Yam is called “ete” in Ewe. The word “ete’, among Ewes literary means it is swollen.
Oral history has it that a hunter once came across a strange crop during one of his hunting expeditions in the forest and hid it in the soil in the forest only to discover later on his return after some time that the crop had germinated and grown as if it was swollen.
That was how the Ewes came to call yam “ete” and the institution of the yam festival several centuries ago in their ancestral home at Nortsie in present day Togo.
To the Ewes the Yam Festival often slated for September, the month for harvesting the crop, was a sacred and spiritual obligation towards God, the land and ancestors who must eat the yams first before anybody else in the land.
The Ewes believe that but for the permission, guidance and protection of God it would have been impossible to go through the period of yam cultivation fraught with dangers and toils let alone bring in a good harvest and live to enjoy it.
God and the ancestors are, therefore, the first to eat the new yam, which is often boiled and mashed. Some are mixed with palm oil called “bakabake”. This rite known as “Dzawuwu” must be performed before any mortal eats the new yam.
After “Dzawuwu” the rest of the mashed yam could then be eaten as a communal meal to signify the unity and reconciliation of families, clans and the entire community.
The month-long celebration in the Asogli Traditional Area has in modern times taken on a Christian and Moslem dimensions of thanksgiving services to God for continued good health, prosperity, peace and goodwill, unity and reconciliation in the land.
The festival also provides platforms for stocktaking of activities of the past year and setting the agenda for the future.
Chiefs of the Asogli State also use the period to reaffirm their allegiance to their subjects and the ancestral stool and its occupant while human and material resources are also mobilized for job and wealth creation.
At the moment Asogli citizens and tourists have started arriving in the Volta Regional capital, Ho for this year’s event, which is on the theme, “Jubilee Yam Festival, Attitudinal Development in the Next 50 Years”.
The Ho Township is already prepared for this year’s celebration with hospitality industries such as Chances; Woezor; Freedom and Kekeli Hotels putting in their best to provide round-the-clock and excellent services to visitors from across the world especially Ewes from Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire.
Zoomlion, a sanitation company, is also putting up its best to keep the Ho township spick and span for the celebration.
For now events such as health walks, football and bicycle race competitions; public lectures; state dances and gospel rock shows have become routine in the municipality as side attractions to the celebration.
The climax of the celebration however was the hailing of the new Yam (Teyuyru) through the principal streets of Ho on September 21, and the grand durbar on September 29, 2007.
The atmosphere is charged for this year’s celebration and everybody including citizens and non-citizens of the Asogli Traditional Area are expected to get involved in making the celebration a success.
A GNA feature authored by Kafui Kanyi