Hogbetsotso za (Hogbestotso festival)

Hogbetsotso festival is normally held in the first week of November of every year among the Ewes of Ghana, West Africa to commemorate their successful exodus from the walled-city of Notsie in present Togo, West Africa. This celebration is a reminder of the hard-won freedom from the clutches of King Agokoli, the King of Notsie in the late 16th century. Several cultural activities precede the big and colorful durbar of Chiefs and people of Eweland on the first Saturday in November. We in Canada, however, will be celebrating it in October in order to accommodate our entire Canadian community.

Before the great durbar which takes place at Anloga, all towns and villages during the week perform cleansing ceremonies. The ceremonies begin with physical cleansing known as Dodede. Dodede is physically cleaning and throwing away dirts and all garbages in the entire area.
The spiritual cleansing includes: reconciliation rituals (nugbidodo) between various people who are at logger-heads. This is a significant part of the celebration because it serves as a relationship and conflict management strategy. This rite renews the communal energy of the people for another coming year. Herbal baths and renovation of ancestral shrines and burial sites are parts of the rituals. Town committees evaluate development goals and initiate new project plans for the future.

How did it all began? King Agokoli subjected the people of Dogbo(this was the name of the group now known as Ewes in Notsie) to all kinds of hardship, for example: hard labor from his subjects; such as weaving ropes from clay, by mixing the clay with broken pots and prickly thorns and other impossible tasks. The people became fed up with his persecution and decided to escape from the city.

After deciding to escape from the city of Notsie, they faced a very big dilemma. Notsie was surrounded by a big wall, 18 feet thick and 30 feet tall; the only gate was guarded by King Agokoli's army. There was no way the subjects could escape from that city in droves without being arrested. The people then consulted an elderly man named Togbui Tegli. Based on his advice, the Dogbos (Ewes) began to pour water on the walls of Notsie in order to soften it. On the eve of their exodus, they began to perform music in the evening, such music as misego (get ready). Late in the night, the elder Tegli used a sword and broke the softened part of the wall. First women and children escaped through the opening as the music continued then the men and musicians followed respectively. They walked backwards out of the city in order to conceal the direction of their movement.

Hogbetsotso festival, in essence, becomes a good reminder of the preciousness of freedom to live together as a people, to realize our individual and communal goals. We use the occasion to pour libation and remember all our ancestors whose sacrifices carved a place for us in the modern world. It has become the centerpiece of our celebrations because it brings all of us together, at least once in a year, to renew our cultural bonds.

We are celebrating Hogbetsotso in Canada to commemorate the bravery and courage of our ancestors as well as renew our familial bonds within the cultural mosaic of this great country. We thank Almighty God for it.
(A single piece of firewood is sufficient to cook a meal)
Strength in unity has been the communities motto and philosophy.