September 21, 2023


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Cultural Festivals As Ceremonial Events of Reconciliation: The Case of The Apoo Festival of Ghana

3 min read

Cultural festivals are mostly annual events that are used to mark a historic event that happened in the lives of a particular group or society. During such iconic ceremonies, members of the society get the opportunity to meet and settle their differences. Long term disputes, at loggerheads amongst the society members, are resolved during these commemorations. This is a major requirement that must be satisfied during the ceremonial event to please the ancestors who are perpetual advocates of peace. Such is the case of the Apoo festival celebrated annually by the people of Techiman in the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana. The literal meaning of the Akan word Apoo is to drive away. Thus, during the festival observance, heated arguments and all forms of disputes amongst society members have driven away, as it were, to create a serene atmosphere of peace and unity.

The need for the commemoration of the Apoo festival was necessitated by one of the Techiman chiefs barely a century ago. The leader realised that after their migration from Drobo in the Gyaman district in the Brong Ahafo region of Ghana to their ancestral settlement at Techiman, there were great disputes between the ruling class and the people. Other disputes existed amongst society members. This resulted in personal grudges against one another, disturbing the friction of peace and unity that existed amongst the people. Thus, the chief of Techiman, together with the elders in his traditional cabinet instituted the festival observance as a platform for reconciling the people through the settling of age-long clashes.

During the event, sacrificial offerings are performed in the Amanfo sacred grove located at the heart of Techiman in the Brong Ahafo region of Ghana. It is a historic gazette forest tract that is believed by the people to be the permanent dwelling place of the spirits of their ancestors. An oral tradition amongst the people reveals that one of the Techiman chiefs physically entered the ground and died during a war with the Asantes of Ghana. Thus, the remains of this past Techiman chief who is said to have played an instrumental role in the formation of the Techiman ethnic society as well as other chiefs and elders in the society. Sacrifices are offered to them to seek their help for peace and unity amongst the people. This event carried out at dawn on the first Friday of the week-long festival observance, officially marks the commencement of the commemoration.

Society members parade the streets of the Techiman vicinity rattling the personal grudges among their fellow society members chattering it through songs and dances. It is a public outburst of displeasure of actions of society members that did not auger well for another and has been the cause of the dispute existing amongst members in the community. These public accusations are uttered by aggrieved persons for a week. During these days, the elders in the traditional council as well as heads and elders in families, observe intently and listen attentively to the public rants of displeasure of persons against their fellow members of the society. The elders and family heads take diligent note of persons having the disputes and the issues behind those disputes. When the week for the public confessions through songs and dances expires, the chief, elders and family heads call the aggrieved parties and settle the disputes amicably no matter how Herculean it may be.

The united people, then engage in a society fanfare and feast during the grand day of the Apoo festival on a Saturday. The ancestors are finally extolled through sacrificial offerings and prayers for bringing peace and unity amongst the people of Techiman.

This classic example of the Apoo cultural festival shows how these annual commemorations rampant amongst various ethnic societies and groups in the world can be tapped as platforms for ensuring peace and unity. Since cultural festivals are events of great pride and every member of the society avails themselves, it is a viable platform for settling all kinds of disputes that mars the global peace that humans seek. Organisers of cultural festivals must incorporate, thus, if it is lacking in a particular cultural festival, an avenue for resolving disputes amongst the ethnic society that commemorate it. This would go a long way in ensuring, promoting and preserving the peace that exists amongst different cultures and people.

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