Hon. Cecilia Abena Dapaah,...
The Central Region is the former government centre of the Gold Coast. Cape Coast was the seat of the British colonial administration up until 1877. The coastline is famous for its ancient forts and castles built by early European traders, and three of them at Elmina, St. Jago and Cape Coast have been identified as World Heritage Monuments by the World heritage Foundation under UNESCO.
The Region is also famous for its palm-fringed beaches, fascinating fishing villages and historic towns, and rich natural attractions. Kakum National Park, just 30km north of Cape Coast, is the foremost nature reserve in Southern Ghana and well worth a visit. Almost untouched virgin rainforest has been preserved as a habitat for birds, butterflies and rare local animals, and Kakum is most accessible, as it is very easy to reach from Accra.
The Region’s culture is depicted through its many exciting festivals which are held throughout the year. Some of the best known festivals are ‘Bakatue’, literally the opening up of Benya Lagoon into the sea, which symbolised the beginning of the fishing season for the people of Elmina; ‘Edina Buronya’, a native version of Christmas celebrated by the people of Elmina on the first Thursday of the New Year; ‘Aboakyer’ or game hunting, one of the most famous festivals celebrated by the chiefs and people of Winneba on the first Saturday in May; and ‘Fetu Afahye’ celebrated with a durbar of chiefs by the people of Cape Coast on the first Saturday of September. Another famous festival is ‘Odambea’ celebrated on the last Saturday in August in Saltpond Traditional Area, and reflecting a migration of the local people centuries ago.
The historic towns in the region that deserve a visit include Winneba, traditionally known as ‘Simpa’ Winneba; Kromantsej Abanze, the site of Fort Amsterdam; Duakwa and Mensa Krom, home of some of the Region’s best woodcarvers; Ajumako aware where the carvers specialise in royal regalia, stools, linguistic staffs and clan totems.
Throughout the Central Region there are welcoming hotels and restaurants, all an easy drive from Accra. If you are seeking to discover the historical links between Africa and the Americas and Europe, or just wanting to explore a culture that has its roots in another era, or just wanting to relax on a sun-dappled beach, then the Central Region must not be missed.
The castles along the coast of the Central Region are amongst the best preserved in Ghana. Not to be missed are Cape Coast Castle, Elmina Castle And Fort St Jago.
Local highlights include:
Kakum National Park
A 357km² national park comprising undisturbed virgin rainforest. Excellent walking tours (and a canopy walkway) through the forest provide the opportunity to see much of Ghana’s indigenous plant life, as well as rare butterflies, birds and game (that could include the extraordinary Bongo and forest elephant). Highlights include:
The Beaches of the Central Region
Beaches lovers will enjoy our palm-fringed beaches, warmed by African sunshine, where surf ranges from gentle rollers to sizeable breakers. Popular spots are:
Traditional Fishing Villages
Along the coast of the Central Region are a succession of busy fishing villages and traditional market town that reflect the distinct cultures of the district. Visitors to all the village will be welcomed with traditional Ghanaian hospitality. Of particular interest are:
The villagers of the central region are famed for their traditional crafts that are still worked as their forefathers have worked for generations. They all make great souvenirs of your visit to the central region. Particularly important village are:
The festival is a celebration to mark the migration of these people from the ancient Western Sudan Empire where they were led by 2 brothers and a god called Otu. Upon consulting their god, they were instructed by their traditional priest or mediator between the people and the god to sacrifice a young member of the Royal family every year to their god.
This was not good news so they made an appeal to their god who asked for an animal from the wildcat family to be caught alive and beheaded before the god.
Before the festival began they settled the god at a place called Penkye hence the god became Penkyi Otu. When the people went out to hunt down the wild cat they lost so many men before capturing it alive. This caused the second appeal. Penkyi Otu decided to accept a mature bushbuck this looks like a deer.
The people of Simpa sang this story in their war chants and told it during moonlit nights. It was kept and protected till it could be written in English for all to read.
Today, the Aboakyir festival is celebrated in May each year and is a major event in Ghana.
It started around the 1920’s and is celebrated on the 1st of January every year and draws large crowds from all over.
