Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Kundum Festival in Axim

Kundum is an annual festival of the Ahanta people, whose traditional center is the city of Axim. What a week!! The drums beat furiously, wonderfully. The rhythmic complexity is astounding. Families reunite around the "family homes", with traditional Ghanaian food, music. Everyone is dressed in traditional clothing---esp. the women with their colorful batik dresses.

Let me tell you a little about the Kundun festival in Axim. It’s one of the larger ones in the country. For 4 weeks, the drums move around and get closer and closer to Axim. At the beginning of the week, heads of families, and kings request that anyone holding grudges in the community come forth and reconcile with their opponent. Thus many rifts are healed. The next day everyone cooks, and anyone can walk into to anyone’s house and eat. There is a day of remembering and mourning the ancestors. There is a day of killing of a fowl, 4 goats and more drumming and cooking.

On the high festival day, the royals – the co-director of our project was one this year – the first white person ever to be so honored -- all arrive at the palace about 10 to dress and await the parade. 3 Of us went elsewhere to be dressed in royal cloths. Maryanne was carried in the palanquin as the development Queen of Axim (Nkosohema). Thus did Axim honor and thank our GCJ group for our work in Axim during this past year. We walked behind her. It was quite an affair – colorful, rhythmic, joyful. We ended up at the field and listened to speeches and music and dancing, and then it was back into the palanquins in what seemed a bit like a rodeo. The carriers danced back and forward and bounced the palanquins quite a bit. Some of the more experienced riders stood up and cheered them on. It was very colorful! Finally we ended at the palace for dinner. It actually reminded me a bit of Mardi Gras. Not surprising – where did Mardi Gras come from? What a day!

All in all, it is a time of peace, reconciliation, remembering the departed, generosity and celebration of life. A good thing, I think. Although some Christian missionaries tried to stamp it out as pagan, and current Pentecostal churches pan it, others are now being more tolerant. (text by Barbara G)