated by the Ga people of Accra. The festival involves drumming, dancing, and feasting on traditional foods such as kenkey and palm nut soup. The festival is also known for its “Kpokpoi” ritual, which involves the sprinkling of food on the ground to ward off evil spirits.
The Bugum Chugu festival is a fire festival celebrated by the people of the Northern region. The festival marks the end of the rainy season and the beginning of the dry season. Bonfires are lit, and drumming and dancing ensue as people celebrate the new season and offer thanks to their ancestors.
The Hogbetsotso festival is celebrated by the Ewe people of the Volta region. The festival commemorates the migration of the Ewe people to their current home in southeastern Ghana. Celebrations include colourful parades and dances, as well as a grand durbar where chiefs pay homage to their ancestors.
The Fetu Afahye festival is a harvest festival celebrated by the people of Cape Coast. The festival involves cleansing rituals, grand durbar, and an important seafood feast. The festival also involves the sprinkling of food on the ground to honour the ancestors and a purification of the community.
The Kundum festival is celebrated by the Ahanta and Nzema people in the Western region. The festival is a thanksgiving celebration for a bountiful harvest and protection from evil spirits. It involves music, dancing, and the wearing of colourful traditional clothes.
Planning Your Festival Experience
Accommodation For travellers, finding the right accommodation is essential for a memorable festival experience. From budget-friendly guesthouses to luxury hotels, there is no shortage of options for all types of travellers. Popular booking sites include booking.com, Airbnb, and hotels.com.
Transportation Getting around Ghana can be tricky, especially during festival seasons. Buses and taxis are readily available, and many rental car companies offer rental services. You can also opt for guided tours, which provide a hassle-free way to explore the country. Be sure to book your transportation in advance, as many transportation services get fully booked during festivals.
Safety and Etiquette Festivals in Ghana are lively and often boisterous celebrations. As a traveller, it’s important to be respectful of local customs and to dress modestly. Taking photos is usually allowed, but it’s best to ask permission before taking pictures of people. Always carry a copy of your passport and keep your valuables safe. Be cautious of pickpockets and street vendors, and avoid walking alone at night.
Each festival has its unique features, and it’s important to know what to expect when planning your visit. For example, at the Hogbetsotso festival, visitors are encouraged to wear traditional clothing, while the Bugum Chugu festival involves bonfires and drumming throughout the night. To make the most of your festival experience, consider joining a guided tour or seeking out a local guide who can provide insider tips and help you navigate the festivities.
Supporting Local Communities
While attending festivals in Ghana, travellers have a great opportunity to support local communities. One way to do this is by purchasing handmade crafts and souvenirs. You can find colourful textiles, carvings, and jewellery at local markets, which support local artisans and provide a sustainable source of income.
Another way to support local communities is by trying local cuisine. At the Fetu Afahye festival, for example, seafood is a big part of the celebrations, and the local cuisine is a highlight of the festival. Sampling traditional foods and drinks helps support local vendors and promotes the rich culinary traditions of Ghana.
Finally, cultural workshops and classes are a great way to learn more about Ghanaian culture and support local communities. Many organisations offer workshops on drumming, dance, and other cultural traditions. These workshops provide a hands-on way to immerse yourself in local culture and support local artists and artisans.
Sustainable tourism is an essential component of responsible travel. Organisations such as the Ghana Tourism Authority work to promote sustainable tourism in Ghana, including eco-lodges, community-based tourism initiatives, and other sustainable travel options.
If you’re interested in supporting sustainable tourism in Ghana, consider staying at an eco-lodge or supporting a community-based tourism initiative. These organisations provide an immersive way to experience Ghanaian culture while also supporting local communities and the environment.
Ghana’s festivals are a unique and colourful celebration of its rich culture and history. By exploring the diverse festivals and cultures of Ghana, travellers can gain a deeper understanding of the country and support local communities. By following these tips and guidelines, travellers can experience the vibrant traditions of Ghana in a responsible and sustainable way.