There are four fancy-dressing groups who participate in the festival competition, wearing masks and accompanied by brass band music. The festival begins in the morning of New Year Day with street dancing and is open to all the performing groups who parade through the principal streets of Winneba.
The groups converge at the Advanced Teacher Training College Park where the competition takes the form of a march past and three different dances (Highlife/Blues) performed by the groups.
A team of judges award marks and at the end of the day the most versatile group is crowned the winner.
This festival is a novel Christmas introduced to the people of Elmina during the Dutch era of the colonial period. The period coincides with the Dutch Festival which falls on the first Thursday of January every year and marked in Elmina to signify the bond of friendship between the Dutch and the people of Elmina.
A fish-catching ritual is performed at the banks of the Benya Lagoon by the Asafo Companies in their full regalia. The Paramount Chief and his retinue are present at the banks and musketry is fired. On the eve of the festival, the Paramount chief climbs up Fort SI. Jago and fires shots at midnight to usher in the New Year. The Paramount Chief rides in a Palanquin the next day to pay homage to the various clans.
Libation is poured using locally prepared wine and there is sprinkling of mashed yam as well as shaking of hands with family heads to signify peace, prosperity and good health in the coming year. The paramount Chief and his elders converge in front of Elmina Castle where a sheep is slaughtered. There is merry-making drumming and dancing throughout.
Edina Bakatue Festival
Literally translated means “The opening of the Lagoon” or the Draining of the Lagoon”. It is celebrated to commemorate the founding of the town, Elmina by the Europeans. It is also celebrated to invoke the deity, Nana Benya’s continuous protection of the state and its people.
During the celebration, the Paramount Chief and his sub-chiefs, elders’ fetish priests and priestesses, and indeed the entire state offer the sacred food of eggs and mashed yam mixed with palm oil to the river god and prays for peace.
All rituals are performed on Mondays. Fetish priests and priestesses and drummers take turns to perform their rituals. There is a performance of the spiritually possessed chief fetish priest as he responds to spiritual revelations.
There is royal possession made up of gorgeously dressed chiefs and stool carriers, some riding in beautifully decorated palanquins. After performing some rituals at the riverside, the chief priest casts his net three times and announces the lifting of the ban on fishing, drumming, funerals and other social activities in the traditional area.
There is a spectacular ride on the lagoon by women resplendent in “Kente” cloth and local festive headgears. A royal procession leading to the chief’s palace amidst traditional music ends the festival
The people of Agona in the Central Region celebrate the festival literally meaning “path-clearing”. The Asafo companies weed footpaths leading to the streams or rivers, farms and other communal places, as well as paths, which lead to shrines. The following day, the whole community assembles at the ancestral shrines and the chief pours libation to the ancestral spirits to thank them for their protection during the previous year and then request for more blessing, abundant rainfall and good harvest for the ensuing year. At the stream or riverside where some of the sacrifices are offered, alligators and other species of fish come out to enjoy the mashed yams sprinkled on the water.
With their bodies smeared with clay, the people then parade with twigs and tree branches through the town in groups amidst drumming, dancing and firing of musketry.
In a procession, they go through the principal routes and then to the durbar ground to meet the chief and his elders.
There is a vigil kept at night and patronized mainly by the youth. It is a time when people come together to renew family and social ties. Performing groups, which are dormant are revitalized and new groups initiated.
Pan-African Historic Festival is a major biennial event of cultural forum for Africans and people of African descent as well as friends of the continent committed to the noble cause of Pan Africanism.
The venues for the Panafest are the historical towns of Cape Coast and Elmina. The festival is a celebration of African cultural values, history and civilization. This consists of:
*performances and workshops in theatre, drama, music, cinema, poetry, colloquia and lectures.
*colourful traditional durbar of chiefs and people of Ghana
*tours/excursions to places of interest such as the slave castle dungeons.
Panafest brings together participants from all over the world.
The Odwira Festival, which is celebrated by the Denkyira people, runs for weeks, beginning at Jukwa, the traditional capital, and ends at Dunkwa-on Offin, the administrative capital. It signifies cleansing or bathing their ancestors and lesser gods. Drumming and firing of guns are done to announce the festival in the palace. There is wailing and weeping by the women amidst the firing of guns by the Asafo companies. Its significance is to remember the departed.
