Akwanbo: Linking the living with our ancestors

Akwanbo: Linking the living with our ancestors


Posted 16 September 2011, by Ebo Quansah, The Chronicle, ghanaian-chronicle.com


‘From the way children especially, were excited, I would not be surprised if a pupil at Ekrawfo or Essarkyir named Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo as the Head of State of the Republic instead of the Ekumfi-born President John Evans Atta Mills.’

Five days at the holy  village brought its own   reward. The air was  fresher, noise from the deadly insects and bites of mosquitoes were completely absent, and I enjoyed sitting out in the open late into the night, and just before day break. I was also able to reminiscence with colleagues and classmates I have not seen for several decades.

I was back home at Ekumfi Ekrawfo for the annual Akwanbo Festival. The festival had its own attraction. The Asafo drums, the durbar and the youth on a route march and a float, added to the colour of the occasion. But it was meeting friends and colleagues I have not seen for several decades that added to the spice of the occasion.

There was a particular mate we used to tease in the good old days at the Ekrawfo T.I. Ahmadiyya Middle School. Kwame Affam Quansah is a cousin. In the early formative years, poking fun at each other enriched life in the holy village. I would like to believe we were in early Middle School when the incident happened. It might have been while we were in Form One or Two, when Kwame Affam volunteered to write a date on a building which cement work had just been completed.

It was a day in October. Up to today, nobody has really bothered his or her head about the day and year. What has ever remained significant was the writing of October, which was done without the T. For the rest of the period, Kwame Affam’s name changed. Both the young and the old called him Ocomber, which was exactly what he wrote on the building that day.

I have not met him for a very long time. Last Sunday, Kwame Affam and I met during church service at the local Methodist Church. In between prayers, we recalled our school days and particularly, the incident which begat Ocomber. We continued right after the service, ending up with a few bottles of cold beer before we rushed to the durbar grounds late in the afternoon.

Trust trivial issues to lead to misunderstandings in the rural setting. Apparently, Nana Kwesi Attah, Chief of Ekumfi Ekrawfo, had brought down some white investors to undertake a number of agriculture-related projects in town. My understanding is that the investors are offering GH¢250 a month for hiring farm hands. Throughout the Akwanbo festival period, one was invited to settle this or that dispute, arising out of someone’s inability to gain employment with the new investors in town.

Akwanbo was fun. When some of us arrived on Friday morning, the town was already in a festive mood. The programme started on Thursday, with the traditional clearing of the path our ancestors took to settle at Ekrawfo. In a way, Akwanbo links the living with our ancestors.

Friday, was reserved for families to attend to their ancestral groves and family matters. When the Asafo drums began to beat on Saturday afternoon, the drum beat summoned the youth and the old to be part of the procession. In times past, the drums were carried from Otabenadze, through Atakwaa, Ekrawfo, and ended at the two shrines at Gyinankoma, where libation was poured, before dispersal.

The story is told that the warrior, who led the people from Mankessim, after the Fantis had migrated from Techiman, was Ankomah. According to the oral account of the history, Ankomah was asked by the chiefs and elders to stop because night was falling and legs were tired. Where Ankomah stopped became a settlement, and was named Gyinankoma, to commemorate the grounds where Ankomah stopped.

Later, someone left Gyinankoma and began a settlement over-looking the hills. As more households joined the new settlement, the town was called Ekrawfo, signifying a new township. From Ekrawfo, a hunter called Atta went hunting in a nearby forest. As time went on, he settled in the forest.

People visiting the settlement in the forest referred to it as Atta’s Forest or Atta No Kwaa No Mu. That was corrupted to read Attakwaa. From Attakwaa, a group of people moved on and settled just at the foot of the Obaakwaa Hills. It was said that the hill was so steep that old women especially, could not climb it.

Consequently, the settlement was referred to as Aberewa Anfo, an old woman could not climb. Now, it spots a new name. Traditionalists have still not been able to explain the name change. What is important is that the people of the four towns are bound together. They have a common ancestry.

Consequently, Gyinankoma, Ekrawfo, Attakwaa and Otabenadze celebrate the annual Akwanbo Festival together. There used to be two Asafo companies – Gyinankoma and Otabenadze in one group, with Ekrawfo and Atakwaa in the other.

