The Kundum festival is celebrated by the Ahanta or Nzema people of the Western region of Ghana. The four month long festival is celebrated at weekly intervals from town to town between August and November every year. The main highlights of the festival are the stool cleansing, the ancestral prayers and the drumming and dancing that accompanies Ghanaian festivals.
It is celebrated to thank God for the abundance of food at the time of the harvest period of the area.
The festival is believed to have first been celebrated in the 16th century.
The first record of the festival was made by Bossman, a Dutch explorer who travelled to the Gold Coast in the 17th century and observed the festival.
One school of thought has it that, the origins of the Kundum festival comes from a tree in a village called Aboade whose fruits ripen only once a year. Thus the people adopted the ripening of the fruit to start the celebration.
According to oral history and folklore too, the festival began when a hunter, Akpoley, during an expedition, chanced upon some dwarfs dancing in a circle. After observing the dance for months, he returned to his town and introduced it to his people. Thus the origin of the Kundum festival and the Kundum dance.
The ritual dancing is associated with expelling the devil and evil spirits from towns and villages. During the festival, the dance is performed by most inhabitants of Axim and surrounding towns.
Kundum is both a harvest and religious festival. The start of the festival is based on the day the fruit of a certain palm tree become ripe.
The festivals occur separately in each town that make up the Ahanta paramountcy . Each town schedules independently on which Sunday their local festival will start.
The way it is celebrated varies from town to town. Every one of them makes an effort to add some uniqueness to their own celebration to make it grand. Kundum is one of the few festivals in Ghana that has evolved with the modern trend of life.
Aside the usual dancing and feasting to which it is associated, the Kundum festival is also a time for the people of the town and their chiefs to sit down. There is conflict resolution, planning of developmental projects for the town, welcoming home of natives who have travelled. This is to instill sound moral values into the people. Each day of the week has a unique celebration.
The natives, preparing for the festivals by getting new clothes and footwear made from beautiful material to show off what they have. The celebration starts on a Sunday with the beating of drums at the outskirts of the town at five different places. The significance of this is to seek the guidance of the gods in the celebration.
On Monday, there is a temporary ban on drumming and dancing. The Kundum fire is lit at the chief’s palace and this flame is kept burning throughout the week. This place serves as the epicenter of the festival and the main festival meal is prepared on that fire.
Tuesday and Wednesday is for merry making. There is singing and dancing all over town. The chief parades the town in his royal palanquin and the people organize competitions with neighboring towns amidst humor and laughter.
On each night there is a meal prepared for everyone to feast on in anticipation of the final feast on Sunday. The rest of the week is reserved for ritual cleansing and the dancing of the legendary Kundum dance.
This dance is very unique in nature with no fixed rhythm. The dancing concludes in front of the castle in Axim. The traditional purpose of the dancing is to drive the evil spirits and devils from the town and preserve another successful year. The people just enjoy themselves and everywhere is a party.
Kundum is an ancient festival with a modern blend of style. The final Sunday is the grand durbar, when the final feast is prepared.
The people share food, amidst drumming and dancing, no one is left out, ands this is what brings the people together. The moral of the whole celebration is to make the people bond and be each other’s keeper and all that they do.
Source: travel-to-discover, wikipedia,