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Matt Wilcox

Professor Tina Katsanos

LBST 2102

7 April 2017

Hogbetsotso Za: The Festival of Exodus

Hogbetsotso Za, or the Festival of Exodus, is a week-long celebration put on each year by

the Anlo-Ewe tribe of south-eastern Ghana. The purpose of the festival is to celebrate the escape

from Nortsie and subsequent settlement of Keta Lagoon in the Volta region of Ghana. Prior to the

mid-15th century, the Anlo-Ewe people lived under King Agokoli I, ruler of Nortsie (current day

Togo). Agokoli was malicious towards the Anlo-Ewe people, forcing them to build the

kingdoms walls and houses out of mud, broken glass, and thorns by hand. It was his cruelty that

caused the Anlo-Ewe to flee Nortsie, and eventually settle in Keta Lagoon. The Hogbetsotso Za

festival commemorates this event primarily through the art of dance-drumming. The unique

ritual acts performed throughout the festival represent religious, military, and social aspects of

the Anlo-Ewe culture.

The festival begins with a period of peace called Nugbidodo, which translates to

reconciliation. During the time of Nugbidodo, members of the Anlo-Ewe tribe are expected to

resolve any disputes and come together as a community. This period of time is meant to reflect

upon ancestral wishes of peace. It is legend to the tribe that following the great escape from

Nortsie, the elders of the tribe enacted a peace treaty between not only members of the tribe but

also neighboring tribe in the region. On the day of Nugbidodo, participants travel to the sacred

city of Anloga. Ceremonies begin in the palace of Torgbi Awadada, where members split into the
hlorlofe, or group, of which their ancestors belonged to. These hlorlofes were created after the

great escape when the tribe split into three smaller groups who split up to settle different sections

of the Volta region. The purpose of this divide was to better the line of defense in the case of

conflict. Once seated, the elders invite the seven deities to attend the ceremony before

proceeding. To do this, Chiefs and elder form a circle and make seven laps to accommodate to

each deity and ensure they have all received invitations. Once the deities have been welcomed,

the recounting of past hurts ceremony begins. During this ceremony, all thirty-seven of the Anlo-

Ewe herds come together and express wrong doings that have been committed against them. The

sequence of speakers is organized from elders to youth, in which elders speak first and the youth

speaks last. Participation in this ceremony is enforced through the customs of the tribe, for if one

was to hold back their feeling they would be putting themselves at risk for receiving a curse.

Nugbidodo comes to an end with the sacrifice of three rams that are subsequently cooked and fed

to the audience in a grand feast.

Following the ceremony of Nugbidodo, there is a day of remembrance dedicated to the

original people who escape King Agokoli. During this day, special dances are preformed to

reenact the tactics used to flee the tyrant. The most recognized of these tactics is the backward

walking used to cover the escapees tracks. Throughout the entire escape, the Ewe people

walking backwards to make their tacks appear as though they were walking towards the kingdom

rather than away. The success of their escape was largely thanks to this intelligent act

Tie ins to readings

Concluding paragraph

C.K. Ladzekpo, Introduction to Anlo-Ewe Culture and History, 1995, 42 pages, 4/6/2017,


Daniela Merolla, Background information: Ewe migration stories and the Hogbetsotso

celebration, 4/6/2017,<


Navid Normanyo, The 2015 Edition of Nugbidodo Ceremony: My Very First Experience, 16

November 2015, Facebook, 4/6/2017,<


experience/10153582684861999/ >

Mike Avickson, Dzigbordi Fomenyah, Reliving the Anlo history through Hogbetsotso festival,

9 November 2015, 4/6/2017, <

through-Hogbetsotso-festival-392906 >