The most fascinating part about travel is to experience how people from different cultures live, and it is a great honor to be invited to special occasions and rituals in other cultures. Make sure not to miss the videos of the war dance in the end of the post!
When I was living in Bolgatanga, in the north of Ghana, I get to know the frafra traditions quite well. One fascinating ritual is the war dance of the funerals. According to frafra traditions, funeral rituals are only arranged during the dry season, from November to May. Some funerals will be held privately for the family, but the older and more respected the deceased is the more rituals will be arranged in their funeral. During the rainy season, they will still do burials though, with gatherings for the family and community. For the older and respected people, the funeral will be arranged in the following dry season.
The war dance is only performed for older persons who die, and this is a dance to respect the deceased. The war dance is performed for both men and women. Only men will perform the war dance, while women will attend by singing to encourage the dancing warriors. The men who perform the war dance will dress up in traditional clothes, fur and leather, and dance accompanied by drums and flutes. The warriors will carry weapons like knives, bows and arrows.
Men from extended family groups will perform the dance. They gather and perform the dance while they move from their own village to the funeral house. When you are at the funeral, you will see groups of warriors dancing towards the funeral from different directions.
To my knowledge, there are no certain explanation of why the war dance has become a part of the funeral rituals, but it probably remains from old times when wars about resources was more common and hunting was an important aspect of surviving.
The war dance have many meanings. The war dance indicate that the deceased was a responsible person, who was able to provide and protect the family´s upkeep, and a reminder of how strong the ancestors of this family was. It may also be a challenge to the living to live a great life like this person they celebrate. It is also a message to the dead person, to communicate that the family that remain will work to provide for and protect the family that remain. Some people also explain the war dance as a mock war with death that has come into the community.
All photos were taken in the funeral of Madame Cecilia, who reached the age of 90 years. My knowledge of the war dance is based on stories and conversations with frafra people. If you think I have misunderstood something, or if you have any additional information about the war dance, feel free to get in touch or leave a comment.
Have you had any truly cultural experiences that made impressions on you? Please share by leaving a comment.
I´m an Oslo based web publisher with passion for communication, travel and a green lifestyle. When I travel, I prefer to go slow, sustainable, and “live like a local”. Why slow? It is about challenging the cult of speed, and to enjoy the small things in life and to live in the present.