As I arrived in Guabuliga four weeks ago to do research for my master-thesis in nutritional sciences for the University of Vienna, I had no idea about the intriguing and compelling society awaiting me. If I would have known, I would have come years earlier!
It is easily witnessed, that proselytization also reached remote areas in all Northern Ghana as everyday-life is embossed by regular religious ceremonies. However, the ancient flame never lost its fire, as I was able to experience on my own in the previous week.
The Fire festival, or Bugum Chugu as it is called locally, takes place annually for over 800 years in some communities and cities of Northern Ghana like Guabuliga. After dusk, the Elders are summoned through drumming at the Chiefs Palace where traditional dances are initiated, torches of dried wood are lighted up and a procession through the village starts. After some time, the Chief circles his head seven times with an illuminated torch, gives signs to open the gunfire and after the first gun is shot, the whole Guabuliga is brightened up by children, women and men carrying their fires and running joyfully through streets celebrating until late night.
As children told me and online research proved them right, the roots of the Bugum Chugu lies in a King, whose son went out to play and did not return back home. The King desperately sent the whole village to search after his dear son. After nightfall he ordered to continue the search with torches, with which they found the child sleeping under a tree. This tree was accused from the king to have hidden his son from him and therefore they threw torches on it to cast away the evil, which still can be seen nowadays in some communities.
If you should ever be around Northern Ghana in the beginning of October, be sure to be part of this unique night. It engages you in the pulse of a traditional relict and will surely leave you stunned.