Dipo is a Ghanaian traditional festival celebrated by the people of Odumase in the Eastern region of Ghana. The festival is one of the famous and important festivals in Ghana. The shai and the Ada people alsoperform this rite. The festival is celebrated in the month of April every year.
Dipo rites have been practiced since the eleventh century, and their popularity has not waned despite modern intrusions into traditional Ghanaian culture. The Krobos are very good makers of Ghanaian beads so this is also the opportunity for them to exhibit their rich, authentic and beautifully hand made beads.
The festival is used to usher into puberty, girls who are virgins and it signifies that a lady, who partakes in it, is of age to be married. Parents upon hearing announcement of the rites send their qualified girls to the chief priest.
However these girls would have to go through rituals and tests to prove their chastity before they qualify to partake in the festival.
Dipo is an initiative festival also known as Puberty rites, is a celebration that initiates adolescent girls to womanhood. Beside the pride it brings to the participant and the entire family, it is believed that girls, who go through this ritual successfully, before they “touch” a man, become very good wives.
The objective is for the girls to preserve their virginity before getting married. It is therefore important that those who go through rites have their virginity intact.
As the time of the festival approaches, announcement is made on behalf of the Earth goddess, Nana Kloweki for every parent whose daughter is qualified, usually by age, to get them prepared. Qualified girls are sent to the traditional chief priest for the rite, following the announcement.
At the beginning of the Dipo ceremony, each initiate enters a ritual house, sheds her clothing, symbolic of childhood, and is dressed anew by her ritual mother
Two days are set aside for the festivities. These girls undergo a series of rituals, test and tasks to prove their chastity and readiness for adult life.
On the first day of the ceremony, the girls are paraded in public in their ceremonial dress and their heads are shaved leaving a small portion of hair on the head. A piece of raffia is tied around their neck to signify they are now Dipo-yi, undergoing initiation.
On the next morning, the girls are given a ritual bath in a river and then required to taste foods like sugar cane and peanuts. The girls are also fed with a special meal of water-yam porridge and palm-oil sauce prepared by their mothers.
Libations are poured with three different drinks, two local ones including palm wine and a foreign drink preferably, Schnapps. This kind of libation is known as the TRI-LIBATION. It is believed that, this is done to ask the gods to bless the girls.
Every parent of the girls presents a castrated goat which is then slaughtered and the blood used to wash the feet of the girls by the local chief priest. This symbolizes washing away any bad omen and misfortune that might prevent the girls from having babies in the future
The girls undergo inner and outer transformation with the help of specially appointed Dipo guardians.
The climax of the Dipo initiation ceremony is called the blessing of Tekpete, referring to a legendary sacred stone which the Krobo carried down from Krobo Mountain when the British evicted them from their place of origin in the nineteenth century.
The initiate wears pure white strips of calico around her head and chest. Each initiate has been splashed with chalky water to ward off any evil forces that might overcome him. The initiate maintains a contemplative silence by pressing a single leaf between her lips
The girls then sit on a special traditional stool covered with a white cloth. A solution of clay (Hyire) is used to make marks and designs on their body.
The intestines of the goats slaughtered are then wrapped around their shoulders and neck. They are then taken to a shrine where they’re asked to sit on a sacred stone three times, in the presence of the chief priest, elders and parents.
It is believed that any girl who is not a virgin but pretends to be one will not be able to get up after sitting on the sacred stone. This is because it is believed that the stone is holy and pure and only virgin can sit on it. This marks the end of the rituals section and the girls are sent home in the midst of drumming, dancing and jubilation.
The girls are confined for about a week, where they are taught about everything to become a successful and a good Krobo woman. Tribal marks are made on their hands to indicate that they have passed through the rite and are now part of women in the community. Elephant skin is tied around their head believed to ensure fertility.
After the one week of behind-the-scenes training, they are released into the society. They richly display their beautiful beads and dress in silk or kente fabric, amidst singing and dancing the traditional Klama dance they go round to thank all friends and family members for the part they played during the entire process. They also receive gifts from friends and love ones.
If a girl becomes pregnant before going through the rite, Kukudipo is rather performed on both the girl and the man responsible for the pregnancy.
This rite is in the form of punishment for not maintaining chastity before marriage. This is also to deter other young girls growing up to be patient until the right time, before indulging in any unchaste activities.