Fetu Afahye Festival is an annual festival celebrated by the people and chiefs of Cape Coast Traditional Area in the Central Region of Ghana. Once upon a time there had been a plague in Cape Coast as history has it. This was devastating and as such demanded that the people of Cape Coast call for an intervention from their gods. However, it is believed that the inhabitants of Cape Coast and its environs were able to eliminate this plague with the help of their gods, hence, the name “Fetu” originally known as “Efin Tu”-doing away with dirt. It is also observed to commemorate a pumper harvest from the sea as well as performing rituals to thank the seventy seven (77) gods of Oguaa Traditional Area.
Fetu Afahye had once been banned by the then colonials of Ghana specifically Cape Coast and termed it as “Black Christmas” to depict the festival as a bad traditional phenomenon or a festival to mark the birth of Jesus for the Blacks. The Omanhen at that time,who is named as the Osabarimba Kodwo Mbra V, Okyeame Ekow Atta debunked this conception as misleading. Between 1948 and 1996, the festival finally resumed after the religious struggle from various important personalities in the Oguaa Traditional Area. The festival is now used as a calendar for the farming seasons of the Oguaa Traditional Area and this particular phenomenon is also referred to as “Afehyia” meaning, a loop of seasons.
Celebrating Fetu Afahye festival
Preparation for the festival occurs in the last week of August. During this period, the Oguaa Traditional area receives a lot of visitors from all works of life as well as people from different parts of the country or outside the country who are natives of Oguaa state. The actual celebration follows on the 1st of September.
Prior to the actual celebration of the festival, the Omanhen is confined for a week. During this period of confinement, he meditates and asked for wisdom from the creator (Aboadzi) and ancestors as well as seeking medical attention where necessary from his physician to enable him come out both physically and mentally fit for the impending activities such as delivering of his tasks for the success of the festival. At the end of Omahen’s confinement, he appears in public in a pomp dignity and goes to the stool house to pour libation seeking blessing from the seventy-seven gods of Oguaa state. They believe that these seventy-seven gods of Oguaa state steers the affair of Oguaa traditional area.
It is also noted that before the festival, all sort of drumming festivities and drumming sounds are banned as tradition demands as well as fishing in the “Fosu” lagoon, lying between The Government Central Hospital and stretching to a place called Aquarium to ensure a quiet and peaceful environment. It is believe that this done to allow the spirits of Oguaa state take over and lead the planners of the festival. This is usually observed before the first of September.
The custodians of the “Fosu” Lagoon (Amissafo) of Oguaa Traditional Area also pour libation at the estuary of the Lagoon to invoke spirit of their ancestors to eradicate any bad omen that may befall visitors involved in the festival. The aim of pouring libation is also to call for pumper harvest of fish and crops. In all, they call for prosperity.
Another important event worth observing is the “Amuntumadeze” literally meaning health day. This is a day when both the old and the young make effort in cleaning the environment such as guttering of waste, cleaning of choked gutters and painting of all building in the area with the aim of beautifying the environment before the actual grand durbar of “Bakatue”
A vigil is observed at the “Fosu” Lagoon near its shrine on every last Monday of August. A large number of people gather at the shrine to have a glimpse of the display of the priests and priestesses of the traditional area. This exhibition is normally done in the night till the next morning. During this night, drumming and dancing of both the priest and the priestesses would be observed and also invocate the spirit of their ancestors to be able to tell what would happen in the next year which irrevocably come true. The next Tuesday also sees a whole lot of activities such as carrying out rituals at the FUSO shrine and finally in the day time regatta and canoe riding on the lagoon (FOSU lagoon) is observed after the Omanhen’s libation at the estuary. In a whole, the activities of the priests and priestesses of Oguaa traditional area as well as the Nana Omanhen’s, convene a large number of people from all works of life. This is because it is an experience on its own.
As a result of the earlier ban on fishing in the FOSU lagoon, the Omanhen is the first person to throw his net for three consecutive times to officially open up the lagoon for the general public. Inthe situation where by the Omanhen’s catches plenty of the fish indicates a prosperous fishing season in the next season. This event is foreshown by special crowd in the middle of the firing of musketry. This is called “Bakatue”.
However, in giving a warm welcoming atmosphere for the native who have travelled, the chiefs of Oguaa Traditional Area set aside Wednesday for receiving and welcoming citizens of Cape Coast.This particular day is also characterized by drumming and dancing from the Asafo Company with accompanying feast. It is also noted as a day of socialization and resolution of issues. However, given a good reception to visitors promote Fetu Afahye for the next coming season.
A religious ceremony is held at night in front of Nana Paprata shrine on Thursday night with accompanying rituals and dancing (“Adammba”) to summon spirits of their ancestors to enable the priests and priestesses to soothsay. This ceremony normally last up to the next morning. The main aim of this ceremony is to cleanse the Ogua traditional Area of any bad spirit. During this same period, a bull is always needed to purify the Ogua Traditional Area. Prior to this purification, the bull is sent to Nana Tabir’s shrine to cleanse the bull for sacrifice on the ultimate day. This bull is then later sacrificed at Papratam (durbar grounds for Ogua Traditional Area). It is mostly identify as the silk cotton tree where the Omanhen, on the climax day sits in state with his divisional and sub chiefs as well as council of elders flanked. At the meeting, the Omanhen address the people and visitors of Ogua Traditional Area recounting events of the past. After the state address, the Omanhen walks towards the entrance flank by his sub-chiefs and divisional chiefs to Tabir’s shrine where the cow is tired on the limbs. He then pour libation and perform various ritual to call on their forefathers to intervene in Ogua state. At this juncture, the Omanhen takes a dagger to slaughter the cow for the gods.
Fetu festival reaches its climax after the Omanhen’s sacrifice on Saturday, the 1st of September. This particular day gain unique and attentive audience as a result of the Asafo band procession. They usually parade themselves along the street of Cape Coast from Kotokuraba through Chapel Square to the chief palace. People from all parts of the country visit Cape Coast to observe this festival. Durber of chiefs are held on this day to deliberate on issues affecting Ogua Traditional Area as well as the seven Asafo companies to also contribute to the security aspect of Ogua Traditional Area. One unique characteristic of this particular day is that it is mark by drumming, dancing and pouring of libation to usher the state in a peaceful and prosperous new year.
Contemporary issues such as Afahye state dance, local cuisines, football games, clothes and traditional wears among many other forms of cultural artifacts are adding up giving facial lift to the endowments of the festivals; particularly the stylish and eye catching dance of the Miss Afahye.
After the festive days are over, the grand ceremony is on Sunday where a joint service of all Christian denomination is held at Chapel Square to offer thanks to the Al- Mighty God for helping the Ogua Traditional Area to having a peaceful festival. Aside that the day is meant event is to appeal for fund for Ogua Traditional area. In view of this, the Omanhen and his divisional chiefs as well as elders attend the church occasion and take an opportunity to announce the day for next year’s celebration.
How to get to cape coast
Travelling from Accra to Cape Coast for Fetu Afahye, Metro Mass, STC, VIP buses can be boarded from the Keneshie market specifically at the first Interchange for GH¢ 7.00. One can also decide to go by the Ford mini bus that commutes regular between the two towns. There are also regular Metro Mass and trotros for those moving from Takoradi to Cape Coast likewise Kumasi to Cape Coast. When arrived in Cape Coast, ask anybody of the grounds where the festival is hosted and you will be directed there.