Akwasidae festivals are held in Ghana every six weeks, honouring the ancestors and the Ashanti king. It takes place in the royal palace and gathers hundreds of people, all dressed traditionally. The ceremony opens in the throne room, where only the initiates are allowed. Ritual libations of blood and schnapps are poured onto the thrones of the former kings as offerings to them and to the ancestors. Then the king, the Asantehene, makes an appearance in the royal court where he takes a seat under a large brightly colored umbrella. Dressed in vibrant colors and adorned with large pieces of antique gold jewelry, he greets his people. (Ashanti gold jewelry and masks are part of the master pieces of the African art) In front of the king, a corridor opens up where members of the court come to swear allegiance to the king and give him some gifts. There are chiefs in the shade of their umbrellas, sword carriers, bearers of ritual knives, armed guards with loaded rifles and nobles with ostrich feather fans. Sitting next to the king are found the dignitaries of the court. The royal speaker, called a "linguist", is standing by the king's side and holds in his hands a golden scepter as a symbol of the Asantehene power. The Queen mother, the most important woman in the realm, is also present and surrounded by her court exclusively made up of women. To accompany the ceremony, "griots" tell the glorious stories of the past Ashanti kings, musicians play drums and ivory horns giving the rhythm to the ceremony and women wrapped in bright red clothes dance performing traditional steps characterized by a succession of delicate and rapid movements.
The Awukudae ceremony literally means the "Wednesday ceremony". It is celebrated around the traditional chiefs in order to benefit from the constant protection of the guardian spirits and also to strengthen unity between the people and their chiefs, the people kneeling down to pay their respects to the chiefs. It is a unique opportunity to attend a highly colourful royal ceremony enjoying the sound of great drums giving rhythm to the strong moments of this ancestral ceremony.
Each year, at the end of April, the Krobo people perform one of the most spectacular African initiation ceremonies exclusively intended for girls. It is called Dipo. Through ancestral rites, the girls are initiated to their future role of mothers and brides over a long week-end. The peak of the festival is when the girls have to take their clothes off to cover themselves in beads instead, made by the Krobo themselves. That way their freshness and beauty is highlighted and in this majestic atmosphere the girls finally enter adulthood. The village is entirely transformed during those days: parties, dances, colors, rhythms and joyful emotions give us the opportunity to live an unforgettable experience.
The Millet Festival is a harvest ceremony sprinkled with a profusion of colours and beautiful jewels. Traditional chiefs come dressed in their best outfits and are surrounded by a particularly enthusiastic crowd. Escorted by their entire court, they parade to the rhythms of the drums. This festival will be highly appreciated by those who are passionate about glass beads as the Krobo themselves make them and are so proud to show them during the festival.
Literally "Bakatue" means the "opening of the lagoon". This festival commemorates the foundation of the town and is also celebrated to invoke the deity Nana Benya in charge of the constant protection of the town. During the festival the Paramount Chief and all the fetish priests make sacrifices to the River God and pray for peace.
Every year in the village of Glidji, 30 miles from Togo's capital city of Lome, members of the Guen tribe gather together for the Epe Ekpe festival - part family reunion, part New Year's Eve, part religious worship. The highlight of the festival is the sacred stone, sought by a priest within a sacred walled-in forest. The stone's color portends the fortunes of the coming year. The blue stone announcing a year of rain and abundant harvests , if red will be a year of war meanwhile the black stone presages of famine, disease and devastating rain, finally the white stone indicating that the year will be blessed with lucky and abundance !!! A general Jubilation, with the collective trance, accompanies the stone while it is shown to thousands of peoples come for the festival. The festival continuing for a week in the villages surrounding Glidji
All along the coast of Benin and Togo, Voodoo, an animist religion, gathers a lot of followers together. Passed down by the ancestors, it is still practiced with fervor today. The religious experience is much richer and more complex than westerners can imagine. These voodoo practices are not a form of black magic. To millions both here and abroad Voodoo represents a religion that gives meaning and order to their lives. In a village we join in a Voodoo ceremony: The frenetic rhythm of the drums and the chants of the followers help to invoke the voodoo spirit who takes possession of some of the dancers who fall into a deep state of trance. Traditional healers treat illnesses with local herbs and also by offering sacrifices to the numerous fetish altars that fill their courtyard. The God "Fa" is an esoteric divinity consulted by people to solve their everyday big or small life issues. A fetish priest interprets the answers to the listening adept. Each year, January 10th is a special day in in Benin. Everybody celebrates the ancestral cults.. In particular, on January 10th, all the Voodoo's adepts meet in Ouidah. A long procession of the adepts, some by foot, some by motorbike, some by taxy brousse, moves to the Door of Non Return. All are dressed in traditional costumes, white is the dominant colour along with the colourful beads. The festival has its peak with the arrival of the Dagbo Houno, the chief feticheur of Ouidah. Dances, libations, masks (some official speech) feature the morning. The first part of the festival ends at about 15h00 and then it continues in the city. Peoples are never tired to exalting their voodoos. All of them reach a large square where the Eguns masks come togheter. Masks come for dancing, chasing away the bad spirits , and playing with people like a kind of "corrida". In the evening Ouidah is exhausted but not yet fully satisfied. The festival goes on in the depths of the courtyards, waiting to meet again the next year so renewing the faith in Voodoo.
