18-21 November 2010
NAFAC means National Festival for Arts and Culture. It is an event organized by the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Culture, Government of Ghana at one of regional capital every year. This seven day event was conducted this year in the city of Tamale. Tamale is the third largest city in Ghana and is a major centre of business, culture and transport in the northern part of Ghana. It is also the capital of Northern Region. The event spread over the period of 8 days was packed with various kinds of programs throughout the day. It was a great opportunity to have a glance at the cultural kaleidoscope of the entire country at once. I visited the event on the weekend and was lucky enough to be there at the time of opening ceremony.
Officially it started on Friday 17th November with the prayers at the mosque which I could not attend but grand opening was on the next day Saturday, 18th November. The opening was with the durbar of chiefs. Paramount chiefs from various regions had congregated at the venue. All chiefs seemed to be making as best a show of their power and grandeur as they could. Asante and Fante chiefs from the southern parts of Ghana had come with their lavish cars and bright displays of Gold. The chiefs from the Northern regions were all dressed up in their finest of the smocks. After the arrival of the chiefs and after they settled on their respective places, they went in for greeting each other ceremonially. The most grand greeting ceremony was between a paramount chief from Ashanti region and a paramount chief from Northern region.
Asante chief greeting a chief from Northern Region
A chief from Northern part of Ghana
After this settling of the chiefs, what followed were long speeches by the ministers and officials while the general crowd was standing under the hot sun. Waiting for one and half hour proved productive because what followed was the parade of dances and drummers from various cultural groups from Ghana. One group of men from Builsa tribe wearing buffalo horns came parading the ground with their war dance. After them a group of young girls, clad in the shortest of the clothes and white coloured circular marks, came dancing. Though with minimal clothes, with their dancing and drumming it looked very natural and was certainly not looking provocative. What followed them was a church choir groups and then a dance party of Muslim women with their heads properly covered. It was a beautiful mosaic representing Ghana's ethnic and cultural diversity.
Builsa War Dancers
The evening program was a competition of various choir groups. It became boring after some time as some of the groups were really very discordant and it made us leave very early.
The next day was exciting because of the football match between Tamale Youth Club and a team called Berekum Arsenal which had come from southern part of Ghana. In Ghana, the game of football is taken as seriously as the game of Cricket in India. When we reached the stadium, we were late and Tamale team was on the verge of loosing on its home ground. The crowd was angry and very loud. It was no use after all as the Tamale team lost. When the the players were leaving the ground, the people threw the water sachets at them expressing their angers and some were thrown also at the police. The police did not do anything however and nothing serious happened afterwards. It signified to me again that Ghana is really a peaceful country.
What I liked the most, more than the football match was the stadium in Tamale. It has been built with the assistance of the Chinese. It has been well maintained and has a football ground surrounded by a very good athletics track. It also had a big digital display board. All this in the city of just 300,000 residents. I wonder how many cities in India with that population have such facilities. Mumbai which boasts a population of 9,000,000 people, has only one such stadium. I am envious of Tamale for this reason.
Football match at Tamale Stadium
The evening of the day was full of high life dance and music. First some information about High Life. High Life is a form of music which was evolved by the musicians from Ghana. It is a hybrid of western popular music and the traditional West African dancing and drumming. It evolved in the late 50’ –70’ when the Ghanaian musicians were exposed to the western popular music. As this genre of music has its root in Ghana, the people here are very proud about it. These days it has turned itself into a new genre called Hiplife, which also mixes in rap, rock and hip hop dancing.
It was an interregional competition and as they were waiting for the teams from the various regions to register themselves for the competition, it started late. It was fun to watch these dances. Each team consisted of a couple, man and woman. All the teams were wearing the traditional clothes of their respective regions. At the time of elimination for the final round, it was found that the Northern region, the host region was the fourth. The decision of their elimination was reversed and they were given the chance to dance in the final round and they were ranked on third position in the final round. The couple from the Brong Ahafo region who lost their position were very angry and were arguing with the program anchors. Suddenly they started the music and every couple was told to start the dance again in the celebration of the results. The angry couple had to again put on their smiling face and start dancing. As a spectator, it was very funny to watch them, but I think they were dancing better than the couple who took their position and the decision was biased. The first two positions were certainly beyond all these and performed superbly.
It was 10:30 in the night and all of my friends had left early for the house as they felt tired. While in Ghana, we have always been advised of not venturing out in the towns alone in the night. I have been following this advise strictly except this time. I walked alone to my friends' Raj's house. Unlike the southern cities of south ie Accra and Kumasi, Tamale is such a city that I have never felt unsafe here. I walked on the road as if I was walking in my home suburb of Vileparle (Mumbai). There were not many people around but I did not feel scared about it at all. While I was walking it occurred to me that I never ventured into walking at this time on the road near to my house in Pune because I never felt secure ("Pune is considered to be the cultural capital and a very peaceful city in the state of Maharashtra").