Sunday, November 22, 2015

Ghanaian Harvest Festival "Homowo" (information & videos)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases a 1999 article about how the Ghanaian, West African harvest festival called "Homowo" is celebrated in Teshie, Ghana. That article written by Samuel Wiafe is given in its entirety except for photographs and an editor's statement.

Eight videos of Homowo celebrations are also included in this post along with some comments.

The content of this post is presented for historical, cultural, and aesthetic purposes.

All copy rights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are featured in this post and thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Special thanks to Samuel Wiafe, the author of the article about Homowo which is replicated below. Thanks also to the publishers of these examples on YouTube.

In the Ga language of Ghana, "homowo" means "hoot at hunger". Read my comment below for an explanation of the English meaning of that term.

Note: This is the most thorough online article about Homowo festival than I have found. I've chosen to reproduce this entire article (without photographs and that site editor's beginning comment) to help ensure its dissemination. Please contact me if this article should not be reproduced in its entirety.
From Issue 311
Hooting at hunger
"Homowo is an annual festival celebrated among the Ga-speaking people. It originated during a period of great famine which was eventually followed by a bumper harvest of grain and fish. The word homowo literally means ‘hooting at hunger’. The one I am going to describe is specific to the people of Teshie, near Accra.
The celebrations begin with the light rains in May. During this month the seven principal priests perform the initial rites – the ritual and symbolic sowing of corn. The main festival, however, starts in August with the Nsho Bulemo ceremony, which involves the pacification of the sea god. A bull is slaughtered by the chief priest and the carcass is cast into the sea. A few fisherfolk representing the seven principal clans embark on fishing expeditions. If they return with a good catch, that signifies a good Homowo will be possible, but returning empty-handed means the Homowo will have to be suspended or postponed.

This is followed by a ban on drumming, dancing or the burying of corpses. Night clubs and dance halls are closed down and all noisy activities are forbidden for another ceremony known as Gbemlilaa (‘Closing of the Road’). The idea of the ban is to enable the gods to perform their activities quietly.

After this ceremony the seven clans parade in groups for fortnightly street processions known as Kpashimo. These processions enable members of the groups to learn Homowo songs, as well as providing an opportunity for bachelors and spinsters to get a spouse of their choice.

Two weeks later the celebrations start in earnest with the arrival of Ga people who have travelled out of their traditional area and now return in joyous groups to be reunited with their families. They arrive with farm produce like pepper, onions, corn and okra, all of which form the main ingredients of the traditional Homowo food, Kpokpoi. This adds a lot of spice to an already exciting town.

At dawn on Tuesday feverish food preparations begin. Soon after midday the head of each household sprinkles the food around all the doorsteps of the Teshie people. The chief and elders also sprinkle at well-noted places where the gods settle – a ritual said to feed the spirits of the departed. Lunch is not served until all these rites and rituals have been observed.
Everyone eats as much as they want, irrespective of their class or social status. On festive occasions like this all households are open to everyone and all visitors are welcome. Family members who are not able to come home for the meal are sent theirs, wherever they may be, so they can taste and feel the love and unity of their children and parents.

Wednesday is set aside as a remembrance day. On this day people openly weep and others drink their heads out, remembering their lost departed ones. Also, minor and major quarrels and misunderstandings are settled amicably. Sunday marks the climax of the Homowo street procession. The seven groups wearing their colourful costumes go through the principal streets singing songs that praise well-behaved members of the community and rebuke the bad ones.

During the period of the festival, parties and sporting activities are held so that talent can be unearthed. In the sporting sphere there are competitions such as boxing, football, table tennis, a regatta and cycling. Other tribes as well as foreigners – especially our brothers and sisters from the diaspora – also take part, reflecting the national and international dimensions of the Homowo.

The following Saturday marks the official end of the festival. On the eve, a vigil is kept for the Gbé gblemo ritual which lifts the bans on drumming, dancing and all noisy activities. At noon the chief priest, dressed in an immaculate white loincloth and patterns made from white clay and red tree-bark, carries the se se (a large wooden bowl filled with spiritually purifying water) on the street procession amidst singing, dancing and drumming. The se se is presumed to be very healing and powerful, driving off evil spirits. All one needs to do is to put money into the se se for the potent water to be sprinkled over you. The procession continues until it reaches the community shrine, where the priest empties the se se. People from all walks of life scramble frantically for the money.

The excitement continues to the nearby beach where people joyously swim in the sea. It is believed they have washed their misfortunes, sorrows and calamities of the previous year into the water and can now look to the future with a lot of hope, confidence and aspiration.

