Bakatue: Festival of Elmina - Part 1
The special part of Bakatue is the historical background of the area. My village Eguafo takes in this festival an important role.
Since my childhood I went to the Elmina Bakatue. I liked the special and important part my village took in the festival. In the 70ties I lived for some time in the village Eguafo and we went to the Bakatue festival for the whole week. There was a special route to walk from Eguafo to Elmina. This was the way our ancestors walked to Elmina since generations. The elders talked about the time before Elmina was found: One day, long before the europeans arrived in Ghana, a man found the way through the bush to the seaside and settled down there.
Since I heard this historical background about the route to Elmina, anytime we the youngsters enjoyed to walked there in a group and witnessed the Bakatue Festival. We remembered the story behind the way and our village Eguafo. Immediatly we arrived in Elmina the peoeple there recognized us coming from Eguafo.
In fact up till today the Bakatue only could go on, when the special ritual items are brought from Eguafo to Elmina. That shows the very strong connection between Eguafo and Elmina. The festival even will not complete, if they would not bring the items.
The very part which I liked so much since ever was, if the people from Elmina were welcoming us. It was in between a teasing and hero’s welcome. They knew about the route and walking through the bush and forests for more than two hours is not easy. The youngsters from Elmina knew, that they cannot do the journey we have done in those days. Because they are not used to the forest.
Nowadays it is a road, which you can even drive on.
Some people from Eguafo live in Elmina. During the festival we went and stayed with them in their house. Thats why we could witness the festival from it‘s very beginning till the end.
During thebeginning of the festival the traditional priests gathered. As a youngster I really saw powerful priests. I was very impressed of what they could do in their trance dance. There you could really feel the power of the Bakatue, in it’s traditional meaning.
All the chiefs from the villages surrounding Elmina were taking part. The traditional priests from those villages were also taking part. There you saw the strength of the traditional acitivities.
The special part and official opening part of Bakatue was the gathering in front of the lagoon, Nana Benya. All the chiefs, priests, elders, linguists and everybody who took part was there to watch. Special persons carried the ritual items to the water and offered it to the lagoon. They diveed into the water with the items and left them under water. This offer was guided by prayers before and after the ritual. They prayed for another good year for Elmina and the surrounding villages. In the prayers they also send the good thoughts to Ghana, Africa and the whole world. A special net was thrown to the lagoon after the offer was given to the Benya. When thye pulled the net back, the fishes in the net showed an oracle to the people. This net was thrown three times and the last pulling was the most important to read the oracle. This is up till today still a main part of the festival and many people like to witness this.
Afterwards the chiefs were carried again to the big park on the seaside in front of the Elmina castle. A lot of celebrations were going on there. Music was playing, traditional dances were performed, traditional talking drummers showed their communication abilities, which was a competition in between the artists. This went on for several hours on that day and continued in the evening with a lot of parties with participants from all over the world.
The festival was finished and we the youngsters enjoyed it so much. Now it was time to hit the same road back through the bush and forests to the village Eguafo. The nice part of it was in the end, when we arrived back in Eguafo, there was a lot of cheers and heroic welcome. Because the people of Eguafo feared to go to Elmina, because oft he city, the same as the Elminas were afraid to enter the bush and the villages in the olden time. Everybody was curious to hear from us about the oracle of the net and the fishes they got. Because this result stands fort he whole Central Region and Ghana.
Up till today this ritual has an important role for the people of Ghana, the Africans from the Diaspora, people who are interested in Ghana and rituals - and the tourist.