The Bakatue Festival is said to be one of Ghana’s oldest festivals, with celebrations dating back to 1800. Governor Cornelis Nagtglass once included the festival in an official report, demonstrating its importance.
The festival was founded by the Portuguese to commemorate Elmina’s establishment during the early days of colonization. However, over the course of a century, the celebration has evolved into a people’s festival that is traditionally held in the first week of July to mark the start of the fishing season in the Elmina Township.
The event is also observed to express gratitude to the gods for a successful fishing season and to pray for a better fishing season in the future. While times have changed and the population is now primarily Christian, the festival is still observed and looked forward to every year with great anticipation because the people still think their ancestors and traditional gods play a significant role in their lives. They also pray to the gods and ancestors for a successful fishing season.
How is the Bakatue festival celebrated?
It falls during Ghana’s annual rainy season. Tuesday was chosen since it is the day of the sea god in the area. As a result, fishermen in Elmina, as well as many other fishing communities in Ghana, do not go to sea on Tuesdays to honor the sea god. During the celebration, the Paramount Chief and his sub-chiefs, as well as the entire state of Elmina, offer Nana Brenya, the river god, the sacred festival dish of eggs and mashed yam blended with palm oil, and pray for peace.
All members of the Elmina royal family take part in a royal possession made up of chiefs and stool carriers on the morning of the celebration. In the Elmina paramount area, chiefs of upper towns ride ornamented palanquins. The head priest casts his net three times into the Brenya Lagoon after the procession and numerous addresses by select chiefs and invited guests.