Many festivals exist in the Anlo Kingdom, some of which date back to before the introduction of the main religions and are still occasions for spectacular displays of cultural traditions through dance and other acts.  The Hogbetsotso festival, for example, is one of the enticing festivals of the Anlos, which attracts a large flood of tourists every year to Anloga, the people’s traditional and ritual capital, to see the different festivities.

The Anlos utilize the celebration to honor the exodus and the heroism of their traditional rulers, who rescued them from the tyrant King Agorkoli by perseverance and sacrifice every year on the first Saturday of November.

History of the festival. 

According to historians, the phrase Hogbetsotso was formed from three Ewe words: Ho, which means uproot or move, Gbe, which means day, and Tsotso, which means crossing over. Hogbetsotso literally translates to “the day the people rose up and moved out of Notsie.”

School children in a procession march during Hogbetsotso Za

 

The Anlos are believed to have migrated from Southern Sudan to Notsie, their ancestral federated region (now within the territory of the modern state of Togo), and then to their current home on the eastern coast of Ghana in the late 15th century (1474). The Anlos initially resided in Yorubaland, close to the Benin-Nigeria border, before relocating to Notsie in central Togo, according to history. The Ewes were treated so badly in Notsie by the evil King Agorkorli that they chose to flee. As a result, the people sought the advice of an elderly lady soothsayer, who informed them that the king was preparing to kill them and that they needed to find a means to flee the town. As a result, the slaves hatched a clever plan to flee the town.

The town where they resided was surrounded by a mud wall, making any attempt by the residents to flee extremely impossible. This wall was coated with human blood for spiritual reasons, making it difficult for anybody attempting to breach it. The key technique for allowing the ladies to flee was to have them discharge water on one side of the wall whenever they needed to dispose of filthy water. The wall became weak as a result, making it readily breakable and allowing them to flee. From Notsie, they eventually reached their current home

Activities

This is a day set aside to illustrate how the hostages’ departure or escape was orchestrated. To deceive the king and his elders, the departing party marched backward, giving the impression that they were approaching rather than fleeing Notsie. The Misego or Husago dance, which is thought to be the vehicle for the exodus, is used to reenact this occurrence today. The dance is mostly done by ladies, particularly young women, with various aspects including backward movements and tunes appropriate to the occasion – a stunning spectacle well worth witnessing.

 

Torgbui_sri_III
Torgbui Sri III the overlord of the people of Anlo seated in state during the 53 Hogbetsotso za of the chiefs and People of Anlo

 

The third day of the celebration is the dodede and nugbidodo day.  These are events aimed at cleaning up the nearby area. The dodede rite, which literally means ‘disease removal,’ entails the eradication of ailments as well as the expulsion of bad spirits believed to be the source of these maladies. Dodede is seen to be a good way for individuals to connect with the Supreme God (Mawu), the lower gods (trowo), and their ancestors (togbinoliawo), and it is a completely private rite.

Nugbidodo means reconciliation. The residents of Anlo strive for peace among themselves at all times. The belief is that the ancestors dislike unresolved disagreements and misunderstandings because they bring illness and impede development. To resolve any small squabbles, nugbidodo is conducted among family members, lineages, clans, and traditional rulers. Furthermore, it is widely believed that the Hogbetsotso festival will not be successful until this rite is properly executed.

 

 

Women taking part in a procession at the Hogbetsotso Festival – Image Credit Kobby Blay.

 

Hanududu, is one that should not be missed by visitors. All married landlords supply supplies for their wives to create meals, and an open house is hosted as a result. The idea is that people who fight don’t eat together. As a result, this is organized to force people to feast together, resulting in reconciliation amongst all parties involved and an expression of harmony among family members, clans, and the general public.

The climax of the festival is the durbar of chiefs and people held at Anloga. Music and dancing are essential components of any festival, and the Hogbetsotso is no different. During the durbar, people from all around Ghana, the Diaspora, and foreigners gather in large numbers to express respect for the paramount chief, who had hitherto avoided public visibility.

This year’s Hogbetsotso promises to be fun and historical, especially since it was not organized last year due to Covid -19. Experience the festival and relive the journey of the Anlos.