Kakamatobi, or Fancy Dress Festival

The teller explained to me a festival/celebration that takes place in Ghana called the Kakamotobi, or the Fancy Dress Festival, which they experienced in their childhood while living in Ghana. As the teller explains, celebrations take place from late November to early December, in preparation for the Christmas holiday. The festival is characterized by people dressed in vivid costumes, which the teller describes as having “vivid yellow face[s], red lips, bulging eyes, feathery colorful costumage […] some people had stilts too.” They also explained that these costumed characters would “chase others” as other people ran away, humorously noting that it was “lowkey evil honestly, cause why would you just chase children.”

Context: This text was gathered from a conversation I had with the teller, where I asked for any significant festivals or traditions they could share with me. The teller is of Ghanaian descent and spent their childhood in the country near the coastside city of Tema. They noted during their explanation that this festival was something that they could see outside from their home, so they have a close proximity to the celebration itself. 

Analysis: From additional research from online sources (specifically this article: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/fancy-dress-festival-winneba-ghana), the historic roots for this festival comes from the early 20th century, following years of Dutch and English colonial rule over Ghana. Specifically, Ghanaians took aspects from Dutch masquerade practices, which they interacted with at white-owned bars, and incorporated them into their own customs. This celebration eventually became associated with the identity of Ghana itself, as indicated by the first president of Ghana recognizing and supporting the festival following Ghana’s independence from Britain in the mid-1900s. While the teller notes that celebrations took place from November to December, online articles say that celebrations typically take place between Christmas and the New Year. The discrepancy may be just rooted in differences in memory, but it could also be a result of differences across regions. While the teller experienced the festival near the coast, around the area of Temu, the festival itself originates from Central Ghana, and may have been iterated upon as it spread across the country. Kakamotobi has some liminal significance, taking place at the boundary between the old and new year, but its importance perhaps comes from its value as a nation-defining event, given its historical context.