Most ethnic and tribal groups in Ghana have unique cultural and traditional festivals they celebrate, mostly annually, for a few important reasons.
These celebrations have historical, religious, cultural, social, and moral importance, among others.
One such festival is the Hogbetsotsoza of the chiefs and people of Anlo Ewes in the Volta Region. The festival, also known as Hogbeza commemorates the legendary exodus of the Ewe-Dogbo folks from Notsie in present-day Togo.
Hogbetsotso is derived from three words, “ho” move/uproot, “gbe” day “tsotso” crossing, thus, the day of exodus. The festival is celebrated on every first Saturday in November at Anloga, the traditional and ritual capital of the 36 states of Anlo.
Tradition holds that the Anlos who form part of Ewe people had to flee from Notsie, where they were being held captive in a walled city due to altercation -resulting from a conspiracy, which forced King Agorkorli to order the killing of his favourite son, between them and the king.
To escape, they devised a way to soften a portion of the thick wall, made of mud, broke it and through it, walked backwards to freedom amidst drumming and dancing to misego/husago under the command and leadership of Torgbui Tegli.
The 2022 edition of the festival held on the theme: “60 Years of Anlo Hogbetsotsoza: Uniting for Development, sustaining our Unique Cultural Commonwealth for Future Generations,” did not only serve the importance of festivals but also among others, promoted tourism in the area, forged unity among the people and established inter-ethnic relationships.
The durbar at Hogbe Park, Anloga on Saturday, November 05, saw the presence of Otumfuo Osei-Tutu II, the Asantehene and his entourage (numbering about 500), King Tackie Teiko Tsuru II, the Ga Mantse and his retinue of chiefs and Daasebre Akuamoah Agyapong II, the Kwahuhene’s delegation led by Nana Opoku Mintah II, Tafohene in addition to chiefs from the Asogli State, republics of Benin and Togo.
Also, Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, graced the celebration.
Dr Archibald Yao Letsa, the Volta Regional Minister, Members of Parliament, Municipal and District Chief Executives, as well as bigwigs of the two main political parties, the New Patriotic Party, and the National Democratic Congress were all present.
Diplomats, prominent sons, and daughters of Anlo and Eweland including from the academia, entertainment and the business world, cultural enthusiasts from other parts of the country, and from the diaspora were also in attendance.
The festival, which resumed two years after its suspension in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 outbreak in the country was described by many as spectacular and historic considering the large crowd, the presence of important personalities and kings and the pomp and pageantry that characterized the grand durbar.
The low points, Mr Silas Aidam, Publicity Chair, 2022 Hogbetsotsoza Planning Committee observed were “the poor control of the inner perimeter, alleged hooting at the Vice President and artiste Shatta Wale refusing to perform” saying, that notwithstanding, expectations of the festival were “largely met.”
Togbi Agbesi Awusu III, the Awadada of Anlo in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) gave his impression of the 2022 Hogbetsotsoza as successful and predicted the coming ones to get even better.
“This year’s Hogbeza was successful. We wanted the best out of the 60th anniversary and so, we went all out with the youth enthusiastically helping. The Chiefs’ expression of interest was impressive such that a prominent chief from the Republic of Benin came around on Friday when the Awoamefia was sitting in state.
“All along, I kept wondering how we were going to handle the large crowd. We learnt a lot from this Hogbetsotso because I do not think in the history of Anlo, we have handled such a crowd. I think the crowd next year will be less than this and those who will come will not regret it because we will improve tremendously on what we did this year.”
Togbi Zewu IV, Chairman of the Anlo Hogbetsotsoza Planning Committee disclosed that planning was hectic due to some delays, but hopeful the Committee will take cues from the shortfalls to better plan for the ensuing ones.
He called on Anlo citizens of means both home and abroad to prepare to invest in the festival for more successes.
The economy in the Anlo enclave experienced a boost during the Hogbetsotso period from the Congress of Chiefs at Anlo Senior High School, Anloga, the Mini Hogbe Durbar at Anlo-Afiadenyigba, Basic Schools Hogbe, Hogbe Half Marathon, “Nugbidodo” (reconciliation) at Agowowornu, “Glimetoto” (an enactment of the departure or escape from Notsie), MTN Health Walk, Mama Hogbe Pageant, Hogbe Beach Party, Health Screening, Hogbetsotsoza Beach Soccer Classic among other programmes and rites (from September 29-November 04) which preceded the grand durbar.
GNA’s checks revealed that hotels and guest houses at Anloga and its surroundings towns and communities including Anyanui, Dzita, Whuti, Woe, Tegbi, Keta were all booked months ahead of the Hogbetsotso festivities to the extent that a newly opened one at Woe and a yet-to-be completed one at Keta were not spared.
Likewise, those at Denu, Aflao, Akatsi and Sogakope, which were quite distances from Anloga and Keta, the two main towns where the celebration happens, were also booked.
At the durbar itself, variety was not only displayed in the areas of cultural values like drumming, singing, and dressing but also in the kinds of food like dzowoe, abolo, yakayake, akple,… and species of fish as well as jangling of different wares like beads, drinks, and telecommunication services thus, creating a market-like scene.
Mr Ken Kpedor, President of Anlo Youth Council, the umbrella body of the youth of Anlo said the Hogbetsotsoza platform would be used to develop the area blessed with cultural, historical and tourist attractions including the abode of the mystical Torgbui Tsali at Tsiame, Torkor Atorlia, Anloga, Fort Prinzenstein, Keta, Cape St Paul Lighthouse, Woe, Atorkor Slave Market, Keta Lagoon Ramsar Site and, the golden beaches.
“We can only sustain what we have done and make it a lot bigger, enrich it with more cultural performances. This year was used to enhance the brand. We believe that subsequently, we will use it as a tool to drive our development agenda once we succeed in building a stronger brand.”
Mr Joel Degue, Tourism Developer, Promoter and Consultant said the festival, “arguably one of the most elaborate and celebrated festivals on Ghana’s festival calendar” must be preserved and handed over to generations yet unborn.
“The challenge is unto us the current generation to protect, preserve and conserve this beautiful cultural asset and value. It is a great cultural heritage worth safeguarding. Let us endeavour to do just that.”