Kundum Festival is celebrated by the Coastal tribes of the Western Region of Ghana. The four month long festival is celebrated at weekly intervals from town to town between August and November every year. The main highlights of the festival are the stool cleansing, the ancestral prayers and the drumming and dancing that accompanies Ghanaian festivals.
The festival which is celebrated by both the Ahantas and the Nzema people of the Western region has a lot of legend behind it. One school of thought has it that, the origins of the Kundum festival comes from a tree in a village called Aboade whose fruits ripen only once a year. Thus the people adopted the ripening of the fruit to start the celebration. Another legend has it that a hunter from the village was on a hunting expedition and he saw dwarfs dancing to the rhythm of a strange music. He studied them for months, learnt the dance and came home to teach his people. Thus the origin of the Kundum festival and the Kundum dance.
The way it is celebrated varies from town to town. Every one of them makes an effort to add some uniqueness to their own celebration to make it grand. Kundum is one of the few festivals in Ghana that has evolved with the modern trend of life. Aside the usual dancing and feasting to which it is associated, the Kundum festival is also a time for the people of the town and their chiefs to sit down. There is conflict resolution, planning of developmental projects for the town, welcoming home of natives who have travelled. This is to instill sound moral values into the people. Each day of the week has a unique celebration.
The natives, preparing for the festivals by getting new clothes and footwear made from beautiful material to show off what they have. The celebration starts on a Sunday with the beating of drums at the outskirts of the town at five different places. The significance of this is to seek the guidance of the gods in the celebration.
On Monday, there is a temporary ban on drumming and dancing. The Kundum fire is lit at the chief’s palace and this flame is kept burning throughout the week. This place serves as the epicenter of the festival and the main festival meal is prepared on that fire.
Tuesday and Wednesday is for merry making. There is singing and dancing all over town. The chief parades the town in his royal palanquin and the people organize competitions with neighboring towns amidst humor and laughter.
On each night there is a meal prepared for everyone to feast on in anticipation of the final feast on Sunday. The rest of the week is reserved for ritual cleansing and the dancing of the legendary Kundum dance. This dance is very unique in nature with no fixed rhythm. The people just enjoy themselves and everywhere is a party.
Kundum is an annual festival of the Ahanta people, whose traditional center is the city of Axim. What a week!! The drums beat furiously, wonderfully. The rhythmic complexity is astounding. Families reunite around the “family homes”, with traditional Ghanaian food, music. Everyone is dressed in traditional clothing—esp. the women with their colorful batik dresses.
Let me tell you a little about the Kundun festival in Axim. It’s one of the larger ones in the country. For 4 weeks, the drums move around and get closer and closer to Axim. At the beginning of the week, heads of families, and kings request that anyone holding grudges in the community come forth and reconcile with their opponent. Thus many rifts are healed. The next day everyone cooks, and anyone can walk into to anyone’s house and eat. There is a day of remembering and mourning the ancestors. There is a day of killing of a fowl, 4 goats and more drumming and cooking.
On the high festival day, the royals – the co-director of our project was one this year – the first white person ever to be so honored — all arrive at the palace about 10 to dress and await the parade. 3 Of us went elsewhere to be dressed in royal cloths. Maryanne was carried in the palanquin as the development Queen of Axim (Nkosohema). Thus did Axim honor and thank our GCJ group for our work in Axim during this past year. We walked behind her. It was quite an affair – colorful, rhythmic, joyful. We ended up at the field and listened to speeches and music and dancing, and then it was back into the palanquins in what seemed a bit like a rodeo. The carriers danced back and forward and bounced the palanquins quite a bit. Some of the more experienced riders stood up and cheered them on. It was very colorful! Finally we ended at the palace for dinner. It actually reminded me a bit of Mardi Gras. Not surprising – where did Mardi Gras come from? What a day!
All in all, it is a time of peace, reconciliation, remembering the departed, generosity and celebration of life. A good thing, I think. Although some Christian missionaries tried to stamp it out as pagan, and current Pentecostal churches pan it, others are now being more tolerant. (text by Barbara G)
Source gcjghana and travel-to-discover-ghana.com