Awo Awo Awoo! Agban Ei, Bleku Tsɔɔ, Esu esu, Enam enam, Manye, Manye, Adiban KpɔtɔɔOn Christmas Day last year I was challenged by a FACEBOOK friend to render AfehyiaPa in my mother tongue. She felt that all were greeting in Twi. I declined to take on the challenge, not because I was not up to it, but because I had just come out of church in very cold Croydon and was wondering what the day held for me indoors. My response was that she was confused and that on Christmas Day, the only greeting worth extending was a Merry Christmas and one would have to wait till the Scottish Hogmanay commences to wish the old year goodbye and welcome in the New Year with auld lang syne. Christmas is Blonya or Blofo Nya or the ‘white man is rejoicing’ so why should I wish anyone anything in my mother tongue. My view then as now is that it is not everything that one can translate into a local language, it would amount to cultural misappropriation. It would be a bit like people calling to wish you Happy Easter on Good Friday when Christ is still on the Cross.
I beat a quick retreat from answering her waiting for an appropriate to like now – Homowo to explain the richer poetry of verse and song of the Ga idiom; this is also to wish her Afi oo Afi! Yes, the Ga have their own way of wishing people a happy new year and it is not translated from the English and certainly not from a Twi translation from the English.
Homowo is the main in the Ga calendar of events, it is an annual festival a mixture of the worldly, the mystical, and the spiritual; for most of us however it is one big social event that got better at each stage. In my secondary school and university days in the 1960s, it was the major event that filled the social calendar from Nungua all the way to JamesTown and back again to Teshie during our long vacation.
It is an annual, not a seasonal festival and not celebrated every week or every six weeks. Like some holy festivals, it does not fall on the same day every year and sometimes the difference between two Homowo festivals can be as long as 380 days or as short as 340 days. The day appointed each year is determined by that intricate Ga calendar of 13 months and is dependent on the position of the stars and the sightings of the moon. These mystical systems, the names of the month we are told are all names of stars, continue to guide our fisherfolk on their tricky voyages on the sea, without as much a compass, and directs them as to where the ‘fish is plenty’ and how far to go out on sea and dictates to them why fishing is prohibited on Tuesdays.