Adae (solid)

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The Adae -Festival is the Yams -Festival and as such the main annual celebration of many Akan peoples of today's Ghana and today's Ivory Coast .

The main purpose of this festival is to commemorate the ancestors . According to the traditional religious belief of the Akan, the previous spiritual bond with the ancestors is being renewed, which allows the dead to continue to participate in the affairs of the living. The main part of the Adae festival is therefore also accompanied by a series of rituals that focus on the ancestors, in addition to some ceremonies with the chief as the focus.

Regional distribution

Other regional variants of this festival are

  • Odwira in the Ashanti region ( The festival of purification )
  • Ohum in Twifo (Tafo, Tufel) ( The Festival of the Spirit of the Birim River )
  • Bakatue in Elmina ( The feast of the opening of the lagoon (for fishing) )
  • Akwambo ( The Festival of the Purification of the Ways ), Ododzi , Adwedi , Akwasidae ( or in similar spellings ) are other alternative names among the Akan for this festival.

Some non-Akan peoples of the Gold Coast also know of similar festivals in terms of time and content, such as the Homowo festival with the Ga ( The festival of mockery of hunger ), the Nmayem festival with the Krobo ( The festival of corn eating ), the Epe-Ekpe at the Ewe ( Yams festival ) or the Danyibakaka festival with certain Ewe groups ( the commemorative festival for the crossing over the Danyi River in 1686 ).

All of these festivals are about the renewal of the union with the ancestors in connection with the respective regional main food source.

Calendar classification

For the Akan, Adae denotes a 40-day period. Since the end of such a period, the Akwasidae , always falls on a Sunday, an Adae becomes a 42-day period on average. The end of each Adae is usually celebrated with a small celebration, so that nine such Adae festivals are usually celebrated in the course of a year . Only the ninth of the nine festivals, the Adae of which begins with the Akwasidae , that is, with the last day of the previous Adae period, is the Great Adae and mostly falls in the month of August and is particularly extensively celebrated. In the past it was also considered the end of an old and the beginning of a new year. These nine Adae festivals do not exist everywhere in the various Akan societies , but the ninth and main festival is everywhere, which is only regionally referred to by different names.

The Adae calendar is a sacred calendar for the Akan peoples, but it seems that it was also used in the past by other peoples of West Africa. The Ashantic variant of this is the Adaduanan , which divides the year into nine periods of 40 days. Each of these 40-day periods ( Adae ) is divided into six weeks of 6 days. All of these six days have holy names and are agile. Two special days are considered to be particularly cheap - Wednesday and Sunday. A week only ends on one of these two days or a new one begins. If the end of a 40-day period lies in between, the week is extended to the next Wednesday or Sunday, so that a 42-day period usually arises as good .

In the historical kingdom of Fetu in the 1660s, such a period consisted of 44 days, which were divided into 19-6-13-6-day periods. Only the 19 and 13 day periods were called happy days or goodbyes . According to Müller, the first three days of the 19-day period were also called A dà je pram pram , which meant "extremely happy days" . The respective 6-day periods were A dà mu or "unlucky days" .

Traditional celebrations

There are two types of Adae festival: the “Wednesday Adae” or “Little Adae” and the “Sunday Adae”, the “Big Adae”. The "Wednesday Adae" is also called Kurudapaawukuo or the day of Awukudae in Asante , while the "Sunday Adae" in Asante is called Kurukwasie or the day of Akwasidae . While the "Wednesday Adae" is essentially a ritual event, the "Sunday Adae" in connection with the chief ceremonies is mainly the occasion for a general celebration in the community. The “Sunday Adae” also forms the culmination point and at the same time the end of the festivities that begin on Nkyikwasie (Ashanti), that is, a full week before Adae Sunday. Actually, the Akwasidae , also called Addai Kessie , concludes the mentioned 42 day long period.

In the past, the celebrations were longer in time. For example, the Ashantine “Great Adae” of 1857 began on Sunday, August 9th, 1857, reached its first climax on Sunday, August 16th, the chiefs of the area came on August 23rd and took place on August 25th the common procession with the king took place, which also meant the end of Lent. On September 9, 1857, the celebrations ended with the "Little Adae".

