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Winneba, A Land Of Heroes…
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I don’t know what I would have done if I was not born a Winnebarian. Sometimes I wish those who did not have the privilege of coming from Winneba, would seize the opportunity to experience the Winneba factor, just for a moment, and you will know what I am talking about. Trust me, if the option is given to me, again, to choose where I should be born, I would choose Winneba again, and again, as many times as the option is presented to me.

This does not mean that Winneba offers me all the luxuries of life. No. Winneba faces its own challenges; lack of employment opportunities, poor sanitation, and many of the known problems in other towns, are also found in Winneba.

But I believe there is a magic storage in Winneba that does not exist in other towns. We are creative people, and we love being ourselves. You enter the town, and no one would tell you, you would know, yourself, that you have entered a unique town. We may be poor, but we are a proud people.

I regret, or should I say I am happy, that God did not deposit some of the gold in our soil. We don’t have cocoa. We don’t have oil. Even the fishing business that we used to be proud of, is now nearly none existent.

So basically we are a land of nothing. We are not Obuasi. We are Winneba, but we have been able to create a lot for ourselves, making our own name in the process. We take the nothingness of this world, and make something out of them, to the envy of those who have more.

I have told you, in the past, that, Winneba does not celebrate Christmas. That is one of our bragging rights. The church people would go to church during Christmas. But there are no any other serious preparations towards the occasion. The Christmas festival is essentially ignored during the time when everyone else was celebrating.

To flaunt our pride, we created our own Christmas – Winneba Fancy Dress festival – and showed it to the world, and the world loved it. I will not go into too much details, just come to Winneba this January 1st, and experience the magic of the Fancy Dress festival.

I have also told you that Winneba is not only a land of festivals, it is a land of competition. We challenge the status quo. We are the only people in this world who have hunted for lions with our bare hands – with no weapons. Nowhere in the world has this ever happened. Even when our population was smaller, we still dared ourselves into trooping to the bush, to wrestle live lions, catch them live, and brought them live, to our kings, for the purposes of sacrificing them to our gods.

Our fore fathers created a festival known as Penkye-Eyipe. This was a festival of physical fights, to spill blood to feed one of our gods. This is us, we fought with one another, without any provocation, without any weapons, neither were there any preceding conflicts, we just decided to fight, at full strength, to determine who is stronger than the other. This was not a boxing bout. It was an arranged antagonism, between men, who must fight, on the streets, from Penkye (where my mother hails from) to Ayipe, until one of the fighters is severely wounded.

Remember that in the course of the fighting, no other part of the body is permitted to be involved, except naked blows, and naked blows, not of the raw clinched fist (we call it kutuku in Effutu), but of the fingers assembled together in a suspended hanging fist (we call it etw3r in Effutu), designed to support the arm bones that helps the designed blows to maintain its full strength when it is unleashed at the forehead (like how a cobra clinches its head forward on its neck in readiness for attack). The aim was to induce blood flow through the targeted unleashing of the etw3r, at the forehead (the etw3r must necessarily land at the forehead for it to be counted).

This was how several of our men gained or lost their wives. The winners at Penkye-Ayipe festival became the beneficiaries of other people’s wives, adding them to their own, while losers were losing their wives to the winners. So if you felt another man’s wife is more beautiful and you want to win her over to yourself, all you needed to do was to practice towards the forehead of the woman’s husband, and on the D-day, just let your blows become punctual at the forehead, that is all.

For those who don’t know, every Winneba boy is naturally a strong person, we were naturally a selection of the fittest. Look at our biceps, and look at how it coordinates with our fists, and how they both align with our feet – there is always something unique about how our bodies have been built. Simpa Panyin, I know I look small oo, but trust me, I have a lot to show, for being a Winneba boy.

Over the years, the government of Ghana deliberately made this Penkye-Ayipe festival defunct, due to the damages rivals were causing to each other’s foreheads. But I, reluctantly, wish it stayed, I would have targeted some elders of Winneba paaa errh, and that day, I would not only have aimed at their foreheads, I would have aimed at their jaws, plugging out their teeth and dislocating their noses in order for them to stop some of the, taflatse, nonsense in town.

Anyway, last year I told you about another festival celebrated by the people of Effutu, the Akomase festival? We share this festival with our brothers in Awutu Senya. The festival has been defunct for a while, 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.

The festival involves creative crying, in competitive mode, did you get that? At the dawn of the festival, as early as 3am, the women begin to launch the crying season, and once the signal is given, all others join, in unison. You should listen to them cry; insinuative crying, faulty ones, recycled crying, crying in divorce mode, and many different shades of crying, which all blend to give the occasion the colors that it deserves. No winners are declared, but we know those who lost.

I am sure what you have been waiting for is the Winneba Aboakyer Festival. Winneba Aboakyer festival is the most popular festival we have had in Ghana. The people of Effutu benefitted from a legacy that took the lives of many ancestral indigenes who sacrificed in their resolve to protect our future. They did it together, as one people.

The festival started with human sacrifice to the celebrated god, Penkye Otu. Then with time we changed to the hunting of live lions. And when we realized that the lion was consuming more people, we resorted to a competition to catch a live deer for the god, hence the Aboakyer festival.

The Aboakyer festival is celebrated, every year, on the first Saturday in May, and, as expected, the two Asafo Companies, Tuafo and Dentsefo, compete for the bragging rights for the year. Whoever presents the first live deer is the winner for the year.  The festival is preceded by wild insinuations, and counter insinuations against the opposing Asafo Companies, who are always in the habit of trying to undo each other, as strategies to becoming the first to present a live deer.

So it is obvious that the people of Winneba love competition. It is in our DNA, to compete on virtually everything. This is something non Winnebarians do not know, and therefore keep misreporting us, in the media. I hate it when I hear people who are ignorant of our nature, peddling all manner of untruths about what we take delight in, accusing us of throwing stones at each other, and that we are fighting over our festivals. If you don’t know us, keep quiet! Don’t misrepresent our way of life.

There are several other major festivals in Winneba, including the Fancy Dress Festival. And it is the same competitive spirit that we have transported into each one of them. I know for instance that nearly every town in Ghana has a semblance of a fancy dress activity during Christmas. But none has done it the way Winneba has done it. We just don’t wear masks. We just don’t wear costumes. We create glory, and we invite our gods to celebrate our fanciness, and when we appear on the stage, to compete, the world becomes our audience.

So the next time you meet someone from Winneba, just know that you have met a fighter, know that you have met a king, and just know that you have met a hero.
Source: James Kofi Annan/ [email protected]

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