Dipo Festival is one of the famous and important festivals in Ghana. It is celebrated by the people of Manya and Yilo Krobo, in Krobo Odumase and Somanya in the Eastern Region.
This is also known as Puberty rites, and is performed on adolescent girls to initiates them to womanhood. It is believed that girls who go through this ritual successfully, before they “touch” a man, become very good wifes.
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 Dipo Festival is celebrated in April and as the time approaches, announcement is made on behalf of the Earth goddess, Nana Kloweki for every parent who’s daughter is qualified to get them prepared. Qualified girls are sent to the traditional chief priest for the rite.
The Dipo girls or Dipo-yi are dressed in beautiful cloth only between the waist to the knee level. The upper part of the body is exposed and decorated with colourful and assorted beads. Exposing their breasts for everyone to see signifies that, they are transforming into adulthood.
Two days are set aside for the Dipo festival. These girls undergo a series of rituals, test and tasks to prove their chastity.
On the first day of the ceremony, the girls are paraded in public in their regalia and their heads are shaved leaving a small portion of hair on the head. A raffia is tied around their neck to signify they are now Dipo-yi.
On the next morning, the girls are given a ritual bath and then ask to taste foods like sugar cane and peanuts. The rest of the hair left is now shaved.
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 presents a castrated goat which is then slaughtered and the blood used to wash the feet of the girls.
This exercise carried by the Chief priest is in the belief of washing away any bad omen that might prevent the girls from having babies in the future.
The girls sit on a special stool covered with a white cloth. A solution of clay is used to make marks and designs on the body. The intestines of the goats slaughtered are then wrapped around their shoulders and they are taken to a shrine where they’re asked to sit on a sacred stone three times. This marks the end of the rituals and the girls are sent home amidst 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 women. Elephant skin is tied around their head to ensure fertility.
After the one week of behind the scenes training, they are released. They richly display their beautiful beads and dress in silk or kente(Hand woven cloth) cloth, amidst singing and dancing the Klama dance. They go round to thank all friends and family members for the part they played during the rite. They also receive gifts from love ones.
If you become pregnant before going through the rite, Kukudipo is rather performed on both the girl and the man responsible for the pregnancy. This rite is a 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.
The Dipo festival is been modified due to so many factors including, abuse of human rights and also children born through Kukudipo are often disowned by the parents families since they believe the child is cursed.
Despite all these modification, the sole aim of the festival is to prevent teenage pregnancy and also teach the young woman to be ready to take care of her own family in future. So the idea still prevails and it is very interesting to witness this aspect of the art culture of Ghana.
Dipo Festival is one of a kind of the Ghana culture tradition and you must not miss it during your stay in Ghana, especially if it happens to be in March-April(around Easter).
photo credit: leyla image