The weather was mixed and so were the emotional themes of "Homowo 87," the harvest festival of the Ga people of the Accra area, celebrated yesterday afternoon at the Mall on the grounds of the Sylvan Theater. Undaunted by rain, a hot sun, a few chill breezes and more rain, Washington's Ghanaians drummed, danced and chanted about such things as hunger, anointing the earth, politics, the dead, new year's greetings and reconciliation.
That's a lot of subject matter to cram into one afternoon. Nevertheless, the proceedings were leisurely and the format, though traditionally correct, was casual. Audience members participated along with the Odadaa! Musicians and Dancers, photographers clambered over the stage, and the processionals spilled over into the seating section.
Eating was as important a part of the festival as performing, with the public invited to partake of kpekpele (a meal of white corn, okra and salt moistened with palm oil), nmgbe wonu (a stew of smoked fish and shrimp, tomatoes, cayenne pepper and palm juice), plus mmedaa (a fermented drink of sprouted corn, sugar and water).
Some of the participants flaunted their pleasure; others did things as if by rote. My favorite was an older man, short, thin and slightly stooped in his red, purple and golden robes. His arms swung not so much with the pleasure of movement but with the concentration of transmitting a force. His eyes darted from the direction in which he moved to those watching him, back and forth.
Much of the dancing, both in processionals and in place, consisted of rhythmic shaking, arm swinging and foot stamping. But on the reconciliation theme there was a hugging dance in which the participants paired or even trioed, and, when denouncing officials, the performers jumped. During some of the solos, a second individual would eventually move behind the soloist and shadow his motions.
The audience, which waxed and waned with the state of the weather, included, as special guests, officials from Ghana, Somalia and Nigeria.