Dzawuwu Festival

“Agave akortriako”

Agave traditional Area, currently, is one of the largest in the Volta Region. Its numerous towns and villages are located on both sides of the Volta River. It shares boundaries with Fievie in the northwest; Mafi in the north; Anlo in the south and east; Sokope and Tefle in the west and Ada in the south. The Agave formed a distinct group among the Ewe during their migratory expeditions from the East including their stopover at Notsie and their eventual departure from their present habitat.

One important symbol of pride and unity of the people of Agave is their Ivory Stool. According to Agave tradition, their founding father by name Togbi Sgaa led them long before they came to Notsie. The name Agave is believed to have developed from Agaa-viwo, meaning the children of Agaa. Before they arrived at Notsie, one of gaa’s children known as Adela Kloe became a great hunter among the group. One day, he encouraged a giant elephant during a hunting expedition. With much tact, experience and courage, he was able to conquer the animal and eventually killed it. However, before its death, the elephant vomited a piece of rock. It is believed that, on the rock it further vomited an ivory stool, a spear and flute. Then a voice from no where was heard saying:

“The ivory Stool represents political power.

The rock is the deity Gborble.

The spear and the flute should always accompany the ivory stool.”

That is the foundation of the Agave Ivory Stool on which their King, the Awoamefia, is installed, and the stool cult, Gborble. Although Gborble is the royal cult, the state cult is Togbi Adzemu which is the most powerful and most revered of all the cult groups. Its power, in fact, extends far beyond the boundaries of Agave because its devotees include people from Sokope,Anlo, Ada and other Tongu areas as well as, Avenor.

According to the Agave people themselves, their associated travelers from Notsie were very envious of the Ivory Stool and would do anything to get it. Indeed they were many attacks and attempts on them because of it. The island of Gbedewokome, near the west bank of the volta was chosen and on it the capital town of Agave-Afedume was established as the political, cultural and ritual center of the people. All the clans gods are also centered there. For a long time, it was not only a political and ritual capital but also the economic focal point attracting traders from as far as Dodowa, Lome, Akuse, Keta and other places.

Agave-Afedume has hence been the seat of government for over hundred years. However, owing to unfavourable weather conditions such as constant erosion and annual flooding by the river, in 1929, then the Awomefia Togbi Degenu II moved the seat of government to Dabala. This town was chosen because of its central location in relation to the entire area of Agave. Agave-Afedume, however, remains the religious and cultural centre and host most, if most all ritual activities.All these preceding considerations are reflected in the annual Dzawuwu festival. The festival itself has been official described as follows:

Dzawuwu which is annual festival of the chief and people of Agave is celebrated and the second months (February) of every new year at Agave-Afedume. It is an occasion when the great Ivory Stool of Agave and its acquaintance, Gborble cult, are cleansed and ritually fed as necessitated by divine law. The Adzemu cult and all the other deities brought by the ancestors from Hogbe are also cleansed.

As a preface to the festival, the dzavoetsotso rites are performed two months earlier. Accompanying Dzavoetsotso comes a complete ban on drumming and musketry in the entire area of the Agave state, even during funerals, burials and marry making. Another characteristic feature is the general ritual clean-up (kpokpokplo or dodede) in all towns and villages of Agave. Its significance lies in stripping off the state of all sin, evil and dangerous spirits so that there would be good health and fortune, abundant rain and bumper harvest of crops, fish and animals in the subsequent year.

Celebrating the Dzawuwu festival

The festival itself commences with the lifting of the ban on drumming and musketry, followed by sincere sacrifices to the gods and ancestral stools. Afterwards, the occasion is dominated for two weeks by religious and cultural drumming of Yeve and Agovu from one shrine to the other. Inthe middle of the two-week festivities, a day is set aside as Doese-gbe. It the day on which the priests, priestess, Kosiwo, and other religious functionaries are allowed to have sex for the first time following the seven-day ban in pursuit of sanctity.

The day is marked by durbar in the morning at which all the chiefs of Agave pay homage to Awoamefia, swearing amongst war songs and mass musketry to always defend and ever remain loyal and committed to the Ivory stool. Later in the day, the final Agovufofo for the year takes place at the palace in honour of the Ivory Stool, with the Awoamefia as the special guest of honour.

Dzawuwu from time immemorial has been regarded as a state festival. People from all walks of life both from far and near gather at Agave-Afedume to offer prayers and thanks to their gods and ancestors. This also provides the opportunity for the people to renew their faith in and get inspiration and protection from the ancestors who delivered them from tyrannical rules at Hogbe and gave them a new home.

All told, this all-important festival does not only foster in the peoples of Agave a sense of belonging and unity but reawakens in them an appreciation of their rich heritage and awareness to aspire together towards a common goal towards the development of the town and the area in general.

How to get there

The Agave traditional area is located in Tongu in the Volta Region of Ghana. Like all other areas in Ghana the area is accessible via trotro from Ho (the capital of the Volta Region) and other surrounding towns and villages.