For over a century, the people of Edina (Central Region in Ghana) have marked Bakatue Festival amidst celebration. The aim of this celebration is to invoke the deity Nana Benya because according to their belief, the goddess will ensure continuous protection of the state and its people if appeased.
Bakatue, to the traditional Ghanaian is more than a festival, it is considered the very embodiment of the people of Elmina. Infact, it holds their history and heritage which is displayed through their rich culture and part of this culture is offering sacrifices to appease souls of the departed who the living still count on for blessings and guidance.
Bakatue Festival falls on the month of Ayewoho (the first Tuesday of July) each year. “Bakatue” when translated means “the opening of the lagoon” or the “draining of the Lagoon”.
Oral history has it that the founding father of Amankwakrom (the initial name of the location), Kwa Amankwa, migrated from the Savana Based Walata Empire, settled at Techiman for some time and then moved to Eguafo and finally settled in Elmina also known as Edina. While in search of drinking water, he discovered a stream and exclaimed “Be-enya” translated “I have found or I have got”.
Just like the biblical Jacob did, a hut was erected at that location of discovery. Kwa Amankwa bowed and worshipped and in the solemn silence, there suddenly appeared before him a god who kept company with Amankwa for eight days. This meeting ended with a covenant that was made between man and god and has been passed from generation to generation.
Circumstances beyond control has brought about a change of location of the shrine to the spot where it stands at present, but the people still hold to the covenant that was made between their founding father and the deity Nana Benya. The terms of the covenant read thus; “that in this shrine I shall meet you, at least once a year and there, you can invoke me in times of need”.
This once-in-a-year meeting has stood through the test of time even during war, civil strife or chieftaincy disputes. During these challenging times, there would be no funfair or colourful celebration. The meeting would be restricted to only the high-priest (Benya Komfo) and his immediate deputies ‘as well as “Birifikyewfo” a representative who attends on behalf of or with the reigning monarch or the regent.
During times of celebration, the Paramount Chief and his sub-chiefs, elders’, priests, priestesses, and attendees offer the sacred food- eggs and mashed yam mixed with palm oil to the river god while praying for peace.
All rituals are performed on Mondays and there is a royal procession made up of gorgeously dressed chiefs and stool carriers riding in beautifully decorated palanquins. After performing the rituals at the riverside, the Chief Priest casts his net three times and announces the lifting of the ban on fishing, drumming, funerals and other social activities in the traditional area.
There is also a spectacular ride on the lagoon by women resplendent in their “Kente” cloth and colourful headgears. A royal procession leading to the Chief’s palace with lots of music and dancing ends the festival.
The mystic significance of Bakatue Festival brings all sons and daughters of Edinaman from both home and abroad together in a very unique way. It also attracts hundreds of tourists from all over the world.
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