Homowo is a festival celebrated by the Ga people of Ghana, occupying the Greater Accra Region of Ghana.
As a result of the festival been celebrated in Accra, the capital city of Ghana, it has earned a lot of international recognition.
Homowo is celebrated to remember how the ancestors of the Ga people survived severe famine and hunger that plagued them as they were migrating to Ghana. According to Oral tradition, the GA people acted industriously and planted cereal crops like maize and millet to combat the hunger.
As they worked hard to farm, the gods rewarded them bountifully with rain and bumper harvest. So after harvesting the crops, they jubilated and initiated the celebration, “Homowo”! “Homowo” simply means “hooting over hunger” or “hooting at hunger”. The festival is celebrated annually to express the cultural value of being industrious, creative and resourceful—as a way of ensuring the younger generation pick up these rich values of the ancestors.
The celebration of Homowo usually begins in May when the Ga people begin planting maize and millet. The period and date for the Homowo festival celebration is selected and announced by the Dentu Priest or the Ga-Mantse (King of the Ga People). During the celebration period, there is a ban in Accra on drumming
It is believed that the serenity, calmness and silence in the Ga-Traditional Area would give the gods the peace of mind to prepare for the harvest, bless the people with bumper harvest and protect them. The festival is celebrated at various quarters of the Ga Traditional Area before the final celebration is celebrated by the entire area. Homowo festival is marked with parading twins on the streets of the Ga Traditional area who are dressed in white calico.
While the celebration date varies, the festival is usually celebrated in the month of August, the same month where the cereal crops like maize and millet are harvested. The harvested maize is used to prepare a traditional food called “ kpokpoi.” Kpokpoi is spread through the Ga Traditional area by the chief priest accompanied by the “Kpanlogo” dance.
The festival is climaxed with a grand durbar, attended Ga Mantse and other ethnic chiefs, Ga-chief priests, people of origin, national delegates, politicians and foreigners. The Ga-Mantse gives his annual speech, and advises the Ga people to work hard and develop the community. The chief priests also pour libation to pray for the people, ask for blessing and protection from the gods. There is merry making, dancing, drumming and socialization with the streets of Accra.
SYMBOLS AND CUSTOMS
Ban on Drumming
Traditionally a monthlong ban on drumming, music, and other loud noise is imposed sometime in June, before the celebrations associated with Homowo begin. Nightclubs close down and even the playing of drums in church is forbidden, because it is believed that the gods need silence in order to do their work, and too much noise might frighten the spirits of the departed.
This ban on noise has triggered conflicts in recent years between Ga traditionalists and African Christians, for whom drumming is an integral part of worshipping their God. Many merchants and businesspeople, such as taxi drivers, have complained that the ban on noise and the closing of nightclubs and other establishments during this month triggers a serious drop in business. The ban is still strictly enforced in most areas, but tensions between the Ga and the Christians, particularly in the capital city of Accra, have run high in recent years.
The so-called Homowo Dance takes place after the family meal on Homowo Day. It often begins with Ga priests drumming on their knees-a symbolic act representing the “hooting at hunger” that took place many hundreds of years ago-and ends in a free-for-all dance where men and women wear whatever they want (including each other’s clothes), bump into one another without fear of causing offense, and sing songs that make fun of otherwise prominent citizens and officials. The idea here is to get rid of all the normal social constraints and differences in status, to mock the very idea of hunger in the midst of abundance, and to show joy and gratitude for the gifts that the gods have bestowed on the Ga people. Homowo
The traditional Ga food known as kpekpei or kpokpoi is made from steamed, fermented corn meal and palm oil, often with okra or smoked fish added, served with palm soup. It is traditional for everyone in a family to dip into the same bowl or pot of kpekpei at the same time as a symbolic reminder of the fact that distinctions of age, rank, and gender are overlooked during the Homowo celebration.
In addition to being served at the family feast, kpekpei is sprinkled by Ga priests around residential areas and cemeteries as a tribute to the dead ancestors and as a way of symbolically “nourishing” them. In private homes, the head of the family might sprinkle some kpekpei in places where the departed ancestors are likely to find it, especially around the doorways. After this ritual, the dancing, drumming, and hooting that lie at the heart of the Homowo celebration begin.
There is a theory that Homowo is rooted in the Jewish celebration of PASSOVER, and that kpekpei plays a role similar to that of matzoh or unleavened bread. The fact that the Ga often apply red or ochre clay to their doorposts during Homowo to keep evil spirits away, just as the Jews sprinkled blood on their doorways to keep the Angel of Death from harming their firstborn sons, would seem to support this theory.
The Ga regard all multiple births as a particularly blessed event. Because Homowo is a harvest celebration, twins and triplets, as a symbol of fertility, receive special treatment. After having white clay rubbed on their skin to emphasize their purity, young twins are given a special meal of eggs and yams. Their mothers ask the gods to bless these children and give thanks for the gift of their birth.