Homowo celebration through La lenses
It is the month of August and the annual Homowo festival of the people of Ga is being marked with pomp and circumstance as it has always been the case over the years.
Homowo is celebrated by the people of Ga Mashie, Osu, La, Teshie, Nungua, Tema, Kpone, Dawhenya, Prampram, and indeed the GaDangme people between May and September every year.
Last Saturday, the people of Ga Mashie climaxed their celebration in Accra.
The people of La have also started the process and will climax the celebration of Homowo on Friday, having started the last bit with various activities and rites for five days.
Homowo, which means hooting at hunger, is celebrated to mark the bumper harvest after a prolonged famine due to drought suffered by their ancestors during their exodus from Israel to their present settlements.
The main characteristic of the festival is the sprinkling of ‘kpokpoi’, the traditional meal prepared from corn.
Aside from the cooking, sprinkling and eating of ‘kpokpoi’, each of the towns has a unique way of celebrating the Homowo festival.
Activities for this year
The La Homowo, which is celebrated with a unique song and dance, known as 'Kpalala' and 'Kpashimo' , spans a period of four months, starting from the third week of May and ending in the second week of September.
It is patronised by people from all walks of life due to its numerous, beautiful and captivating traditional and customary rites, which are the other side attractions, which make it distinct from the others.
This year’s celebration is featuring Kpokpoi Cooking Competition, Traditional Kpa Song Competition, a Junior High School Ga Quiz Competition, an Akwajan Festival (Traditional Wearing of Cloth by Men).
Other activities to spice up the celebration will include arts and sales exhibition, weight lifting competition, health screening, street carnival, La Homowo Fortuna Soccer Tournament, and a La XI vrs Osu XI Football Challenge.
Flashback: Some elders of the La Traditional Council as they observed proceedings of last year’s Homowo
In an interview with Daily Graphic, the Secretary of the Planning Committee, Theodore Adjetey Adjei, said this year’s celebration promised to be one of the best, taking into consideration the number of interesting activities lined up for celebration.
Aside from the activities, he highlighted some of the major cultural rites that would be performed to make the celebration a success.
Series of Rites
Mr Adjei explained that to commence the Homowo celebration, a cleansing rite, known as ‘Blojahejuu’, would be performed at the various shrines of the La State.Then after the ‘Wotejuramo’ rites, slaughtering of animals to sanctify the shrines would be performed.
Other rites like ‘Nmaadums’ and ‘Nmaafaa’, which literally meant the planting and harvesting of millet, will be performed too.
“It is a symbolic rite to ascertain whether all is well with the La State.
The planting is done separately by the various customary stakeholders (Majiatsemei, Wulomei, Wayei, Asafoiatsemei, etc.). Good growth signifies wellness while a bad growth signifies a problem that needs to be addressed”, Mr Adjei explained.
The ‘Yeleyeli’, to wit: eating of yam, is the annual rites for deities and stools and it involves the sanctification of the deities and stools with the slaughtering of animals and thereafter the deities are fed with mashed yam and eggs.
The Secretary of the Planning Committee further said ‘Nshobulems’ was the fishing expedition undertaken to catch the customary fish (tsile) used for the festival.
It is then followed by ‘Gemlilaa’, the rites performed to place a ban on noisemaking.
It is performed by the priests of the various shrines (wulbmsi) at peculiar places within the La town.
Certain activities such as funerals and noisy gatherings are restricted during the ban on noise making and only the festival song 'Kpalala' could be played during the period, he explained.
The next rite is the ‘Alomijpomo’ which starts the day after 'Gbemlilaa' and it is a rite (kitashaa) performed to affirm the resolve of the Chiefs and Elders of the La State to follow through with the Homowo rites without turning back.
“‘Kpafio’ is performed in the night of the Monday after ‘Alomijooms’ and it is also a rite performed to pave way and prepare for the principal La deity, the Lakpa.
Another significant ceremony is the arrival of Gblebii, which Mr Adjei explained that due to the historical ties that existed between the La people and the people of Brekusu (Gble), during the Homowo festival, a delegation would be sent from Gble with some customary items to assist in the performance of rites during the festival.
The homecoming ceremony, known as ‘Lorry Mlitamo’ symbolises the home coming of La indigenes who are domiciled outside La for the Homowo festival.
The rite of the main festival day, Mr Adjei said, was the Kpasolemo.
During Kpasolemo, the Chief Priest of the La State (the Lakpa Wulomo) performs rites to the sacred groove (Wonkoo) and dances with the Naa Yoomo Wulomo, the La Mantse, the La Mankralo and the La Skikitele during the first part of the rites which ends by midday.
The second part of the rites is performed late afternoon, during which the dancing floor is opened to the priestesses (Wayei) and the general public.
The town folks make merry and go on processions through the town during the performance of the rite, they greet one another with special hugs referred to as 'Shakam'.
The ceremony ends at 6 p.m. with the arrival of the Agbumite Manse at the grounds of the rite.