THE ADA ASAFOTUFIAMI FESTIVAL
All Traditional areas in Ghana are identified with special festivals, which make the people very distinct from other ethnic groups. The Asafotufiami Festival of the people of Ada Traditional area in the Dangme East District is a rich cultural heritage celebrated annually in the first week of August.
The festival is a remembrance of the achievements in the wars for settlement fought by our ancestors, hence the name “ASAFOTUFIAMI”. “ASAFOTU”, as the name implies, is company firing of musketry.
In the olden days the Ada State comprised, as well as the present day Dangbe East District, the following States with Divisional Chiefs supporting the Ada Mantse as Paramount Chief:
Agave, Sokpoe, Tefle, Mape, Mafi, Bakpa and Battor.
With the cessation of these Divisional Chiefs to form what is now known as the Tongu State, the new Wetsoyi (Divisional Chief) was created in addition to the Wornorhi and Asafoatseme. Since 1954 the following 10 Tribes have had Wetsoyihi (Divisional Chiefs) to support the paramount Stool of Ada.
- Kabiawe Kponor
For unknown reasons, the celebration of the festival was discontinued for many years. To encourage sons and daughters domiciled in other parts of Ghana to return and help the elders in the development of the Ada State, particularly the towns and the villages, the Ada Pastors and Teachers Association (APTA) jointly with the Ada National Improvement Association (ANIA), made a representation to chiefs and elders of the State to have the festival of “Asafo” revived.
The move was overwhelmingly supported. As a consequence, the revival of the ancient “ASAFOTU” festival began in 1937.
There are two Asafo (Companies) within the Ada State viz; Akomfode and Asorkor, membership of which, according to tradition, is by maternal lineage. For this reason, children of the same father but of a different mother at times find themselves in opposing company (asafo). This gave rise to the appellation of the people of Ada as “Nyeko Bi, Tseko Bi”.
According to tradition, the celebration starts from Thursday in the first week in the month of August with the returning of Adas to their traditional homes. They go through a house cleaning ceremony – a kind of spiritual cleansing – and pouring of libation at the family shrines keeping vigil thereafter.
At dawn on Friday, as part of the schedule for the celebration, the two companies (Asafohi) beat talking drums to summon their members. Having assembled, each group would march to LUHUESE at the outskirts of Big Ada. There they set up camps. According to ancient custom, all young men who attain the age of puberty were then initiated into their Asafo companies by being taught how to handle, load a gun and fire same for the first time.
The initiation is followed by war games of ancient warfare – tactical deployments and logistics. This continues until late afternoon when the two Asafo companies parade to Big Ada, dressed in traditional military attire – clad with leaves and palm branches – signifying conquering heroes returning from battle, amid firing of musketry and war cries.
Women and children, carrying vessels containing watery roasted corn flour mixture, meet with the party of “Warriors” at LENOBINYA with hailing chants of:
Awe, Awe, Awe
Agba e, Bleku Tsor
Nsu, o, Nsu
Manye o, Manye
Singing, firing of musketry and dancing continue here until sunset. The revellers then move to KPONKPO PANYA in a procession. Here, the Asafo companies form a single file along the banks of the river and fire three volleys of muskets into the river. A ceremonial ablution of feet dipping and had washing is performed to banish all evil and usher in good fortune in the coming years.
All the followers of the Asafo companies follow the custom of feet dipping and hand-washing ceremony. The procession then disperses and everyone retires home with songs of jubilation continuing until late in the night.
The newly initiated young men with their friends proceed to the homes of their in-laws to pay homage by firing three volleys of musket. Each volley is greeted with loud cheers. The initiated receive gifts from members of the household. The day is rounded off in eating sumptuous meals and heavy drinking.
The following Saturday is noted for durbar of the Paramount Chief, Asafotseme and Divisional chiefs, carried in their palanquins through the town to the grounds of the Big Ada Presbyterian Junior Secondary School Park where the elders, men, women and children, gaily dressed, assembled to receive them.
Ada Youth Groups and other benevolent societies established in other parts of Ghana wearing uniforms, parade through the streets of Big Ada, singing patriotic songs to grace the occasion all the way to the durbar grounds where they march past and take their positions.
After the Paramount Chief has greeted the Divisional Chiefs, Asafoatseme and elders and the people, he sits in state to receive in return, greetings and homage of his people. Each Asafoatse then swears an oath allegiance to the Paramount Chief that in each case is sealed with volleys of musketry by the divisions.
After close of the function of the day, the Paramount Chief, divisional chiefs, Asafoatseme, elders and the people, return home accompanied by the youth associations and benevolent societies with songs, drumming and jubilation. Cinema shows, and grand ball dances are attended in the evening. On Sunday non-denominational open air church service is held at the venue of the durbar to give praise and thanks to the almighty God for his abundant blessings and success of the festival.
During the following week, Monday to Thursday are occupied with Boat Racing, River Excursion and Football Matches. By Friday, good-byes are being said as non- residents embark on return journeys with happy memories of the festival.
Attend Ada Asafotu Festival every year in your numbers and enjoy the company and hospitability of Okorli Abime.