Part IV: Festive Friday
*If you missed Parts I, II and III in our Travel Diaries series, check out ‘Homecoming’ , our trip to the Twenedurase Caves and even more adventures in ‘Boti’s Water(less) Falls, Shiny’s dancing, tilapia and more…’
Day 4. Our first order of business for the day was the 25th anniversary celebration of the Obohene (Chief of Obo), Yeboah Afari Obuagyan II. Selase and I had found out about this event from a poster we’d seen in town and we’d decided we couldn’t miss it as the town’s most esteemed fetish priests and priestesses would be there, boasting of their talents. Strangely we were both excited about it, probably because it would be an opportunity for us to witness the peculiar deeds of the fetish folk, the type we’d always seen in those ‘based on a true story’ Kumawood and Nollywood movies.
As per Ghanaian customs, the event didn’t start on time but when it did, it sure was grand. Young boys between the ages 8 and 16 took to stilts in colorful ruffles and paraded in the courts of the king’s palace, by their side a drum and trumpet ensemble. It was fun to watch but also quite nerve-racking. I flinched whenever one of the boys took a step across the uneven grounds.
Soon the stilt walkers were joined by a masked league who led them onto the streets of Obo, making way for the Obohene to enter the courtyard. In a neatly woven kente garment, he strolled ahead of his royal entourage towards the white-painted concrete throne, greeting all in attendance.
Once the Obohene was seated, the anticipated spectacle began. Three men, each identifying with one of the dozen or so fetish priests and priestesses present, raced around in the middle of the courts tugging at a large earthen and straw pot causing young and startled spectators scurried into the arms of their parents. Whoever was able to take complete control of the pot, earned his superior the right to take the floor and show of his or her talents, so determined they were. In the background, an all female ensemble cheered the competitors on and one man worked his maraca so vigorously that his shoulder looked like it had dislocated.
The pot eventually ended up in the hands of the competitor who had been dragged across the dirt floor mid pot wrestle. Cries of triumph came from a small section where all the fetish priests and priestesses were seated with their entourage and drum-maraca band. A fetish priestess with well-groomed dreadlocks emerged from this section. She was joined by her sister, also a worker of wonders. Stern-faced and appearing to be in a trans, the two twirled around across their stage.
At the beginning of the routine, I felt a bit like the young and startled spectator but with time I became more fascinated by it all.
Later in the afternoon, we drove up to Odweanoma mountain top in Atibie for the ‘Okwawu Paragliding Festival’, a national hallmark tourism event in its 11th year. Selase had hoped to join in on the aerial fun but unfortunately wasn’t able to do because he hadn’t registered in time.
But the breathtaking view made up for the missed opportunity. The mountain top was the highest elevation we’d been at thus far and we could see as far as Anyinam. We watched as adventure junkies strapped with colorful parachutes went from life-size beings to pint-sized floats. Though I’d probably never muster up enough courage to hover above Kwahu’s ridges, I couldn’t help but think of how those brave enough to take on the adventure felt. Fired up and liberated is what I gathered from the grins and giggles post flight.
Scattered stars and high beams from vehicles big and small lit the otherwise dark and winding road leading to Obomeng. There was heavy traffic and we were sandwiched between flashy cars and taxis filled with merrymakers from near and far. When we finally got to Obomeng Street, I could barely tell where I was. What was once a quiet stretch had become the grounds of a full blown carnival.
About every five steps you take, there was a different makeshift bar pumping the latest Afro-beats and reggae hits, as many sang along. There were strobe lights everywhere. Selase, Amakye and I maneuvered between crowd, bars and food trucks, taking a pause every now and then to chat with the interesting personalities zooming past us. Some there for leisure and others for business. Some like Prince, a dancer from Accra who sported a furry white hat and yellow polo shirt and Anthony, a photographer also from Accra, were regulars at this street festival.
A few days before, we’d met another man from Accra who attends various festivals across the country, providing popup entertainment spots. He told us this was the busiest festival he works all year and remains the biggest he’s been involved with since he started his entertainment tours.
The fun and games went past dawn for those who could hang. But for the few like Selase, Amakye and I who had work to do in a couple of hours, it was time to start making our way back down the winding slope.
Tip of the day: Carpe diem
MORE TRAVEL DIARIES FROM THE AR TEAM
Follow the @AfricaRizing team as they travel outside the urban environments of Accra, Bamako, and Dakar to experience the culture & history of some of West Africa’s most interesting, sometimes off-beat, places and spaces in our Travel Diaries series. Next up in our Travel Diaries series: ‘Zip lining and a farewell’.