The Bwa wooden masks represent different characters related to the myths of their families and clans. Some masks represent animals, other represent bush spirits. The "plank masks" are very impressive with a styled face topped by a tall, rectangular plank. Plank masks tend to be painted on both sides with awesome geometrical patterns. Like all masks of the Volta region, the Bwa masks are chromatic with white, red and black as predominant colors. The days of the dance, everybody in their compound sweep their courtyard, do the rest of their cleaning duties and put on their best traditional outfits for the ceremony. Then, in the middle of the village, people get inpatient. The masks are coming. It is THE event. The masks represent the spirits of the village which guide the life of human beings and Mother Nature. People depend on the fields to survive, the fields depend on the Spirits for their production, and Spirits - some how- depend of the cult offered by the adepts. The Bwa masks represent the symbols relating human beings, Nature and Spirits. All of a sudden the drums announce the dance. The Spirits arrive in the shape of wooden owls, butterflies, antelopes, buffaloes, and hyenas. The movements are fast, following the rhythm of the drums accompanied by flutes. The audience participates to the ceremony with their songs, comments and laughs. It is a form of street theatre that puts together sacred ancestral traditions and cheerful entertainment. The overwhelming heat of midday puts an end to the celebration. It is then time to rest and share the emotions of this special morning. Every two years takes place the FESTIMA FESTIVAL at the city of Dedougou: Great mask festival attended by around 40 villages, each of them represented by their own group of masks: For days the masks dance in the middle of hundreds of people who all came to appreciate their shapes and movements. At that point the festival turns into a collective moment of socialization. There is also the "market of the communities" as well as the cabaret nights when various "griots" (storytellers) are in competition to reveal their own talent.
The carnival in Guinea Bissau is a large mix of Afro - Portuguese traditions and it is the most widely celebrated feast throughout the country. It is held in February - March and lasts for several days. In Bissau along the main street "Amilcar Cabral Avenue", the masks that come from all regions of the country and the "Barium" (neighborhoods of the capital) begin the parade. Tam-tam, traditional masks, warriors armed with arrows and covered in crocodile skins, wonderful young girls who boast beautiful headdresses and that parade wearing only pearls; and contemporary paper mache masks give testimony of the incredible imagination and creativity of the native peoples. Hours of parading make this carnival an unforgettable "festivity", where the Portuguese influence is synchronized with the joy of living and African magic.
Here is a list of the most important festivals of Senegal with international repercussion. Then, in each village, there are local festivals, especially harvest festivals.
Animist societies in Casamance keep the tradition of dancing masks. Peoples fear and respect the masks, considered spirits. Sacred masks still play an important rule to regulate conflicts between villagers.
Senegal is chockfull of lively festivals to enjoy, most of which are stunning showcases of Senegalese music and art. The Senegalese ring in every New Year by drumming and celebrating at the Abene Festival and wind down each year with the Les Blues du Fleuve acoustic blues concert series. Contemporary artists from across Africa seize the opportunity to display their talents at the Dak'art Biennale, held only once every two years.
