Central Region

The Central Region is one of the ten administrative regions of Ghana. It is bordered by Ashanti and Eastern regions to the north, Western region to the west, Greater Accra region to the east, and to the south by the Gulf of Guinea. The Central region is renowned for its many elite higher education institutions and an economy based on an abundance of industrial minerals and tourism. The Central region attains many tourist attractions such as castles, forts and beaches stretched along the Central region’s coastline.

Economy and tourism

The Central Region is a hub of education, with some of the best schools in the country. The region’s economy is dominated by services followed by mining and fishing. Cape Coast Castle and Elmina Castle are prominent UNESCO World Heritage Sites and serve as a reminder of the slave trade. The Central Region is a major center for tourism within the peninsula of Ashantiland and it has some of the most beautiful beaches, and national parks (Kakum National Park). U.S. President Barack Obama made his first international trip to the city of Cape Coast in 2009.

Panorama of Elmina Castle that was erected by Portuguese in 1482 as São Jorge da Mina (St. George of the Mine) Castle, also known simply as Mina or Feitoria da Mina) in present-day Elmina, Ashantiland (formerly the Gold Coast region). It was the first trading post built on the Gulf of Guinea, so is the oldest European building in existence below the Sahara. First established as a trade settlement, the castle later became one of the most important stops on the route of the Atlantic slave trade. The Dutch seized the fort from the Portuguese in 1637, and took over all the Portuguese Gold Coast in 1642. The slave trade continued under the Dutch people until 1814. Today Elmina Castle is a historical site, and was a filming location for Werner Herzog’s 1987 drama film Cobra Verde. The castle is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Aboakyer festival

The Aboakyer festival is a bushbuck hunting festival celebrated by the people of Winneba in the Central Region of Ghana.

The name Aboakyer translates as “hunting for game or animal” in the Fante dialect as spoken by the people of the Central Region. The institution of the festival was to commemorate the migration of Simpafo (traditional name given to the people of Winneba). The people migrated from the north-eastern African town of Timbuktu in the ancient Western Sudan Empire to their present land in the central coast of Ghana. The journey from the north-east to the western part of Africa was led by two brothers. The people believed that a god, whom they called Otu, had protected them from all dangers during their migration and to show their appreciation, the people consulted the custodian of the god, a traditional priest who acted as an intermediary between the people and the god, to ask the god for its preferred sacrifice. To their astonishment, the god asked for a human sacrifice, someone from the royal family. This sacrifice went on for some years but was later stopped as the people were no longer interested in human sacrifices. A request was made to the god to change the sacrifice type, as they believed that sacrificing royalty could eventually wipe out the royal family. The god in return asked for type of wild cat to be caught alive and presented to it at its shrine. After the presentation, it was to be beheaded as a sacrifice. This was to be done annually in a festival. Before the festival began the people settled the god at a town called Penkye. After the resettlement, the god became known as Penkyi Otu, to signify the final home for the god. To mark the festival, the people sought out the wild cat, as had been prescribed. Many lives were lost in the process as the animal was to be captured live and transported to Penkye. The people made a second appeal to Penkyi Otu to provide an alternative to the wild cat. That appeal resulted in the decision to accept a mature bushbuck. This festival is celebrated in May and it is a major event in Ghana.

Oral tradition

The people of Simpa passed on this history to their descendants in the form of songs, and sang it in their war chants as well as told it during moonlit nights in story form. This oral tradition went on until the colonial Europeans arrived on the coast of the Gold Coast and with them the English language. Scholars then translated the oral story from the language ‘Fante’ to English.

The festival

The festival is celebrated on the first Saturday in May. On the first day of the festival, the two Asafo Companies (warrior groups) in Winneba take part in a hunting expedition. The first troop to catch a live bushbuck from a game reserve used for this purpose and present it to the chiefs and people at a colorful durbar is declared winner and is highly regarded for bravery. The bushbuck is sacrificed and this signifies the start of the Aboakyer festival. The festival is used also to receive a productive harvest and spiritual guidance from their gods for the coming year.