Manya Krobo Ngmayem (that's the Millet Festival to you and me)

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October 29th 2016
Published: October 29th 2016
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Two days of flying and we are in Accra. It's dark, hot and humid. We are greeted by Armstrong, brightly dressed, helpful and smiling. The hotel is cool, the bed soft.

In the morning we are greeted by more smiling, helpful people. In the hotel, in the street, in the market. We wander through the city to the coast - no real beach in Accra, just a rocky shore. Everywhere ladies sit on the roadside selling food, stationery, hardware, clothes. Ancient minibuses rattle past, hooting and belching diesel smoke. It is over 30 degrees and the humidity is near 100%. We don't so much sweat as melt.

The next day we are off to the Millet Festival at Odumase. We arrive just as the parade of chiefs is starting. First come the lowest ranking chiefs, walking in full regallia and each under a huge sunshade with their drummers around them and followed by a man carrying the royal stool (for them to sit on later). Then higher ranking chiefs, carried in palanquins on their men's shoulders but still with sunshades, drummers and stool carrier. The crowns and regallia get more elaborate and some chiefs are accompanied by their priest, dressed in white and tinkling bells.

Finally, Nene Sakite II is carried in, the Kodor, the chief of chiefs. In front of him sits his son with a feather headdress and chicken feet hung around his neck. Father and son maintain stern expressions through out the day.

The chiefs assemble in front of the crowd, together with their entourages of drummers, dancers and hangers-on. Then the Queen Mothers appear, nine regal ladies.

Along with most of the crowd, we few foreigners watch from the shade. But the temperature is in the 30s again and we swelter in the heat. When blessed millet is thrown over us, to ensure we have a good harvest next year, it sticks to every part of our body.

The festival lasts nine days but today is the Chiefs' Durbar, the most impressive day. On other days, other traditional rites take place - Dipo which celebrates girls reaching puberty; Lapomi which constrains fathers to have children with only one woman; and Kadoba Fiame where traditional medicine is practiced using a sharp knife! According to the festival program, there is also a cooking competition, a beauty pageant, a church service and para-gliding! Something for everyone.

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