The Annual Yam Festival
In 2004, Togbe Aƒede XIV brought back the celebration of the Yam Festival which had been abandoned for over a decade. With the goal of educating and entertaining both Ghanaians and visitors about Asogli traditions, the Yam Festival provides an opportunity for experiencing traditional music, dance, story telling and a grand durbar to climax the festival. Togbe Aƒede XIV has provided leadership in uniting many chiefs throughout the Volta Region and extending to other parts of Ghana and Togo. As a result many of these chiefs attend the Yam Festival. Togbe has stressed the importance of different tribes and ethnic groups living in harmony. He has emphasized the need for good governance, tolerance, and hard work in order to assure individual and national development.
The Origin of Yam Cultivation
Yam is called “ete” in Ewe. The word literally means it is swollen. Oral history has it that a hunter on his normal hunting expedition discovered the crop in the forest. It was during the famine period but instead of taking his newly discovered tuber home, he decided to hide it in the soil for use some other time. When he later went back for it, to his dismay, the tuber had germinated and grown bigger. This was how the cultivation of yam started.
Why celebrate the Yam Festival
The celebration of the Yam Festival by Ewes was brought down from Notse in the Republic of Togo where it is still celebrated. Yam cultivation is a very tedious job, and history has it that in those days some people who ventured into it did not live to enjoy the fruits of their labour. It was, and still is, labour intensive, energy sapping and quite hazardous, hence the proverb “Ne wonye eteti tsogbe wo dua ete la, ne egbor ma kpor etsroa ha du o”. Literally, this means if it were during the day of planting of yam that yam is eaten, the goat would never taste the peel. Diligence was therefore required and the permission and guidance of the gods of the land and the ancestors was sought during the entire period from planting through harvesting.
During the harvest time which is normally in September, the gods and ancestors are served first with the boiled and mashed yam, normally white and red-oiled, called “bakabake”, before any living being tastes it. This rite is called Dzawuwu”. After that, the rest of the mashed yam is eaten as a communal meal, a symbol of unity and reconciliation of families, clans and the entire community.
Objectives of the Celebration
Today, we celebrate the Yam Festival:
- As a thanksgiving to God, and also to the gods and ancestors for a bumper harvest, and as an occasion to offer prayers for good health and prosperity for all.
- To foster unity through forgiveness and reconciliation.
- As an annual stocktaking event for all occupational endeavours, especially farming.
- To mobilize both human and material resources of Asogli State for job and wealth creation.
- To serve as an annual re-affirmation of allegiance by all chiefs and their subjects in the Asogli State to the Agbogbome stool.