Homowo Festival – Hunger Hooting Festival in Ghana

by Kojo Pocu
HOMOWO FESTIVAL

The Ga’s, who live along Ghana’s south coast in the Greater Accra region, celebrate the Homowo festival Celebration, which is undoubtedly the most popular festival in the country. The festival’s name, HOMOWO, literally means ‘Hooting at Hunger.’ The festival’s origins can be traced back to the Gas’s history. According to popular Ga folklore, the Gas experienced a devastating famine hundreds of years ago due to a shortage of rainfall.

According to the Gas, the period was one of the most difficult in the Ga people’s history because of the hunger, which resulted in deaths. The rains eventually returned after a long absence, much to the delight of the locals. The Homowo celebration was formed to commemorate the return of rain and an end to the people’s suffering, hence its name, which means “hooting at hunger.”

The festival begins months before the celebration with the growing of corn. The maize cultivated is specifically for the preparation of Kpokpoi, the traditional festival dish. Noise making of any kind, such as drumming or playing loud music, is prohibited once the festival begins, as it is thought that the gods of the land despise noise making during this time.

The sprinkling of the Kpokpoi by traditional priests around the Ga communities is the festival’s main attraction. An act interpreted as offering food to the gods of the country.

Some Gas think they are descended from the Jewish tribe, and the Homowo festival has its origins in the Jewish Passover feast. This claim, however, has yet to be supported by scientific evidence.

Every year in May, all of the traditional Ga settlements, including Jamestown, Teshie, and La, celebrate Homowo.

HOMOWO FESTIVAL

Why do we celebrate Homowo festival?

The Homowo tradition began with a period of hunger that culminated in famine due to a lack of seasonal rains required by crops in the Greater Accra Region, where the Ga people live. When the rains returned to normal, the Ga people created the Homowo festival, which gave the festival its name and meaning. Homowo is widely celebrated in all of Ga state’s municipalities, with the festivities culminating in Gamashie.

How do you celebrate Homowo?

The festivities begin with the planting of maize, which will be utilised in the preparation of food during the Kpokpoi or Kpekple festival. Noise making is prohibited or banned during this time because it is considered to upset the gods. The dinner is served with Palm Nut Soup and is distributed across the town. Traditional authorities and family chiefs are usually in charge of this. Marching down highways and streets, thumping drums, chanting, face painting, singing, and traditional dances are all part of the celebration.

Despite the fact that Homowo is a Ga institution, many other ethnic groups are permitted to participate in the festivities. The Ga tribe’s homowo festival is thought to have descended from the Jewish tribe and its ancestral tradition of the Jewish Passover feast.

What date is Homowo celebrated?

The festival is normally held in August, with July and September being rare exceptions. In 1888, it is thought that the entire city of Accra celebrated the Homowo Festival as late as September 27th or 29th. The following are some of the Native Year’s traditions: Monday is the first day of the week.

HOMOWO

What food is eaten during Homowo?

Instead of turkey, the Homowo Festival is marked by the consumption of kpoikpoi, a traditional Homowo dish consisting of maize and palm oil. In processions to the gods and ancestors, kpoikpoi is often strewn on the ground for spiritual protection.

How long does Homowo last?

The entire Homowo season lasts a few months, beginning with the opening of the fishing season and the planting of the millet crop in May and ending with the harvest in late September, but Homowo Day is normally a Saturday in August, as selected by the chief priests (or a Tuesday in some of the smaller towns). Above all, Homowo is a time of reunion for the Ga people, and the true party starts on the Thursday before Homowo Day, when thousands of Ga people travel from all over the world to the Accra Plains to see their families and motherland.

Symbols and Customs of Homowo Festival

HOMOWO FESTIVAL

Ban on Drumming 

A month-long ban on drumming, music, and other loud noise is traditionally imposed in June, just before the Homowo celebrations begin. Nightclubs close, and even playing drums in church is prohibited, because it is thought that the gods require silence to do their duties, and that too much noise may frighten the spirits of the departed.

This noise ban has sparked recent disputes between Ga traditionalists and African Christians, for whom drumming is an important element of worshipping their God. Many merchants and businesses, such as cab drivers, have expressed concern that the noise limit and the closure of nightclubs and other venues during this month may result in a significant loss in business. Although the ban is still carefully enforced in most locations, tensions between the Ga and Christians, particularly in Accra, have risen in recent years.

Twins Rituals

All multiple births are considered exceptionally fortunate by the Ga. Because Homowo is a harvest festival, twins and triplets are given particular care as a symbol of fecundity. Young twins are fed a special supper of eggs and yams after having white clay applied on their skin to emphasise their cleanliness. Their moms pray to the gods to bless these children and express gratitude for the gift of life.

Homowo Dance 

On Homowo Day, the so-called Homowo Dance takes place after the family meal. It usually starts with Ga priests drumming on their knees, a symbolic act representing the “hooting at hunger” that occurred hundreds of years ago, and ends with a free-for-all dance in which men and women wear whatever they want (including each other’s clothes), bump into each other without fear of offending one another, and sing songs mocking otherwise prominent citizens and officials. The goal is to remove all social limitations and status disparities, to mock the concept of hunger in the midst of plenty, and to express delight and appreciation for the gods’ gifts to the Ga people.

Kpekpei Spreading

Kpekpei or kpokpoi is a traditional Ga dish cooked of steamed, fermented maize flour and palm oil, frequently with okra or smoked fish, and served with palm soup. It is customary for everyone in a family to dip into the same bowl or pot of kpekpei at the same time as a symbolic reminder that during the Homowo celebration, age, rank, and gender disparities are ignored.

Kpekpei is sprinkled throughout residential areas and cemeteries by Ga priests as a respect to the departed ancestors and as a manner of symbolically “nourishing” them, in addition to being served during the family feast. In private homes, the family head may scatter kpekpei in areas where the dead ancestors are likely to discover it, such as around the entryway. The dancing, drumming, and hooting that are at the centre of the Homowo celebration commence after this ceremony.

According to one idea, Homowo festival has its origins in the Jewish holiday of PASSOVER, with kpekpei serving a similar function to matzoh or unleavened bread. The fact that the Ga often paint red or ochre clay to their doorposts during Homowo to ward off evil spirits, much like the Jews sprinkled blood on their doors to keep the Angel of Death from injuring their firstborn sons, appears to confirm this notion.

Ghana Travel Restrictions 

Ghana is open to most travelers again. I mean travelers from all over the world. However, you do need proof of your COVID-19 vaccination(s) or a negative test result before being allowed entry.

Many hotels, attractions, and private tours are open with new health & safety protocols in place, and you still have to follow certain guidelines. They are all good for our safety. 

Read the ultimate travel guide to Ghana to help you plan your trip.