Akan Leadership Art and Ceremony

by Michelle Gilbert
Trinity College

Akropong-Akwapim (Akuapem) Odwira festival, Ghana. Photo by Michelle Gilbert, 1977.

Late Thursday night the executioners (abrafo) close the roads to the town.  Everyone retires indoors.  The town becomes quiet, deserted, dark.  The executioners are dressed in old northern-style smocks and carry iron swords and small iron bells.  Preceded by the brass covered aburukuwa drum; they collect the remains of the bones and medicines associated with odusu and deposit them at Nsorem.  On the way they whistle (normally taboo at night); on the return they hum.  The song that they hum and whistle calls the spirits of people who died unnatural deaths so that they will not take revenge upon the living.  These rites protect the king and townspeople from possible vengeance by those victims formerly sacrificed for the king’s ancestors, whose spirits may lurk about the town for years after their death.  Part of odusu (the real spirit behind Odwira) is taken into the streets on this night.