On Friday, the two Asafo Companies (traditional warriors) joined by the inhabitants, take to the streets of Jukwa amidst drumming and dancing. Later the Chief is carried in a palanquin to a sacred place where sacrifices are made to departed royals of the Denkyira State.
The festival in Jukwa ends with a durbar of chiefs and people of the area. After the first week in Jukwa, the festival is moved to Dunkwa-on Offin, the administrative capital for the climax of the festivities.
Fetu Afahye (Carnival)
The most attractive aspects of Ghanaian cultural life are that of the colourful traditional festivals and durbars which are frequently held in all part of the country.
Festivals reveal some common features, during these festivals; the people remember there past leaders and pray for help and protection. Festivals are also held in order to purify the whole state so that the people can enter the New Year with confidence and hope.
Fetu Afahye is being celebrated by the people of Oguaa or Cape Coast Traditional Area in the Central Region is named after the 17th Century Fetu or Effutu kingdom which is located 19 kilometres inland of Cape Coast. This festival starts on the 1st of September every year, features of this festival is the state purification rites which includes the paramount Chief’s Yam festival and is observed in the form of offering mashed yams to the gods.
The festival is very colourful and it’s like a grand festival there is a processing of chiefs, drumming, dancing and firing of musketry but this is uniqueness in the traditional attire of the various warrior groups and the slaughtering o a cow in public for the 77 gods of Oguaa (Cape Coast).
There is also a display of traditional priests and priestesses on Monday night, which attracts large crowd mainly the youth and thousands of people including foreigners from all over the country travel to witness the festival. This festival has effect of creating in the people a feeling of pride in their cultural heritage and spiritual affinity.
During this occasion it also gives people the opportunity to meet old friends and relatives they’ve missed for a long time.
But there is another significant feature ceremony “Bakatue” involves cutting through the sand bar separating the Fosu lagoon and the sea to allow the lagoon access into the sea presumably to bring more fish into the lagoon.
The Omanhene (Paramount Chief) as part of the event, pours libation to the deity, Nana Fosu, Omanhenes’ net is cast three times into the lagoon to signify the lifting of the ban on lagoon fishing.
Various fishermen’s groups in the municipality organize a regatta or board race on the lagoon. A grand Durban climaxes the festival.
Okyir is the major festival celebrated by the people of Anomabu. It is celebrated as a sign of cleansing or purification of the town from filth, evil spirits etc.
Highlights of the festival include the following activities:
• A yam festival celebrated by offering food to the 77 gods of the town.
• Vigil keeping.
• Preparation and distribution of food among friends and loved ones.
• A colourful durbar of chiefs.
• Beach programme.
The climax of the Okyir is on the second Sunday of October
This is a week long festival which starts on Easter Monday. The festival has two venues: Abakrampa, the seat of the traditional area and Abura Dunkwa, the administrative capital. Rituals are performed near the state shrine. The festival is characterized by the fencing of the Odum Tree which is regarded as sacred, and believed to have protected the people from attacks during their wars.
The climax is on Saturday with a durbar of chiefs in the area and they converge at the palace to pay homage to the paramount chief whilst drumming and dancing.
Nyeyi and Tuakron
The Komenda-Nyeyi festival is celebrated in honour of departed heroes and heroines for their great contribution to the various traditional areas and the “Tuakron”, meaning settling on new lands is celebrated by the people of Hemang.
Kakum National Park
The park was established in 1932 and officially opened to the public in 1994. The 357km2 national park is comprised of mostly undisturbed virgin rainforest. Excellent walking tours (and a canopy walkway) through the forest provide the opportunity to see much of Ghana’s indigenous plant life, as well as rare butterflies, birds and game (that could include the extraordinary bongo and forest elephant). Highlights include:
Kakum National Park Visitor Centre: The Kakum National Park Visitor Centre (KNPVC), managed by Ghana Heritage Conservation Trust (GHCT) built with funding from USAID and technical support by Conservation International (Cl) is located on a 512-acre land adjacent to the Kakum National Park. The Centre has facilities that promote conservation education and awareness.
