About a fortnight ago, the country was once again thrown into a state of ecstasy and this was all about Kwahu Easter celebrations. Many people have been wondering what is so special about the Kwahu Easter celebrations that get Kwahu all the media hype and national attention during the period to the detriment of other tourism-endowed towns in Ghana.
Another important question that comes to mind is does the Kwahu Easter celebrations merit the so much hype its been getting over the years as the most preferred tourism area since there are equally nice places that also have huge patronage.
Talk of Easter celebrations at Lake Bosomtwe in the Ashanti region, some of the finest beaches in Sogakope, Keta, Anloga, Vodza, Denu, Adafienu, Aflao, and Dzita all in the Volta region.
I have been imagining how much revenue these communities and the State will generate if its been given the same media hype given to Kwahu Easter celebrations.
Tourism has since the mid-1980s emerged as a significant sector in the Ghanaian economy and society; this is manifested in several ways. Both past and present public officials proclaim the role of tourism as a major foreign exchange earner and generator of jobs.
Over the past six decades, tourism has experienced continued expansion and diversification, becoming one of the largest and fastest-growing economic sectors in the world. Many new destinations have emerged alongside the traditional ones of Europe and North America. In spite of occasional shocks, international tourist arrivals have shown virtually uninterrupted growth: from 25 million in 1950 to 277 million in 1980, to 435 million in 1990, to 675 million in 2000, and currently 940 million.
Now the country is awakened to the potential of tourism to the extent that a whole ministry has been established to cater for its speedy development and so state officials, some private organisations, communities as well as some individuals do not hesitate to exploit it, there is hardly a public event or occasion organised these days without a tourism angle to it.
One such event is the Kwahu Easter celebrations which have become an annual ritual and have received so much hype both within the traditional media and the new media recently.
From oral and partly written narrations, the Kwahu Easter festivities were instituted to speed up developments in the area, but looking at the level of development in most of the towns within the Kwahu enclave as well as public attraction sites, one wonders if the Kwahu Easter celebrations really merit the so much hype it has been getting over the years.
In Ghana, one of the foremost local communities with Easter as its main festival is the Kwahu people. To their credit, the Easter festival, which is celebrated by Ghanaians of all walks, has been “franchised” to them as a special Kwahu affair; hence the brand name – Kwahu Easter Festival. To the people of Kwahu, Easter is a traditional heritage bestowed on them by their forefathers many years ago.
The Kwahus, like any other Akan tribe, had a festival called “Okwahu Afahye”. It was celebrated from October through to December, with its peak in December. Kwahus, known to be good traders, and with trading as their main occupation, later had problems with the timing of the Okwahu Afahye, when the majority of her citizenry migrated to Accra, Kumasi, and other major urban centers in Ghana. The peak of the local trading calendar, which falls in December due to Christmas festivities, started affecting patronage of the Kwahu Festival, which also peaked in December.
As usual, the business-minded Kwahus avoided the festival, and rather opted for the Easter break, to attend the traditionally mandated “home-coming” events. The Kwahu home-coming culture, which was inbuilt in the Kwahu Festival, brought the Kwahus home from other places in Ghana, and the Diaspora (notably Europe and America) to assist the home-based locals, the chiefs and youth associations to develop the Kwahu Traditional Area.
According to oral tradition, to sustain patronage, the Kwahu Traditional Council shifted the festival to the Easter season, hence the new emphasis – Kwahu Easter Festival.
I believe the spirited campaigns by a majority of the Accra-based private local radio stations; notably Peace FM, Happy FM, and Adom FM were done with the view of marketing the Kwahu enclaves to become one of the topnotch international tourism destinations. However, the multi-million question lingering on the lips of many Ghanaians is whether the media hype lived up to the bill.
Many people are of the view that the Easter Festival in Kwahu which is arguably said to be one of the most celebrated holidays in the country, especially with the introduction of paragliding activities on the Kwahu Mountains in 2005 would have raked in the much-needed funds for the construction of basic social amenities which are lacking in the area.
Paragliding is a common event in most developed countries like Germany, Holland, Sweden, Australia, and the U.S.A. In Africa, apart from South Africa and Kenya, Ghana is the only country that organizes this event in the West Africa hub yet both locals and national are not able to maximize to our advantage.
There is no doubt that the paragliding event with the Kwahu Easter Festival, since 2005, has led to the attraction of more local and international visitors in recent times. The question is are the local indigenes, and authorities benefiting from it in terms of infrastructural development?
Before the introduction of paragliding, there were additional activities, such as street carnival, highlife concerts, health walks, and a myriad of sporting activities added to the main event which used to be the traditional durbar of chiefs but nothing much has been achieved.
The Kwahu Easter Festival has the advantage of extending the tourist season, generating revenue for both government and local authorities, supporting existing businesses, and encouraging new start-ups when the right infrastructure and policies are put in place.
Let us not forget that festivals have major impacts on the development of cultural tourism, often economic, social, environmental, and political.
Traditionally, chiefs in Ghana find it convenient to have durbars to honour their ancestors, and also rally their subjects for developmental projects. For the Kwahu state in particular, such festive occasions especially with the addition of Paragliding to the numerous activities, should constitute a major vehicle for fundraising, and also for securing other vital support from the Central government and the private sector.
Festivals are attractive to the host communities because it helps to develop local pride and identity for local people. If these festivals are structured well, they can be used as a tool for tourism promotion.
The state should not lose sight that though tourism has great potential to affect the lives of communities and the nation at large, it has an impact; in both positive and negative ways.
Caution must be taken by all to guard against these negatives like the sharp inception or infusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) into our cultural setting. I remember vividly some years back, the Kwahu Traditional Council had to come out to ban the wearing of sexually seductive clothes and other immoral acts during the festival.
Again, tourism development is not simply a matter of matching product supply with tourist demands; local acceptability must also be considered. Tourism development affects residents’ habits, daily routines, social lives, beliefs, and values.
Tourism has emerged as one of the most sustainable economic ventures globally. It is one of the largest and most dynamically developing sectors of the external economy, thus those mandated with the development of the tourism sector should come up with concrete policies to develop all identified tourism sites to international levels to rake in billions of dollars the sector is offering.
It’s an open secret that well-developed and properly managed tourism sites scattered across the length and breadth of Ghana have the potential to end the country’s economic woes.
The market size worldwide, measured by revenue, of the Global Tourism industry is two trillion U.S. dollars ($2.3tr) in 2023. How much of these amounts is coming to Ghana? These are issues that need our collective attention and not the unnecessary party political debates of equalization which do not add anything positive to our ever-worsening life.
All festivals and tourism sites in Ghana are very important. Let’s promote all.
Article By: Franklin ASARE-DONKOH
This article was first published on gbcghanaonline.com