Bakatue Festival of Elmina: Mark your calendar for July
The Bakatue festival is celebrated by the People of Elmina, found along the south coast of Ghana, just some few kilometres from the Central regional capital, Cape Coast.
The festival is touted to be one of the oldest festivals in Ghana with celebration going back as far as the 1800. This is evidenced in the fact that Governor Cornelis Nagtglass once cited the festival in an official report.
Originally, the festival was instituted by the Portuguese to celebrate the founding on Elmina during the early days of colonization. However the festival has over the century, evolved to become a traditional festival of the people and is traditionally celebrated in the first week of the month of July to mark the beginning of the fishing season in the Elmina Township. The festival is also celebrated to offer thanksgiving and appreciation to the gods for a good fishing year and pray for a better year in the coming fishing season.
During the first week of July when the festival commences, fishermen are barred from going to the sea to fish as a sign of paying homage to the sea gods. During the period, the paramount chief, his counselors, chiefs and Elmina people organize a procession where they offer food of mashed yam, egg and red oil to the river god of the town known as Nana Brenya.
The following day, a durbar is held by the chief, with members of the royal house, chief priest, invited guests and town people all in attendance. After the durbar where various dignitaries deliver speeches, the people proceed to the River Brenya where the Chief priest of the town casts a net into the river to signify the end of the fishing season as well as end to the ban on noise making and drumming. Fishes caught by the Chief Priest’s net are offered to the gods as thanksgiving and officially signify the end of the festival.
As with most festivals in Ghana, Bakatue attracts people from all walks of life especially Elmina people who live far away in other towns. The period serve as a time for them to come back home to visit their relatives and also take part in the festival