Up the Akuapem ridge

BY: Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng
The Ohum festival of the  Akyems
The Ohum festival of the Akyems

I have always loved the Akuapem people for two principal reasons – the lovely twang in Akuapem Twi and their weather.

One of the jokes about the Akuapems is that even when they are insulting you, they preface it with an apology.

Pure, unadulterated Akuapem Twi is always music to my ears and growing up, I was always excited whenever Madam Vida Koranteng-Asante or Okyeame Adi hosted ‘Adult Education in Akan’ on GBC TV and delivered the programme in flawless Akuapem.

I do try to speak it whenever I am in the company of Akuapems or I go up the mountain – complete with splashes of ‘yiw’ (yes), ‘mmekwan’ (palm nut soup) and ‘nwaw’ (snails) – very much to the amusement of my audience.

Invitation

The other day when a letter landed on my desk from the Mampong Akuapem Traditional Council inviting my boss Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, the Energy Minister, to a durbar of their Ohum festival three days ago, I was delighted to note that the minister had indicated acceptance to attend and receive an award for his contribution to the education sector, in particular the rollout of the Free Senior High School programme.

The Director-General of the National Lottery Authority was also going to receive an honour, together with a few others.

It was yet another opportunity to climb the ridge, even though I have visited or passed through to Kumasi or Koforidua on several occasions.
There was work for the team in the office to do ahead of the trip – a speech to prepare, liaising with the traditional council on a few issues and others.

Perhaps, I have to start considering spending my retirement years up there, given the frisson of excitement I experience whenever such a trip beckons.

The climb

Of course, given that it was Saturday morning, there were several people walking or jogging up the hill to Peduase Lodge from the Ayi Mensah toll booth, in a bid to keep healthy.

Understandably, these were people whose regular jobs were quite sedentary and they drove to and from work every day, which meant the bones and muscles needed to be stretched on Saturdays to remain alive.

I made a mental note to get my pulse racing on weekends, at least. So help me God…

As we made our way up the winding road, I marveled first, over how the early settlers of the ridge found themselves up there, and second, the amount of work that might have gone into building the road.

It is so easy to gloss over some of these things from the security and comforts of one’s car. What took us only a few minutes to get to Peduase Lodge must have taken forever back in the day, before the motor car arrived in this country.

At Peduase, I could not help but admire the panoramic view of Accra spread below us and into the distance, where the land kissed the skies on the horizon.

At night, it is spectacularly beautiful with the carpet of lights and on a clear day one can see very far.

From Peduase, home of the famous Peduase Lodge, the towns rolled by in close proximity – Kitase, Aburi, Obosomase, Tutu and then finally Mampong Akuapem, where the day’s action was to take place.

I am yet to find out the link, if any, between Mampong Akuapem and Asante Mampong. Mampong Akuapem is host to Tetteh Quarshie’s cocoa’s farm, apparently the first in this country and I had to make a mental note to visit there the next time.

Ohum festival

The festival itself, billed as the Ohum Odwira Festival, was a glamorous, if relatively small celebration. It had all the hallmarks of an Akan festival – beautiful kente and other cloths with gold jewelry, an array of colourful umbrellas hovering over one chief or the other, traditional drumming and dancing, pouring of libation and graceful dancers to boot.

The Akuapem Mamponghene, Osabarima Kwame Out Dartey III, looked resplendent and very regal as he sat presiding over affairs.

The programme brochure indicated that ‘we mark the Ohum Odwira Festival to pay homage to our forerunners and honour a generation of industrious citizens who seek the peace, progress and prosperity of Akuapem.’

My forced Akuapem twang came into full play whenever I engaged any of the locals. They put on polite smiles but I am sure that they were grimacing inside as they watched me butcher their language.

I certainly must come over to immerse myself in the language and take a crash course.

Back to Accra

Soon, it was time to leave the sweet, fresh, frothy palm wine and the fresh mountain air behind and head back to Accra.

In many ways, my heart sank in tandem with our downward climb. But as they say, all good things come to an end except the kingdom of God, of course.

Accra can be quite stressful, like many big cities around the world – the traffic, the car fumes, the crowds, the rat race.

I think to maintain one’s sanity, one needs an escape from its claws every now and then, even if it is for a day's return trip to nearby oasis of tranquility, whether it is to stroll in the Aburi Gardens or watch the waves on Prampram beach.

I have nothing but sheer envy for my two friends who live at Aburi and Akropong, respectively and commute to work in the centre of Accra on a daily basis.

I understand this weekend is the big Odwira festival at Akropong, seat of the Akuapem state.

A couple of friends have insisted that I should be there. They need not bother because I need no persuasion whatsoever to climb up the ridge.

In fact, I need every excuse I can lay hands on, and more.

Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng,

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