The Dipo Rites is arguably one of the most popular yet criticized traditional festival and practice in Ghana, yet one of the most attended event in the country, receiving huge patronage from tourists.
Dipo is celebrated by the people of Odumase Krobo in the Eastern region. The annual event is meant to usher girls who are in their puberty and virgins into womanhood. The practice once performed on a young girl, signifies that she is now a woman and ready for marriage.
The festival is traditionally held in the month of April. When the festival is announced, parents send their qualified girl children to the chief priest of the town. These young girls are then taken through a series of rituals to prove their chastity and qualification for the rites as it is reserved for only girls in their puberty and virgins.
After rituals and tests are conducted to prove the eligibility of a girl to take part in the rites, the process then commences. On the first day of the rituals, the girls have their heads shaved and a piece of cloth tied around their waist to their knee level, while the upper parts of their body remain naked. The girls are then paraded through the entire community.
On the following day, the girls are taken to the chief priest who pours libation, and then proceeds to a ritual bath where the feet of the girls are washed with the blood of goats in the presence of their parents. The ritual bath according to their tradition is meant to drive away evil spirits such as the spirit of barrenness. The girls then proceed on a sacred stone to test their virginity and to see if they are pregnant.
After all these processes, the young girls are housed for a week and educated about womanhood, marriage and the customs and tradition of the people. They are then released back to their parents. The festival climaxes with a huge durbar in the community where the girls get to dress in kente and some beautiful ornaments given to them by their parents. At this point any man present at the durbar and interested in any of the girls can start investigating about the girls’ background and family before making an official approach.
While the festival has had its fair share of criticism from human right groups who argue that the practice was absurd and against the girls privacy, especially as they have to be paraded through the town half naked, the event nevertheless receives huge patronage with so many tourists making their way to Krobo Odumase every April to witness the Dipo Festival.