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Winneba Aboakyer Festival On My Mind   
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James Kofi Annan /President of Challenging Heights
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My article, “I see Zenator Rawlings becoming Ghana’s president”, is still reigning as the most discussed article, and currently the second most read piece on the publishers website Peacefmonline.com after four weeks of publication.

It is pleasing to note that my last three articles have all performed incredibly so well, that “Akuffo Addo reloading Atta Mills” still ranks 4th most read, and second most discussed article, while “Rawlings and the making of Bishop Obinnim” is still 3rd most read, and 4th most discussed story, with the first two maintaining their reign as the most emailed stories.

I can only thank you, my followers for believing in me, and seeing value in what I write.

I may not be writing this week, and probably next couple of weeks. My concentration will be to help in this year’s Aboakyer festival, the biggest festival on the calendars of the Effutu people of the Central Region of Ghana. Being an unrepentant Effutu boy, I dream Winneba, I eat Winneba, and I breathe Winneba.

My DNA is laden with Effutu, and the name Simpa is buried deep in my soul. Hundred per cent born, bread and raised in Winneba, with both parents having some royal lineage. My mother, Efua Odobirba, is originally from Penkye (Fanfaakye women-only house, and Anomansa men-only house), while my father, Kwesi Annan, is originally from Kwendrumu (Asonfo fie), and Chief Annobil fie.

I am proud of my town, I’m proud of my root. I see the legacies of Winneba in my dreams all the time. I see Penkye Otu, Akrama, the beautiful whirling Anyensu Estuary. I see the sea. I see the Windy Bay (from which we got our name modernized from Simpa to Winneba).

Winneba is the most beautiful town, the most welcoming coastal people, not much filth compared to somewhere I know. We are the most peaceful environment to live in. Even though we are not rich, we are a proud people, we live peacefully with our neighbors.

Effutu is our language, and is a language of diversity (Effutu means mixed). It is a Guan dialect, so we are mutually intelligible with all the Guan speaking people in Ghana, including Senya our nearest neighbors, Anum, Boso, Larteh, and more. Every Ghanaian has a share in our language; Ga, Twi, Hausa, and many others.

We are arguably the most adaptive people in the world. We easily sacrifice our language, our culture, to adopt other people’s culture. That is my only fear, that our culture risk extinction. While I do not accept this part of our culture of assimilation, it makes us look peaceful, tolerant, and accommodating.

People mistake us to be Fantses because every Effutu person also speaks Fantse, especially in recent decades, only a few Effutu people are able to speak Effutu. We are surrounded by our fantse brothers, and as accommodating as our nature is, we have adopted Fantse as our language, risking the purity of our own Effutu language.

Winneba is traditionally divided into two groups. The Tuafo Asafo Company (number one), and Dentsefo Asafo Company (number two). These are the two traditional companies (groups) that compete in the hunting of the deer, to determine who arrives with the first deer during the festival.

The Dentsefo could be identified by their colors yellow and red, with their Kakradaa (a high pitch sound-making hand-spinning wooden cymbal), while the Tuafo can be identified by their blue and white colors and their bells.

I am a proud pure and unadulterated Dentse-nyi (meaning I am a member of the Dentsefo group), having inherited this membership lineage from my both parents.

Winneba is a town of festivals. We are the first people to celebrate a festival in the year. The Masquerading festival is the biggest, the most exciting and most patronized masked festival in Ghana, and it takes place on January 1, each year. Mark your calendar, and make it to Winneba next year. It may well be the most thrilling experience of your life.

The Akomase festival, which we share with our brothers in Awutu Senya, has been defunct for sometime now, but efforts are being made to revive it. It is the only crying festival in Ghana.

It is usually celebrated in September/October to remember our dead ancestors. So this year if you want to witness how Winneba people cry, come early around 3am on the festival day. That is where you will see punctuated crying, crying in capital letters, and some with smaller letters.

You will see descriptive crying at its best. There you will hear both narrative and argumentative crying, disputed and disqualified crying, and those who target chronological crying, including amateur crying. Then after all the crying is done, we make merry. We eat, and have big family gatherings to celebrate the same dead people we cried for.

So next week we are celebrating our Aboakyer festival. This year promises to be massive, with several programs and popular artists gracing various events. What is unique about this year’s Aboakyer is the climaxing of the festival with the Aboakyer Cup on Sunday May 8. This year NYCE MEDIA has been tasked with the publicity.

Aboakyer is a festival of color, pomp and pageantry. It is celebrated in style. It has its own unthinkable, unreasonable fashion and creativity. It has its own patterns of celebration best seen than described. It has a tone of frenzy pill.

It makes visitors jump. It makes locals happy. It makes the dead proud. And it makes money.

Our forefathers were a few of the wisest people nature left humanity. Aboakyer, which is held to pacify the Penkye Otu god, is celebrated every first week of May, and until the introduction of the Aboakyer Cup, was always climaxed on the first Saturday with the deer hunting expedition.

The first Saturday was chosen because, in the wisdom of our forefathers, it never rains that day, and since I was born some xy years ago, the worst that has happened has been a minor drizzling during the early mornings of the festival Saturday.

The Aboakyer festival is noted to be one of the most resilient festivals in Ghana. It has survived the most turbulent of times, of the impact of climate change on the forests of the deer hunting expedition, of disputes around the ownership of the forests of the expedition, and of internal jostling for traditional power.

As time passed the face of the festival itself has also changed. It has changed from when human sacrifices were made, to when lions were hunted, to its present deer hunting.

It has changed from it being purely a traditional festival to now being a modern, fun-filled events-laden celebration of young people seeking ecstasy. It has changed from when it was purely focused on satisfying the gods, to now making it a tourism focused and economically viable celebration.

Hotels, restaurants and petty traders all feed fat during the festival. Taxi drivers make the most sales while music makers charge good fees to perform.

You want to tell your own story? You want to know how beautiful our people are, to be part of our stomping of feet, or you want to know why we have such a rich spirit? We are opened, just an hour’s drive to the West of Accra. See you in Winneba next week.
Source: James Kofi Annan /President of Challenging Heights

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