Unfortunately, as a result of an on-going chieftaincy dispute, the four towns are going solo in the celebration of the annual Akwanbo Festival. Since Ekrawfo is larger than the three other towns, the attraction has always been at Ekrawfo.

The highlight this year, and every other year, was the durbar of the chiefs and the people on Sunday afternoon. Activities though began much earlier. In the morning, there was a float organised at Ekumfi Ekrawfo. With a disc jockey and musical instruments aboard a truck, the young men and women of the town followed on foot, singing and dancing.

A live band from Mankessim was in town from Thursday to Sunday entertaining guests to the festival. On Sunday, when the grand durbar of chiefs and people climaxed the occasion, politicians from the two leading parties in the country – the New Patriotic Party and the National Democratic Congress – arrived late, leaving the floor to the locals.

Mr. Nazir Keelson, Headmaster of the Postin T.I. Ahmadiyya Senior High School, chaired the function, with my humble self becoming the Guest Speaker.

I encouraged teachers to continue with their sacrificial job of preparing pupils of the local school effectively to pass the Basic Entrance Certificate Examinations (BECE) and qualify for the Senior High School programme.  In a year when schools in the Central Region appear to have done badly in the BECE, it was encouraging that 20 pupils out of the 28 presented qualified for the Senior High School from the Ekrawfo T.I. Ahmadiyya Junior High School.

It was not the best, considering that Ekrawfo had very distinguished performances in the examinations. I asked parents to interest themselves in the education of their wards by following their progress, and releasing them from tedious house chores, to enable the children to concentrate on their studies.

The paradox of educating the rural child is that while pupils tended to do better at a time electricity had not been extended to some of these communities, the children are not taking advantage of rural electricity to learn. It looks like the children are misapplying the opportunities available to them now. Instead of concentrating on their books, the rural folks are spending more time watching television and videos.

The NPP parliamentary candidate, Ato Cudjoe, was the first of the political guests to arrive. He charged the atmosphere by telling the local folks to examine their living conditions as a guide to casting their votes next year. He said the NDC came promising the moon, and had rather saddled the nation with huge debts.

He castigated the Member of Parliament (MP) for Mfansteman East, George Kuntu Blankson, for wasting the representation of Ekumfi in Parliament. He alleged that the MP had failed to initiate any project with his share of the MP’s Common fund, and invited the people to vote for the NPP candidate to ensure that Ekumfi, known on the political terrain as Mfantseman East, was effectively represented in Parliament.

He was still on the floor when Mr. Kuntu Blankson arrived with an entourage of NDC party faithful. He claimed to have brought many development projects into the area, and promised that the Essuehyia-Ajumako road had been awarded on contract, something ‘the previous administration could not do in eight years.’

Just before the durbar ended, word filtered through that Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, flagbearer of the NPP in the 2012 presidential election, would come visiting Ekumfi, including Ekrawfo on Tuesday. Throughout the night and the next day, the topic for discussion was the impending visit.

Ekrawfo has always voted for the NPP since 1992, in spite of the fact that the constituency almost always returned the NDC candidate. In some way, therefore, Ekrawfo is a departure from the norm in Ekumfi. The impending visit of Nana Akufo-Addo was definitely the biggest news in town. Even children looked forward to the visit of the man likely to be the next President of the Republic.

On the day of the visit itself, people were in an expectant mood. In the end, the people of Ekrawfo were deeply disappointed when word came very late in the day that as a result of unforeseen circumstances, Nana would terminate at Essarkyir, the next town. Even then, people poured out to Essarkyir from Ekrawfo in their numbers to cheer the presidential candidate.

In spite of the fact that Nana arrived when it was already dark, people lined up on the main street to cheer the NPP delegation all the way to the chief’s palace, and ended up at the 10 bed-room residence of Ato Cudjoe, the young man on whose broad shoulders the people of Ekumfi’s fate in Parliament hangs.

From the way children especially, were excited, I would not be surprised if a pupil at Ekrawfo or Essarkyir named Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo as the Head of State of the Republic instead of the Ekumfi-born President John Evans Atta Mills.



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