Sunday goodbye

Since the day of Adae festival is also considered a holy day, it is not only dedicated to the ancestors, but also to the gods, and it is said that on this day all crimes and violations of religious rules that have not been atoned for are punished. Until recently, all agricultural activity, the main occupation of the broad mass of the people, was banned on Adae day. At least on Adae Sunday there would be no time for this anyway, because people in all households are busy preparing for the festival. On such an Adae day, the drummers go into the palace at dawn before the sun rises to wake the people with the beating of the "speech drums". They drum certain poemes, so-called "wake-up texts", in addition to praise for former chiefs and the living chief. From sunrise to everyone who likes it can then go to the chief and his Adae convey greetings. On this day, the chief is expected to be available to his subjects (which, the higher the position of power in the country, the rarer the case), while in return the subjects are expected to express their loyalty to the chief by ask for permission to participate in the festival activities. At the same time, all those who hold any public functions, such as sub-chiefs, ministers, drummers, hornblowers, flute players as a kind of heralds , chair bearers, bearers of parasols, bearers of the ceremonial state sword or other state insignia, bodyguards, come to the chief’s homestead. Ambassadors, the captains of the Asafo units, speakers, interpreters and the like, whatever the chief has distributed to posts in his sphere of influence, as well as guests from outside. All are dressed in colorful costumes with all kinds of ornaments and insignia, which correspond to their office or rank. The exception is the king or chief himself, who wears mourning clothing, i.e. clothing in black, especially during the ceremony in which he comes into contact with the dead. Singing and dance ensembles take the opportunity to give a public performance on this occasion, which is particularly important when they have learned a new song or dance. At around 11 a.m. the chief and the entire entourage went to the chair house. However, it is only the chief himself and a few of the elders who are allowed to enter the rooms of the chair house. The rest are waiting outside. The chief then steps in front of the chairs of the chiefs of the ancestors and as a sign of humility he takes off his sandals and stands on them. He takes off his robe so that his shoulders are free, bows and greets the invisible but present souls of the former chair owners. Libations are buried and a sheep is sacrificed, as traditionally dictated by the Akan custom. A ritual meal is then prepared with the meat of the sacrificed animal and placed in front of the chairs. This “chair house ceremony” takes about two to three hours, while those waiting outside enjoy themselves with music and dancing in between.

Sunday goodbye in Kumasi

In earlier times in Kumasi , the capital of the Ashanti Empire , on Akwasidae Sunday, the inhabitants flocked to see the traditional pomp associated with this festival, especially when on that day on the Manhyia , the large square in front of the palace of Asantehene, the The golden chair and the golden drum were shown to the people as insignia of Ashantic unity.

All important officials, local and foreign, were gathered in the square for the occasion when the chiefs, carried high in sedan chairs with a lot of accompanying drums, convey their greetings and then go into the inner courtyard of the palace. After all the dignitaries and chiefs have passed the gate to the palace in this long procession and taken their places under the colorful state umbrellas, a group of young men march in a row in the middle, holding up pairs of golden sandals (?). These are the royal sandal-bearers, behind them are the royal treasure officials, carrying boxes that contained gold dust on earlier occasions. Then come people who carry the black medicine box containing numerous magical and medicinal herbs and the like. The like. Contains and which is mainly used on the battlefield by the king, who is also the commander-in-chief of his army. Then a wine-colored and gold-embroidered velvet cushion is carried in, on which the king can finally place his feet if he so wishes. The bodyguards and sword-bearers follow, who carry daggers and bayonets with gold-trimmed handles, entertaining the crowd with some artistic interludes.

An unusual (unusual) movement indicates that something extraordinary is about to follow and a few seconds later everyone stands up and bows when the golden drum is carried by, then the same thing happens when the golden chair is brought. The golden chair also includes three large, life-size figures of Denkirahene, Itim Denkira, Gyamanhene and the last Fosihene, Apenten. These three kings once fell in the battles against the Ashanti and the victories over them were considered to be the main milestones in the establishment of the Ashantine nation as a united kingdom. The death masks of these three kings are even said to have been modeled on the battlefield once.

Immediately after the Golden Chair, the sedan chair is brought in with the otumfuo, that is, the commander in chief of the army, who is usually identical to the king himself. The king descends, dances a little or does something else, while the court chronicler loudly the praises the warlike exploits of earlier kings. The king is dressed in a splendid Kente robe for this occasion . He also wears a gold breastplate, some talismans, gold sandals, gold anklets and gold knee bands, as well as a kind of turban made of green velvet on which gold asterisks and crescents are attached. If the king dances in front of the podium of a state guest, or in earlier times the supreme representative of the colonial power, this was considered the very highest honorary testimony of the king and a royal welcome to Asante. Then the foreign guests are greeted with a handshake before the king takes his place on the pedestal reserved for this purpose, the Sumpikesisu , while the respective left and right wing commanders of his army take their places at his side. The chair on which the king sits is not the golden chair, even if it is also richly decorated with gold.

