Saturday, September 11, 2010


Kente Cloth

Almost as soon as I got to Aflao, I left again. I arrived at my host family home Wednesday evening, and Thursday evening Sylvester and I traveled back the way we'd just come to attend a festival in a town called Kpetoe. The festival is called Agbamevorza, which means "Cloth festival". It celebrates Kente cloth, which represents the center of the Agotime region's culture and economy. It's a beautiful hand-woven cloth that gets exported all over Ghana, and probably farther.

The first day of the festival introduced me to REAL African culture.

You know the stereotypical perception of African culture? Half-naked people dancing wildly to pounding drum music, chanting and performing strange rituals?

  That was exactly what it was like.

It was most primitive, wild scene I have ever witnessed, and I don't mean that to be demeaning in any way. That's simply the only way to describe the celebration.
The main procession consisted of the chiefs, preceeded by women carrying their elaborately carved stools on their heads. A special woman carried a basket full of symbolic objects on her head. She was in a sort of trance, probably induced by the drugs she took to dull the pain of carrying that much weight for so long. She stumbled around the central field in random directions, her eyes mostly closed, mumbling incoherently. She was followed by a group of about five other women who constantly fanned her and chanted. The rest of the crowd, dressed in red and black, formed a ring around the field. They danced, chanted, pounded drums and fired rifles into the air.
The ceremonies were narrated almost entirely in Ewe, so I didn't really understand what was going on. One particularly interesting moment required no explanation though: A man took center stage, dancing wildly with a live chicken held by its neck in his teeth. He swung his head forcefully until the momentum of his movements beheaded the chicken. He then proceeded to eat the raw, feathered head and gave the body to another man to drink the blood.

I apologize for the graphic explanation, but real African culture is rarely PC. And the thing was, this whole ritual with the chicken didn't even phase me. In retrospect it was a bit disconcerting, but in context it almost seemed normal. It was just another part of the noise and chaos I'd been surrounded by for hours.

Procession of Chiefs' stools

The second day of the festival was for publicity, so it was much more refined. We sat in chairs in a different field and listened to a number of chiefs and government officials give speeches. It was televised, so they spoke English. I tuned most of it out anyway though... The first lady of Ghana gave a speech. Kind of cool that I've seen her in person.

Overall the festival threw me headfirst into the vibrancy that IS Africa. From the bold colors and patterns in the clothing to the spicy food to the infectious rhythms of the drums, Africa pulses with life. Ghana is bursting with the energy that has always drawn me to this huge, diverse continent.

In the words of Shakira: Esto es Africa!

No comments:

Post a Comment