The Aboakyer festival is a bushbuck hunting festival celebrated by the people of Winneba in the Central Region of Ghana.
History of the Festival
Aboakyer derives from an ancient rite where sacrifices are traditionally offered to the god Otu in order to remove evil and predict a good harvest.
It is said that the people from the ancient Western Sudan Empire migrated south, and settled in Simpa (what is now Winneba).
To celebrate this, the priest instructed them on behalf of their god, to offer a young member of the Royal Family every year as a sacrifice.
The people appealed this, and the substitution of a wild cat was accepted as a sacrificial offering, provided it was caught alive and beheaded before the god.
However, so many lives were lost in an attempt to capture the wild cat, that they appealed a second time to Penkyi Otu, named after the place the people settled, and he accepted the offering of a young bushbuck.
This story was sung in war chants and protected until it could be inscribed in English.
What Happens at Aboakyer?
The festival is celebrated on the first Saturday in May lasting all weekend.
This festival is now more commonly known as the ‘deer-hunting festival’, as the human sacrifices have been replaced with the hunting and slaying of an antelope.
This is one of the few times the strict enforcement of the hunting ban is overlooked, as this is a very important part of the Simpa peoples’ calendar.
Warrior hunters must go out into the bush unarmed and bring back a live antelope to the towns’ chief.
The element of competition here is strong as teams compete to be the first to present their prize to the elders and be declared the champion.
The festival is also used also to receive a productive harvest and spiritual guidance from their gods for the coming year.
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