Rainforest Café: Kakum Rainforest Café encourages conservation efforts at the Park by supporting local farmers through the purchase of fresh produce while providing a relaxing location for visitors to enjoy a fine meal and refreshing drinks.
Hidden Connections: The “Hidden Connection” exhibit interprets the complexities which underlie tropical rainforest diversity, the interdependencies among species, and the numerous biological connections which make the rain forest a “web of life ‘. It also highlights the cultural connections that the people of southern Ghana have with the natural world that make them part of this “web”. At least forty-five minutes should be planned for visitors to experience the exhibit as it prepares them to enter the rainforest and to notice more of the scents, sights and sounds unique to the forest environment while increasing levels of enjoyment and conservation education.
The Afafranto Campsite: This campsite is located 200 meters from the Kakum Visitors Centre. The Afafranto campsite is ideally positioned for visitors wanting an easily accessible forest camping experience.
Visitors who want to visit this site must bring along their own tents, mosquito nets, sleeping pads and/or cots for use at the campsite. It will soon be possible to rent them from the Visitor Centre.
Sun bird Trail: Visitors with a special interest in birds now have a new trail that is specially developed to incorporate three ecosystems: the rainforest, the secondary forest and a pond environment. Visitors can use this trail to search for more than 400 bird species found on the Kakum bird checklist. The departure times for bird watching can be specified when making a booking for the trails and guides.
Canopy Walkway: The Kakum Canopy Walkway, Africa’s first and only rainforest walkway, is composed of 350 meters of suspended bridge and six tree platforms that reach the height of 30 meters above the forest floor. From the treetops, visitors experience a unique and spectacular view of the rainforest ecosystem and have the opportunity to see flora and fauna, which could never be viewed from the ground. Hundreds of species of butterflies and birds can be viewed from the Walkway early in the morning and if visitors are lucky, they may catch a glimpse of the Spot-nose, Campbell’s and Columbus monkeys.
Kakum Conservation Area Tree House
In 1992, the Kakum Conservation Area (KCA) was formed, consisting of the Kakum National Park and the nearby Assin Attandaso Resource Reserve.
The Kakum National Park is a fairly old national park, having been established in 1932 and used for the last fifty years for thee extraction of timber. It is located in Central Region of Ghana, about 20 kilometres north of Cape Coast. It covers 360 square kilometres of Ghana’s rapidly dwindling rainforest.
The government of Ghana officially opened the park in 1994. USAID/Ghana provides institutional support to the Ghana Heritage Conservation Trust to ensure the sustainability of Kakum National Park.
There are seven primate species including the Diana monkey, about 550 species of butterflies, 250 species of birds including five hornbill species, the Frazer-eagle owl, and the African grey and Senegal parrots, and about 100 species of mammals, reptiles and amphibians (forty species of larger mammals).
The reserve has a varied wildlife with some 40 species of mammals. Bird life is also varied; the 200 species known include 5 spectacular hornbill species, Frazer-eagle owl, African grey and Senegal parrots.
The tree house walk takes you from one of two starting places depending one how far you intend to hike (2 or 3 hours). The hike is guided by trained experts in the area and follows a trail through cocoa farms, bamboo forests, until you reach the Kakum forest where the hike turns to more of a jungle experience.
The tree house sleeps 8-10 depending on your level of comfort (subtract 2 spots for the guides). It is situated 40 feet above the forest floor and within sight of the tallest tree of the forest where elephants can sometimes be seen scrounging for fallen fruit.
Coastal Ramsar Sites – Muni-Pomadze Ramsar Site
The Muni-Pomadze Site encompasses an area of about 90-km2 comprising the water shed of the Muni Lagoon. However, the lagoon and flood plains is only 114ha. Eleven communities/settlements within the site fall under the Awutu-Efutu-Senya and Gomoa Districts.
Farming and fishing are the main vocation of the people. Each Fisherman’s earning is estimated to be more than one million in 1994. The lagoon extends about 15 km inland. Winneba is attempting to encourage the growth of beach recreation
Source: Touring Ghana
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