The celebration of the Millet Festival, among the Krobo people, is rich in colours and jewels. It happens every year during the harvest period. A terrific ceremony and a great time of joy to thank the ancestral spirits and to invoke protection for the year which is coming up.
Tour to Ghana: the Africa beyond the time
Come and live twelve-day adventure in a spirit of an “expedition” that will take you to the heart of West Africa through Ghana, a country incredibly rich in traditions and increasing modernity.
This trip is perfect for all those in love with this timeless Africa, beautifully colored, where local markets release the nice smell of spices.
Especially for those who admire the frenetic but delicate rhythms and steps of the ritual dancers or are amazed by the abundance of gold of the Ashanti traditional ceremonies.
Or, again, for those who are moved by the slave trade castles and for all of us who want to satisfy their endless curiosity by meeting witches that we will eventually meet after crossing the charming Volta region. Even witches have pure kind eyes!
- Duration: 12 days
- Guide: English speaking
IN THE GULF OF GUINEA, Arrival in Accra
Upon arrival at the Accra airport in Ghana, you will be assisted with your baggage and transferred to your hotel.
City tour of Accra.
Accra, the capital of Ghana, is an interesting city that, although is quickly evolving, has kept its own identity, reflected in both modern and old areas where traditional activities continue to hold sway.
We will visit the area of the coffin makers, with their elaborately shaped coffins representing fruits, animals, fish, cars, airplanes…. and the only limit is the intended occupant’s imagination. Originally coming from Africa, these flamboyant coffin designs are part of collections all over the world and exhibited in museums.
We have scheduled a visit to the National Museum, one of the first works of independent Ghana.
The life of the native people unfolds facing the ocean: a village surrounded by a city! Here, economic activities follow different rules than those governing “the city” (business area), only hundreds of meters away.
SLAVE TRADE CASTLES
In the morning visit of Elmina Castle, the oldest European building in Africa, erected by the Portuguese in the XV century. 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, a wonderful fishing village with lots of large colorful fishing boats – every day these canoes are guided by skilled fishermen across strong ocean waves and currents, “fighting” to earn a living.
Late morning arrival in Kumasi, the historical and spiritual capital of the old Ashanti Kingdom. The Ashanti people were one of the most powerful nations in Africa until the end of the XIX century, when the British annexed Ashanti Country to their Gold Coast colony. The tribute paid today to the Asantehene (=King) is the best evidence of their past splendour and strength. With nearly one million inhabitants, Kumasi is a sprawling city with a fantastic central market, one of the biggest in Africa. Every type of Ashanti craft (leather goods, pottery, Kente cloth) is found here, along with just about every kind of tropical fruit and vegetable.
In the afternoon we participate – if available – in a traditional Ashanti funeral, attended by mourners wearing beautifully red or black togas. We say “funerals” but it means a “festive” celebration: the deceased in fact is believed to be still with his/her family and through this ceremony he/she becomes an ancestor. Relatives and friends gather, socialize and celebrate his/her memory. The chief arrives surrounded by his court under the shade of large umbrellas while drums give rhythm to the dancers whose intricate moves are highly symbolic
On a Sunday morning, Kumasi wakes up slowly and the streets of the city, not too busy, become like a charming and interesting stage to any curious traveller.
We also will visit the Royal Palace Museum – hosting a unique collection of gold jewels worn by the Ashanti court – and a few nearby villages specialised in weaving the traditional Kente cloth, praised by the socially important people and used to make special ceremonial stools.
Akwasidae Festival. On the Ashanti calendar certain days each year are set aside for a very special celebration at the Royal Palace in Kumasi
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. Corpulent dancers dressed in vivid red costumes perform an erotic dance. We will witness and experience the splendor, the flavor and the atmosphere of one of last great African monarchs of the forests.
We start our journey Northwards, leaving the dry savannah backdrop to enter the livelier and more colored forest landscape. Our dusty road follows the tracks of the former caravan road that used to connect the main trading centres of the Sudanese kingdoms such as Djenné or Timbuktu to the region of Kumasi, very important for gold mining and for the production of cola nuts.
The Lobi live in the surroundings of Wa, isolated in clay houses protected by a high wall without access and made of a rectangular granary surrounded by the different rooms and a cowshed.
In the Lobi society, the chief of the family represents the only authority. In charge of everything and everyone before the elders’ council or the government, he is responsible for sacrificial shrines and organizing the field labour.
The Lobi peoples are also talented artists. The little statues they make, used as spiritual protection, are considered highly prestigious in many African art collections. The Lobi also excel in music and we can find good balafon players of among them.
Drive and in the afternoon we meet with the Gurunsi tribe living in adobe fortified buildings decorated with black, red and white African frescoes. Their society is organized around gender: men are in charge of constructions while women take care of painting and decorating, using natural colours on an okra background. Men build houses by putting different layers of clay on support pillars and arches, walls and terraces are then made waterproof by spreading a mix which includes zebu dung. It is at this point that women take over and paint amazingly beautiful and intricate frescoes.
We take an interesting walk to discover a sacred hill. Locals believe that this mysterious place – where many high stone pinnacles are stacked up in an unbelievably irregular way – is the former home of the Gods. Inside a deep crack on the higher side of the mountain there is the oracle’s cave, an important place of pilgrimage. People however are allowed inside only if accompanied by adepts. In this mountain live the Talensi people.
We meet a very large settlement of … witches! All exiled from their villages because found guilty of terrible events such as the death of a teenager, a mysterious disease or a bad harvest…they now live all together in a specific place. We will chat with them about their life and about the special shrine which protects them, “cleansing” their spirit from bad will. Their warm welcome is in dramatic contrasts with the gravity of the stories that forced them to come here.
Volta Region: from Savannah to tropical forest. Visits of coffee and cocoa plantations in a luxuriant region; stops in small villages inhabited by a very friendly population, happy to welcome the rare visitors.
We will discover the beautiful Wli Waterfalls, on the border with Togo, where water falls from a height of 60-80 meters.
Today we attend a Voodoo ceremony: the frenetic rhythm of the drums and the chants of the adepts help calling in the voodoo spirit who then takes possession of some of the dancers. They fall into a deep trance: eyes rolling back, grimaces, convulsions, insensitivity to fire or pain. In this narrow village, surrounded by the magic atmosphere of the ceremony, we will finally understand what people mean when they say: “In your Churches you pray God; in our voodoo shrine we become God!”
Voodoo is a religion that has been passed on by the ancestors and is still fervently practiced.
In the afternoon drive to Accra and transfer to the airport for the flight out.
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Twelve days to discover these amazing countries, which are among the most interesting of West Africa. From the North, with almost unknown populations, to the South where you find evidence of colonial past and voodoo celebrations, by the Ashanti and the traditional festival Akwasidae.