Tour to Ghana: Special Dipo, Aboakyer & Akwasidae Festival -Travel with an Anthropologist

We will witness how ethnic-cultural rites and traditions are still celebrated and strongly hold their cultural power. Thus, we will attend three important festivals celebrated by three different cultural groups: a religious, an institutional and a cultural-societal one.

Every year, Fanti thank the God of Winneba through the Aboakyer: the “deer hunting festival”. Ashanti people are proud of their cultural origins and very much attached to their king. Indeed, every six weeks, they celebrate the Akwasidae to show respect to their king. Every year, Krobo people gather together in the “capital” of Krobo-land: Akosombo to celebrate the female initiation rite, the rite to become a real Krobo woman.

During the trip, we will try to understand how people still define themselves through their cultural-ethnic origins while claiming and living as Ghanaian citizens. Thus, we will dive into the lively and modern capital: Accra, strolling around art galleries, pubs with live music and the poor district of James Towns, the original settlement of Accra.

Ghana will give us the best scenario to understand why tradition and modernity cannot live one without another.

BIOGRAPHY – Carlotta Zanzottera

“If culture is not the same as cultural change, then it is nothing at all”

I would like to introduce myself with the following anecdote which happened when I was six years old:

Teacher: “which job would you like to get?”

Me: “I want to be an anthropologist”

“What’s that?”

“I want to travel to Africa and meet and talk to people”

“You mean a missionary”  

“No, I mean an anthropologist”.

Back then I’ve just returned from my first trip to Africa when I decided that I would have done this for the rest of my life….somehow…little then I knew, I took a Bachelor’s in Philosophy at Milan University  and a Master’s in Cultural Anthropology at Utrecht University.

My field of expertise is cultural change which I study through the lens of migration and globalization. I have done research on topics such as female initiation rites in modern Zambia and Ghana, the sense of identity of Turkish-Dutch second generation and the issues of integration of Eritrean unaccompanied refugee minors in the Netherlands.

Since a year I work with TransAfrica, going back where I started from: West Africa

  • Duration: 10 days
  • Guide: English
Price from 2 769 € Send request
Day 1

Accra in

Arrival in Accra (Ghana) and transfer to the hotel.

Free time to relax.

Day 2 & Day 3

Dipo female initiation rite & Voodoo

Drive to Krobo land to attend the Dipo Festival.

Dipo is a female initiation rite which aims at turning a girl into a woman. The entrance into womanhood will be led according to the tradition and girls who successfully go through this rite can become (good) wives. The girls undergo a series of rituals, tests and tasks to prove both their chastity and their being ready for adult life. During the final steps of the rite, the girls are elegantly decorated; their breasts are bare for everyone to see.

During this stay we will also attend a voodoo ceremony.

In a remote hidden village we will join a Voodoo ceremony: the frenetic rhythm of the drums and chants of the followers help to call the voodoo spirit who takes possession of some of the dancers who in turn fall into a deep trance: eyes rolling back, grimaces, convulsions, insensitivity to fire or pain. Sakpata, Heviesso, Mami Water and other voodoos show their presence by taking possession of their followers. In this narrow village, surrounded by the magic atmosphere of a voodoo ceremony, we will finally understand how deeply-rooted traditions still are in African soul.

Day 4

African metropolis

It is time to leave Krobo-land to head to the metropolis of Africa: ACCRA!

Today we will focus on James Town: the original settlement of the city inhabited by Ga people. Other than enjoying the atmosphere we will visit the reminisces of the time of the slave trade and the old lighthouse. We will try to visit one of the many boxing gyms: the popular sport among the youngsters and lastly, we will see JamesTown Cafe to see what they are doing to foster community, the exhibit at ArchiAfrika, and the graffiti space across the way.

We end the day with a visit to an atelier specialized in “fantasy coffins”. These unique handcrafted coffins can reflect any shape: fruits, animals, fish, cars, airplanes…. Imagination is the only key!

Day 5

Accra: West End

Today we focus on the very modern soul of Accra.

We will visit some art galleries like Artists Alliance Gallery, Wild Gecko Handicrafts, Gallery 1957 etc.

It won’t be surprising that Accra is the set of the show “an African city” the equivalent of “Sex and the city” created by a Ghanaian woman. We will stroll around the design and cloths shops form the show, hopefully having the chance to meet some designers who could explain us their works.

Day 6

Slaves’ Castles

Elmina Castle is the oldest European building in Africa. At different times the castle has been used as a warehouse to trade gold, ivory, and eventually slaves. The castle we visit today is the result of successive extension works and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Outside the castle, there is a spectacular fishing village with lots of large colourful fishing boats.

Every day these canoes are guided by skilled fishermen who face the strong ocean for a living. The alleys in the old town have a lively atmosphere, going back to a time when Elmina was a wild colonial town.

Day 7

Elmina & Winneba

The day starts with the visit of Cape Coast castle: was built by the Swedish in 1653. From 1657 to 1664 it changed hands many times as it was conquered by the Danes, the Dutch, the Fanti (a local tribe), the Swedes and finally the British. Today, it hosts a museum on the history of slave trade.

In the afternoon transfer to Winneba where the atmosphere will be joyful, people are getting ready for the next day festival. We will walk around taking the opportunity to join the excitement. Fetish priests and worshippers pour libations to the shrines and then walk across the town with their fetish.

Day 8

Aboakyer festival

Aboakyer festival, in Winneba, (also known as the ‘deer hunting festival’) is organized to honor the tribal God of the town: the God Penkye Otu receives the sacrifice of a deer.

The festival originated about three hundred years ago, when Winneba was first settled. People believed they managed to establish their homes here only thanks to the help of their God and they are still under its protection.

This festival is the expression of their gratitude involving two groups of people in Winneba, the Tuafo and the Dentsifo. They compete with one another to go into the bush and be the first to catch a deer. Armed with only clubs, the group which first catches the animal rushes back home singing war and victory songs. The deer is then presented to the Omanhene who places his bare right foot three times on it.

After completing this ritual, the deer is lifted up and carried through the town streets by singing and dancing men to the the shrine of Penkye Otu. In the final act of the festival the Tuafo and the Dentsifo come together before their God and sacrifice the deer.

Day 9

Akwasidae festival

In the Ashanti calendar certain days each year are set aside for a very special celebration at the Royal Palace in Kumasi and this traditional ceremony takes place in one of the last African Kingdoms which has maintained its ancient rituals still alive.

During this celebration, the King sits under a spectacular colorful umbrella, is adorned in vivid cloth and massive centuries old jewelry  and is surrounded by the Ashanti elders and advisors.  In front of the King a narrow passage of dignitaries is also formed, representing all roles and positions of power within the kingdom: sword and knife bearers, armed guards, carriers of beautiful ostrich feathers fans etc.

The ceremony is then made up of a procession of royal court attendants bringing gifts, storytellers reciting the history of the Ashanti Kings, drummers & trumpeters playing horns of ivory. We will witness and experience the splendor, the flavor and the atmosphere of one of last great African monarchs.

Depending on the time, we will visit the Ashanti cultural centre, a rich collection of Ashanti artefacts in a wonderful reproduction of an Ashanti house.

Day 10

Accra out

Transfer to Accra and to the airport for the flight out.

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