Tuesday is of great significance, historically to Elmina. It is set aside and consecrated to the tutelary deity and consequently observed as a sacred day of rest. The day is married to various engagements in war with states, which were hostile particularly the last Edina Fante war which was fought on Tuesday, 26 May, 1868. When linked with Bakatue Festival it is a day of great Jubilation as the people of Edinaman celebrate the commemoration of the founding of Elmina by Kwa Amankwa.
Six weeks mark the ceremonial rites for the observance of the festival. A state proclamation is made by means of gong gong by which;
- Net fishing in the lagoon during the period is prohibited
- Cleansing rites and purification of widows are enforced
- The dead must not be laid in state nor see the sunset of their fataI day
- Sale of fresh herring In the market ceases
- Newly harvested crops are neither to be exposed nor eaten
- Funeral obsequies drumming, social enjoyment and other forms of noise making during the period are proscribed.
Monday, June 5th 2023
Ban on noise making/ recapping of Benya Shrine
This is the official beginning of activities to commence the celebration of the festival, it is customary for the citizenry to enter into a new era in ‘a state of purity. The Sacred Shrine has a detachable cap on top known in local parlance as “Burukutukyew”. It is mounted on it a white flag always facing easterly direction symbolising the glorious victory over the Fantes in the war of 1868.
The replacement of the cap is an annual affair and the old cap is carried to “Kunkuntar” to be swallowed by the sea. The new structure is woven on the ground and capped on top of the shrine at midnight hence the saying “Burukutukyew wo wen no ase ana wodze afow sor”.
Sunday, June 11th 2023 9pm – 1am
Curfew Essarmu through Bakaano to Benya Shrine
Tuesday, June 13th 2023
Tradition requires Ankobea Asafo (№.1) whose emblem is the key to go in an irregular procession to the Shrine on the evening of Monday to perform a very important exclusive ceremony captioned the Overturn of the wooden platter (Korba Butuw), The journey of the militant company ends in front of the shrine where a sheep is presented to the state to be offered as sacrifice to the gods. The sacrificial ceremony symbolised the official proclamation of the strict observance of all taboos as already listed above.
On the midnight of the same Monday, four of the thirteen straw-hat bearers Who are state courtiers (Birifikyewfo) canoe to “Anwewdo”, the source of the river where they invoke and carry to the Shrine the spirit of the god Benya to guide and guard the state as they prepare to enter a new year. The sounding of the Royal State drum (Aketsewta) warns people to take cover and give way to the deity. The drum also plays a very important role in the invocation ceremony.
Tueday, June 19th 2023
On the night of Monday of the 4th of the six-week period of preparation and ceremony, the first of three state drumming popularly called ”Dombo” comes on at the frontage of the sacred shrine. The traditional choristers (Apaafo) and drummers (Tentenfo) get ready to sing and beat the drums with Omanhen, Chiefs, and Stool holders. State Courtiers and all concerned citizens take their right positions and get themselves ready to watch the drumming and dancing and to consult the oracle and answer spiritual enquiries when necessary. At the appropriate time the 77 states gods descend simultaneously and, spiritually possessing the performing priest, direct and control his actions and utterances. In the olden days the sacred shrine itself danced to the rhythmical drumming.
Tuesday, June 26th 2023
There is a repeat of the routine traditional drumming and dancing at the same place same time, same duration and same functionaries. Observers who missed the first Dombo take a turn at the second but generally no in habitant wants to miss any.
Monday, July 3rd 2023
It is now the turn and in fact the prerogative of Akyemfo Asafo (No.2) whose emblem is the Eagle (Korpon) to revoke the observance of taboos instituted by Ankobea ‘ Asafo in the third week of the preparatory period. On Monday evening (the eve of the festival), Akyemfo assemble in front of the Shrine to present a sheep as sacrificial offering in compliance with custom to signify the advent of the lifting of the ban impose six weeks previously. This ceremonial and ritualistic sacrifice which is’ captioned “KORBATAE” requires the active participation of the Omanhen his elders and the state courtiers.
Third Final Dombo
The penultimate climax of the festival is the all night drumming of Dombo where the high priests excel themselves in dancing to the style of their respective gods. The trained and experienced observer can tell which god is on the ascendancy by the dancing style of the priest on floor. This resounding of the third and final Dombo takes us to Tuesday morning the much-awaited day.
Tuesday, July 4th 2023
On this day there is a spectacular ride on the lagoon by women resplendent in “kente” cloth and local festive headgears (Tekua). There is also a regatta on the lagoon, this competition brings to bare the prowess of the men in their fishing trade as they exhibit brute strength combined with dexterous skill in paddling and maneuvering in the water to win the race cheered by onlookers as virtually the entire Edinaman descends on the banks of the Benya lagoon to witness this beautiful event which happens once a year.
A royal procession made up of gorgeously dressed chiefs and stool holders, some of them riding in beautifully decorated palanquin. Fetish Priests and Priestesses, Herbalist, Supis, Asafohenfo and concerned citizens start from Akotobinsin at 12:00noon. The Paramount Chief of the traditional area appears last in the procession dressed in white cloth with “Nyinya Necklace“, He wears a straw hat (Birifikyew) and hold his sceptre all of which are symbolic of his high place and command. The attire sets him apart from all the other chiefs who wear gold ornaments.
He rides in his flamboyant palanquin under the beautiful double tier umbrella signifying his authority over all others. The royal procession passes through the principal streets of Elmina and stops for a brief period of time at the sacred shrine where final purification ceremonies are performed. The solemn procession resumes with one of the courtiers carrying wooden tray believed to contain, among other things all the ills and curses of the state. On reaching the river’s embankment, the chief linguists’ pours libation, the sacred food is offered and the ills and curses buried in the river. Thrice the Omanhen’s net is cast and thrice a gun booms announcing lifting of ban on fishing, drumming, funerals, etc. The exchange of yarn and fish between Eguafo and Edina respectively at this material time is a pointer of the historical close-knit unity of the two traditional areas.
The festival, with all its traditional pomp, grandeur,’ pageantry and unsurpassable natural gaiety and spontaneous jubilation end with a royal procession ending at the Omanhen’s Palace amidst instrumental and traditional drumming.
The mystic significance of Bakatue Festival is, first and foremost, to bring all sons and daughters of Edinaman together in a very unique way. It is a historical festival which portrays our unsurpassable rich cultural heritage; that which spiritually inspires us and makes us proud as a people of with a common ancestral descent. It is a festival, which has for us a sacred up liftment of hearts. As an agricultural area, the celebration invokes fertility abundance of food and fish as it invokes good health, happy marriages and worthy children: Politically it calls for peace and unity for the inhabitants of Elmina town and peaceful co-existence between Elmina Township and its satellite traditional allegiance settlements.
Saturday, July 8th 2023
On Saturday there is grand durbar to climax the celebration of the year’s Bakatue Festival. A procession begins from the Omanhen’s palace to the forecourt of the Elmina Castle. The procession is led by the Asafo companies and stool bearers. There is a lot of pump and pageantry by the chief’s, each exhibiting their skill in dance. The rhythmic hand gestures go with the loud beating of royal drums and firing of muskets it is indeed a sight to behold.