Some people may think Homowo is a fetish. But I think it is good that we know and appreciate our culture.

Samuel Wiafe is a student of marketing and an aspiring writer who lives in Teshie.

These examples are given in chronological order according to their publishing dates on YouTube with the oldest dated example given first.

Example #1: Gbemlilaa: the beggining of the Teshie Homowo festival

BRC Designs, Uploaded on Aug 14, 2011

The Gbemlilaa, which bans drumming and singing and marks the start of the month long Homowo festival in Teshie.
This video documents participants walking through the streets chanting if not singing, but there is no drumming.

Example #2: Sempe Homowo Festival 2012 (part 1)

Sowah Mensah, Published on Aug 19, 2012

Asenta-Oba is a Ga TV magazine programme, presented by a seasoned radio and Television presenter known as Naa Shormeh Nortey on GTV, every Tuesday at 9:30pm...


seidu adamu Published on Jul 26, 2013

This year's Osu Homowo festival has been launched with a number of activities to commemorate the event. The theme for the celebration, celebrating Peace, Education, and development for a better community, is to help improve the lives of the people of Osu. A number of activities lined up for the celebration of the Homowo festival by the chiefs and people of Osu includes, a cleanup exercise, inter- community football gala, health screening, cooking contest, sprinkling of Kpokpoi and a durbar to round up the festival.

Launching the festival, the chief of Osu, and the president of the Osu Traditional Council, Nii Okwei Kinka Dowouna said, even though Osu is notable for housing Governmental Monuments, including the historic Osu Castle, the area has not seen the kind of development befitting its status.

He said, the People of Osu have not seen peace over the past 60 years, hence this is the time for the people to embrace the relatively peaceful atmosphere.

Example #4: LET'S TALK FOOD: Kpokpoi (Homowo)

Infoboxdaily, Published on Sep 1, 2014

Every year, the Ga people in Ghana celebrate the Homowo Festival. During this celebration, they prepare a special dish called Kpokpoi. Watch a little bit of history.


Gabriel Obodai Torgbor-Ashong, Published on Sep 10, 2014
The GOT in the title is probably the publisher's initials.
In the video the narrator said that during the Homowo festival it is traditional for people living outside their home village to return home. This video shows a homecoming parade of cars in which people returning home show off the food and expensive liquor which they bring to share with their family and others. They also perform aashaka, which the narrator defined as “hugging someone close to you, especially someone of the opposite sex”.

Example #6: 2014 Teshie Homowo festival

Exigency Ghana, Published on Nov 19, 2014

A Exigency Ghana coverage of the 2014 Homowo festival celebrated by the people of Teshie.

Example #7: Homowo: Ghana's biggest traditional harvest festival


CCTV Africa, Published on Aug 31, 2015

In Ghana, there's just one week left of the country's traditional month long harvest festival Called "homowo". The celebration has been marked for generations by Ghana's traditional Ga tribe. Our correspondent Katerina Vittozzi went to one town on the outskirts of the capital, where the party was in full swing.
The narrator said that this annual celebration is held throughout the month of August. In addition to commemorating the end of hunger, Homowo provides opportunities for celebrants to publicly vent their anger and frustrations with songs and chants about current political subjects and events and social topics including political losses of Ghana’s national football (soccer) team. An example of such venting is the video given below as Example #8.

Example #8: Teshie youth lambast Pres. Mahama at Homowo Festival

Pulse Ghana, Published on Sep 7, 2015
Teshie youth lambast Pres. Mahama at Homowo Festival

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  1. Some videos of Homowo and aashaka include scenes of topless women.

    However, Pancocojams has a policy not to include videos with this content in order to better ensure that this blog’s content is accepted for use in USA public schools and after school centers.

  2. In the Ga language of Ghana, West Africa, the word "homowo" means "to hoot at hunger":

    In American English, the word "hoot" usually refers to the sound an owl makes, or is a description of something that is funny and out of the ordinary. Also, in the United States, the fictitious character Woodsy Owl is an owl icon for the United States Forest Service who is most famous for the motto "Give a hoot — don't pollute!" That saying is a play on words as the word "hoot" has the double meaning of as a colloquial term for "caring about something" as well as the sound that the owl is said to make.

    However, these additional definitions of "hoot" from are what "hoot" means in reference to the Ghanaian festival:
    " To make a loud raucous cry, especially of derision or contempt.

    To shout down or drive off with jeering cries: hooted the speaker off the platform."