The annual 10-day drumming festival in the Casamance community of Abene begins at the end of December and extends into the New Year. The djembe and percussion players may be the festival's main event, but visitors can also enjoy nightly dancing and traditional Senegalese wrestling matches. This celebration of Casamance culture attracts performers and visitors from across West Africa and even as far as Europe.
DAK' ART BIENNALE
This colorful Dakar festival may only take place once every other May, but it is well worth the wait. The festival attracts contemporary artists from throughout Africa, who display their paintings, sculptures, and other masterpieces in galleries and venues across Senegal's capital.
ST LOUIS JAZZ FESTIVAL
Each May, St Louis hosts one of Africa's largest jazz festivals, where legends such as Joe Zainul and Herbie Hancock perform alongside no fewer than 30 new artists every year. The event has expanded to include soul, blues, and even rap performances, held in venues across St Louis. However, Senegal River cruises may be the most romantic ways to enjoy these unforgettable musical performances.
This Dakar festival held between late May and early June is a celebration of traditional and contemporary dance from across Africa and the rest of the world. However, the focus is on African choreographic expression, entertainment, and education.
GOREE DIASPORA FESTIVAL
This artistic festival was established to promote links between Senegal and the descendants of the slaves forced to leave Africa from Goree Island. Conferences and meetings filled with debates and discussions are held alongside lively dancing and musical performances. Many performers and visitors of African descent have rediscovered their roots at this emotional festival held between November and December each year.
FESTIVAL INTERNATIONAL DU FILM DE QUARTIER
Each December, Dakar hosts Senegal's largest film festival, originally created in 1999 as a showcase for Media Centre of Dakar production trainees. Today, filmmakers from across Senegal can have their productions screened at restaurants, museums, and other centers of culture throughout Dakar. Many Dakar institutions mount special screens during the festival.
MEGAL DE TOUBA
The most important date for the Islamic Mouride brotherhood around the world. A pilgrimage of sorts, millions of the Mouride and M'baye Fall brotherhood followers congregate in Touba to pray and visit the shrines of the religious figures. It is said that one who goes to the Magal de Touba does not need to go to Mecca.
LES FANALS DE ST. LOUIS
Les Fanal is St. Louis' answer to Rio de Janeiro's Carnaval. With its origins dating back to the 18th century, this festival has its roots in the 'great families' of the city, whose young girls would dress up in their finest clothes to go to mass. Over the years, the dresses have turned into lanterns that people parade down the streets of St. Louis' old colonial town on Christmas eve.
FESTIVAL DU SAHEL
Since the first festival in 2009, one of the most important Sahelian musical and cultural events in the world. For the past editions, there have been more than 30 bands and performances from 14 different countries, tens of exhibition, film shows, workshops and activities that have helped to strengthen our peace and solidarity message by bringing people from all horizons together. It takes place on the gorgeous dunes of Lompoul desert, in the north of Senegal.
The best way to understand the ethnic groups of Cote d'Ivoire is to witness the initiation ceremonies and ritual celebrations, animated by dances to the beat of drums, flutes and pumpkins used as instruments, such as:
GOLI MASK DANCE
Attending by the Baoule peoples. At the Goli mask dance you may attend a ceremony where two types of masks appear in the village, human face masks known as "kpan" and disc-faced masks known as "kple kple". Their performance is theatrically managed for the greatest effect. The women start to dance and sing some time in advance to beg the masks to come. The women then welcome the masks as beloved personages, fanning them with scarves and dancing joyously behind them. Kple Kple masks - in particular - are called in time of danger or during funeral ceremonies. They are believed to connect people with supernatural powers and gods, which may have a good or bad influence on their lives.
DANCE OF THE KNIVES
The dancers make children fly through the air, exposing them to the risk of falling on knives, but the strength and skill of the dancers, on the one hand, and the imperturbability of children, on the other, is beyond all imagination. Few foreign visitors have witnessed these amazing dances. The country has two practices included in the "representative list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity of UNESCO.
DANCE OF THE YOUNG VIRGINS
This dance called Kgoro is part of the Senoufo initiation rites, and regards the village women.
DANCE OF THE PANTHER
This dance is quite famous and it is performed by the men of the Senoufo peoples upon return of the young initiates after a period of isolation.