The Fetu Afahye, a festival celebrated by the chiefs and peoples of Cape Coast in the Central region of Ghana is celebrated on the first Saturday in the month of September every year. The Fetu Afahye is celebrated by the Oguaa people of Cape Coast.
This is due to legends that say in the past, there was an outbreak of disease among the people that killed many. The people prayed to the gods to help them get rid of the disease. Thus the festival is celebrated to keep the town clean and to prevent another epidemic from befalling the people.
It is believed that they were able to eliminate this plague with the help of their gods, hence, the name “Fetu” – originally Efin Tu (“doing away with dirt”). It is also observed to commemorate a bumper harvest from the sea as well as performing rituals to thank the 77 gods of Oguaa Traditional Area.
The Fetu Afahye was once banned by the then colonial administration of the country, and specifically Cape Coast, and was termed “Black Christmas” to depict it as a bad traditional phenomenon. The Omanhen (paramount chief) at that time, who is named as the Osabarimba Kodwo Mbra V, Okyeame Ekow Atta, debunked this conception as misleading. Between 1948 and 1996, the festival finally resumed, after the religious struggle from various important personalities in the Oguaa Traditional Area. The festival is now used as a calendar for the farming seasons of the Oguaa Traditional Area and this particular phenomenon is also referred to as “Afehyia”, meaning “a loop of seasons”.
Preparation for the festival starts in the last week of August, with the actual celebration following on the first Saturday of September.
Prior to the actual celebration of the festival, the Omanhen is said to be confined for a week. During this period of confinement, he meditates and asks for wisdom from the creator (Aboadzi) and the ancestors, as well as seeking medical attention where necessary from his physician to enable him come out both physically and mentally fit for the impending activities such as delivering his tasks for the success of the festival. At the end of Omahen’s confinement, he appears in public in pomp and dignity and goes to the stool house to pour libation, seeking blessing from the 77 gods of Oguaa state who the people believe steer the affairs of Oguaa traditional area.
It is also noted that before the festival, all drumming festivities and drumming sounds are banned as tradition demands, as well as fishing in the Fosu Lagoon, lying between The Government Central Hospital and stretching to a place called Aquarium, to ensure a quiet and peaceful environment. It is believed that this is done to allow the spirits of Oguaa state to take over and lead the planners of the festival.
The custodians of Fosu Lagoon (Amissafo) of Oguaa Traditional Area also pour libation at the estuary of the lagoon and invoke the spirits of their ancestors to eradicate any bad omens that may befall visitors involved in the festival.
Another important event observed is the “Amuntumadeze” – literal meaning “health day” – a day when both old and the young make efforts to clean the environment, including clearing waste from choked gutters and painting all buildings in the area, with the aim of beautifying the vicinity before the actual grand durbar of “Bakatue”.
A vigil is observed at Fosu Lagoon near its shrine every last Monday of August. A large number of people gather at the shrine to have a glimpse of the display of the priests and priestesses of the traditional area. This exhibition is normally done at night till the next morning. During this night, drumming and dancing by both the priest and the priestesses are observed and the spirits of their ancestors are invoked to foretell what will happen in the next year. The following Tuesday also sees many activities, such as rituals carried out at the Fosu shrine, and finally, daytime regatta and canoe riding on the Fosu Lagoon is observed after the Omanhen’s libation at the estuary.
As a result of the earlier ban on fishing in the Fosu Lagoon, the Omanhen is the first person to throw his net, three consecutive times. to officially open up the lagoon for the general public. For the Omanhen to catch plenty of fish indicates a prosperous fishing season to come. This event is foreshown by a special crowd in the middle of the firing of musketry. This is called “Bakatue”.
However, in giving a warm welcoming atmosphere for the natives who have traveled, the chiefs of Oguaa Traditional Area set aside Wednesday for receiving and welcoming citizens of Cape Coast. This day is also characterized by drumming and dancing by the Asafo companies, the seven traditional militia groups. It is also noted as a day of socialization and resolution of issues.
A religious ceremony is held in front of Nana Paprata shrine on Thursday night, with accompanying rituals and dancing (“Adammba”) to summon the spirits of the ancestors to enable the priests and priestesses to soothsay. This ceremony normally lasts till the next morning. The main aim of this ceremony is to cleanse Oguaa Traditional Area of any bad spirit. During this same period, a bull is always needed to purify the Oguaa Traditional Area. Prior to this purification, the bull is sent to Nana Tabir’s shrine to cleanse the bull for sacrifice on the ultimate day. This bull is then later sacrificed at Papratam (the durbar grounds for Ogua Traditional Area). It is mostly identified as the silk cotton tree where the Omanhen, on the climax day, sits in state with his divisional and sub-chiefs, flanked by the council of elders. At the meeting, the Omanhen addresses the people and visitors of Oguaa Traditional Area, recounting events of the past. After the state address, the Omanhen walks towards the entrance, flanked by his sub-chiefs and divisional chiefs to Tabir’s shrine, where the cow is tied by its limbs. The Omanhen pours libation and performs various rituals, calling on the forefathers to intervene in Oguaa state. At this juncture, he takes a dagger to slaughter the cow for the gods.
After the Omanhen’s sacrifice, the Fetu festival reaches its climax on the first Saturday of September. This particular day attracts a unique and attentive audience for the procession of the Asafo bands, which usually parade along the street of Cape Coast from Kotokuraba through Chapel Square to the chief palace. People from all parts of the country visit Cape Coast to observe this festival. A durbar of chiefs is held on this day to deliberate on issues affecting Oguaa Traditional Area as well as the seven Asafo companies to contribute to the security of Oguaa Traditional Area. This day is marked by drumming, dancing, and pouring of libation to usher the state in a peaceful and prosperous new year.
Contemporary issues, such as the Afahye state dance, local cuisine, football games, clothing, and traditional wear, among many other forms of cultural artifacts, add up to giving a facial lift to the endowments of the festivals, particularly the stylish and eye-catching dance of the Miss Afahye.
After the festive days are over, the grand ceremony is on Sunday, when a joint service of all Christian denominations is held at Chapel Square to offer thanks to Almighty God for helping Oguaa Traditional Area to have a peaceful festival. In addition, the day is an occasion is to appeal for funds for Oguaa Traditional Area.