In ancient times these were danced by the generals and warriors who used them to retell the course of any battles they fought. In the villages and towns outside the city, sheep are slaughtered on this day "in honor of the chairs", with the exception of the capital itself, where the sheep were not slaughtered until the next day.

The festival ends with the “dance of the girls”, the Akwadaa mo , which literally means “Congratulations, you young man”. Two young and magnificently dressed virgins from the ranks of the royal family are carried on the shoulders of two strong men, while the girls each swing a white bull's tail in sync with the music. This is followed by the chair bearers of the Queen Mother and, shortly after, the sedan chair with the Queen Mother herself. She, too, pays the king her respect with gestures before she takes a seat at his side. Now, accompanied by drum and horn music, numerous dances are performed, with other girls taking part, most of whom come from the Queen Mother's entourage or were specially invited to do so. Some men also take part in this dance, which the girls circle around in the course of this. It is the duty of the Queen Mother to take part in the dance herself, that is, in particular at the point where the circle around the dancing men is closed. No one is ever allowed to hug a Queen Mother, not even during this dance. When the Queen Mother stops her dance, the orchestra also stops and the entire Adae Festival is officially over.

Wednesday fine

The activities of the “Wednesday Adae” take place mainly in the “chair house”, as the “chair” of the chief or community head is not only a symbol for the chief office of the Akan, but it also serves as the shrine of a great common ancestor who is generally identical to the founder of the place. However, a strict distinction is made between the “chair of the living” (as a chief symbol) and the “chair of the dead” (as a memorial shrine), although both are combined in a single piece. This distinction is mainly expressed in the color scheme. White, that is generally the natural color of the wood, stands for the chief's chair and black or very dark colored wood stands for the symbol of the dead. There is probably no chief's chair on the Gold Coast that does not combine these two colors or shades of color. If a chief dies among the Akan, it is first of all the duty of his successor to freshen up the color shades of his chair, which have now faded, but especially the black, in order to be able to establish a connection to the ancestors. He can also have a new chair made or have it made if he wants, which is usually done. In this sense, the “Stuhl-Haus” can be seen as a sacred place of ancestor worship and as a place of spiritual renewal, especially with regard to recognition as a political authority in the rest of the population. The latter in particular, that is, the political authority bestowed with blessings from the ancestors, must be renewed every 42 days. If the 42-day rule is not adhered to, or if the ancestors do not respond or no reply, the chief loses his reputation and is no longer worth taking on as chief. The annual main spiritual renewal, however, takes place on “Sunday Adae”.


People used to be sacrificed on the occasion of the Adae Festival. David Mill Graves mentions in his journal about the Dutch mission to Kumasi in 1857 that on August 26, 1857 he stood in front of the dead bodies of 59 men and women executed in honor of the ancestors at the Adae Festival the vultures grazed. The day before they had been selected from among the soldiers and servants of the chief entourage who followed a royal procession and sentenced to death. The execution took place in or near the Samanpone , that is, the "forest of spirits" near Kumasi. In the entry for September 23, 1857, Graves described a gruesome execution in his report; a similar entry can be found for September 12. When the daughter of someone who was executed later died on September 2, 1857 as a result of an excessively long fast, which is generally said to precede an Adae festival, 13 more people were sacrificed, that is, executed, in honor of the deceased daughter under military honor.


  1. In the areas of the Gold Coast, there are normally two rainy seasons: a main rainy season between late March and early July and a slightly shorter one between late September and early November.
  2. Müller (see below) writes "A dà je"
  3. The king in particular is asked to fast in advance of the festivities.
  4. large parasols
  5. King of Denkira
  6. King of Gyaman (Jaman)
  7. which means something like "great and mighty in battle"
  8. David Mill Graves was an Afro-European who stood by Kwasi Mensah as secretary when he was at the court of Asantehene in Kumasi in 1857 on behalf of the Dutch government. Kwasi Mensah was one of the most prominent figures of Elmina at the time and had royal Akan blood. His mission in Kumasi was primarily aimed at renewing the “old bond of friendship and love” between the Dutch and the Ashanti and proposing the construction of a road between Elmina and Kumasi, bypassing British territory. A visit by the Dutch governor to Kumasi should be prepared in order to negotiate details.


  • Wilhelm Johann Müller, The African Landscapes Fetu , Hamburg 1673
  • REG Armattoe, Akwasidae , in: African Affairs , 50 (198), 1951, 61-63
  • JH Kwabena Nketia , Traditional Festivals in Ghana and Community Life , in: Cultures , 3 (2), 1976, pp. 33-44
  • Larry W. Yarak, A Dutch Embassy to Asante in 1857: The Journal of David Mill Graves , in: History in Africa , 24, 1997, pp. 363-380