Nii Ayertey Charway Labia of Kley Tsonkonya, Chief Priest of the Lalue shrine, the mother god of the people of Prampram, stood facing the ocean. Dressed in a long white shirt below his knee and trousers soiled with horizontal and vertical stripes, his head wrapped in a white cloth, a bottle of Schnapp in both hands and flanked by other priests and elders, performed libation into the sea to mark the end of the Kpledo festival, which is celebrated three different Tuesdays on the calendar. The first started on the second Tuesday of May and ended this past Tuesday.
In his incantation, the Chief Priest, on behalf of the people of Prampram, offered thanks through the gods to the Almighty for a successful festival. He also evoked the spirts of the ancestors and appreciated them for their spiritual presence and protection over the township.
Above all, the Chief Priest prayed for bumper harvest for fishermen in the community and appealed for their preservation and safety while on their job. As one of the many coastal communities in the country choking on the continuous depletion of fish stocks in the sea, most fishermen are reported to be looking for non-existing alternative livelihoods, to enable them to support their families, put their children through school, and replace distressed fishing gear.
Hundreds of people who thronged to the beach, some hanging on parked canoes and portions of the existing rooftop of Fort Vernon – the 1742 slave post which now lies in ruins- kept cheering anytime the Chief Priest evoked the blessings of the ancestors to impact the fishing business.
As part of the ancestral veneration, Nii Ayertey Charway, his back facing the ocean, and dancing to a sustained rhythm from the priestly drummers, his hands also moving in tandem with the beat, in a bent position, inscribed symbols by moving them from onshore until the small waves hit his hands. He repeated the same ritual performance and on the very third one, the then calmed waves forcefully swept through the feet of those close to the mouth of the ocean. The crowd then roared, cheered, and celebrated with different dance moves.
The drum at this stage was then placed into the ocean which is then battled for. The exercise signifies the cleansing of the town from any bad thing that had happened in the past. It is now time to look forward into a new era of peace, prosperity and community development.
Nii Ayertey Charway, now facing the ocean, performed an imaginary net puling exercise synonymous with the work of fishermen. He kept the pulling until a distance between himself and the ocean.
“We are praying for a bumper harvest this fishing season,” a resident in his mid-50s, who generously explained the different aspects of the rituals to me said. Dressed in a white short pant and shirt with green leaves wrapped around his head, his two hands clinched and swinging his body from left to right, he explained to me the different aspects of the rituals and the significance.
“The first celebration is devoted to the Lalue, and we do that to appreciate her spiritual importance to the people of Prampram,” he said. “The second is devoted to us, the people and the third and final one is taken to the sea, where we washed all the negative things into the sea and pray to the Almighty to bless our works.”
Recent reports about Prampram have never been good. Late last year and early this year, two prominent elders were murdered by unidentified gunmen for unknown reasons. One of them was murdered inside the shrine, an abominable act that incensed most of the youth in the town. The other was killed in his room in Miotso.
It was therefore not surprising that one of the Odjeshilin or Jama groups composed a song, condemning the killings. The song says Prampram in the past was alien to guns but some few miscreants are now determined to sniff the lives out of people.
“Prampram is a peaceful place, and we shall do what we can to protect it”, told PramCiti TV, the online channel devoted to Ga-Dangme activities. “Swinging the red flag hoisted on a bamboo stick in the skies, sweaty and dredging their feet in excitement, they called for an end to unnecessary disputes suspected to have led to some of the previous murders.
This is the first time in more than two years that the festival was publicly celebrated since conditions around the pandemic improved.
And with the Lalue Kpledo behind the people, and Homowo about to be celebrated in August, the ban on noisemaking and funeral festive activities are expected to be lifted in the coming days.
The people are confident the unity witnessed during the festival will forever remain.