The sight of the Wa Naa and a cow at the climax of the Dumba Festival of the Wala people in the Upper West Region evokes strong emotions for natives, and maybe even tourists.
It is the moment of destiny that counts perhaps the footsteps of the traditional overlord in the journey of his reign, and pronounces a definite judgement on whether he could finish another year on the throne.
For a tourist who is excited by suspense and drama, it may be a fitting climax to a colourful annual celebration but it remains the dreaded moment for the chief of the Wala, his immediate family and all subjects who wish him well.
As a ritual, a cow is tied to the floor, and the Wa Naa is mandated by tradition to cross over the cow at the durbar grounds in the public view without any part of his body or garment touching the cow.
If he does so successfully, Wala legend suggests he is guaranteed another full year reign on the throne.
It has been established as an integral part of the festival and has become the highly anticipated moment that draws the biggest crowd for the final parts of the usually political addresses.
It climaxes a week-long of activities of songs and dance, strengthening of friendships and bonds, sharing with and caring for one another, an abundance of native food, all of these in a blend of contemporary and traditional fashion.
This age-old ritual, according to Wala tradition, does not discriminate, not even in terms of the age of the substantive Wa Naa.
The Chief, Naa Seidu Braimah Nubalanaang I, of Goli which is one of four Gates to the Wa Naa throne, said that aspect of the tradition of the people also proved the fitness of the traditional overlord.
“In fact, whether the Wa Naa is young or old, he has to go through this ritual to prove his fitness,” the Goli Naa said in an interview.
Moment of destiny
It may well be a unique annual ritual in the post-enskinment reign of the Wa Naa, and given the reverence accorded traditional chieftains, the Wa Naa’s moment of destiny has always provoked the average person’s curiosity.
At the last Dumba Festival – the 98th edition – in November 2018, the Wa Naa, Naa Fuseini Seidu Pelpuo IV, took his turn for the eleventh time since his coronation in 2007.
As expected, that moment induced tears from family members, subjects, tourists and many others in attendance at the Wa Naa’s palace.
The 66-year-old Wa Naa has lost his youth and his strength lately and his cautious steps as he approached the cow must have provoked some panic and uncertainty among his family and subjects rather than being regarded as a mere graceful walk to a royal duty.
At that point, some close relatives – particularly women – had walked off the durbar grounds to perhaps conceal their anxiety over the ‘make-or-break’ ritual for the chief, while many others who must have mustered the courage to stay around were in hugs, clenched fists and tight jaws.
The emotional and tear-inducing scenes appeared justified by the overall condition of the chief who did not look to possess the energy of his coronation in 2007.
As if the cow was yielding to a superior force, it stayed calm on the floor as Naa Seidu Pelpuo IV lifted one leg over it, then the other, to fully
cross over it to arouse wild jubilation among the excited crowd.
Some of his immediate family members then emerged from their ‘hideouts’ to join in the dance on the durbar grounds.
The spectacle proved a befitting climax to a week of social, traditional and religious activities that celebrate the lives of the Wala.
By: Daily Graphic