Adowa Cultural Dance: A Unique Ghanaian Identity

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Ghana dancers
Cultural dancers of Ghana:photo credit/getsmoke.net
Cultural dance is super exciting irrespective of cultural diversification. It has a way of bringing smiles on our faces especially as it soothes our psychological and emotional needs. It makes you want to move your body even when you are not sure of what direction to start with, and for those who cannot just flex their body to perform complex tasks, you are not alone- sincerely doff your hat off for those who can; don’t miss the fun.

Dance involves variation in movement according to time or rhythm. It is one of the interesting universal physical activities that thrive on flexibility and coordination, muscular and cardiovascular endurance.

From time immemorial, dance has been used as a means of communication. Here, people express their cultural norms and values, history, achievements, tragedy, happiness, sorrows, beliefs and power.

Ghana Dancers
Adowa Dancers:photo credit/islandvoice.org

Ghana, an African country with unique culture and tradition has so many traditional dances which include: Adowa, Agbadza, Asafo, Apatampa, Bamaya, Borborbor, Kpalogo and Kete.  All these dances have various meanings and origins in Ghana, but let us talk about “Adowa” as one of the traditional dances in the country.

Among all the traditional dances in the country, the one which is commonly performed at National Events, particularly in the Southern part of the country, is “Adowa”.

Verbal historians say that Adowa came about as a result of men imitating the movements of a “Royal Antelope” in the jungle.

It is a popular traditional dance performed mostly by Akims, Ashantis, Bonos Kwahus and Akuapims; the Akan-speaking tribes in the country.

During national events and celebrations such as the Independence Day, it is the adowa that is mostly performed to usher in dignitaries, including the President, Ministers, and Chiefs to the ceremonial ground.

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Adowa is believed to have originated from the imitation of the movements of a royal antelope. In the Akan language, particularly the Asante Twi dialect, the royal antelope is called “Adowa” while it is called “Otwe” in Fante. The dance was named after this animal.

 

This Is The History Of Adowa Cultural Dance.

Once upon a time, there was a queen mother called Abrewa Tutuwa in the ancient Ashanti Kingdom who became seriously ill during her reign, all medications used on her failed to heal her until a deity was consulted for direction.

According to the story, the deity directed that a live royal Antelope be captured and brought alive for the performance of some rituals in order to heal the dying queen mother.

Some warriors were, therefore, asked to go to the forest to hunt for a live Royal Antelope. However, after days of a futile search, the warriors decided to return home.

On their way home, however, the warriors saw a Royal Antelope making some captivating moves.

The warriors, startled by the striking movements of the Royal Antelope, hid themselves somewhere in the forest and also started studying and mimicking the movement of the Antelope. It was this imitation that led to the creation of Adowa Dance.

The warriors came home so excited! They joyfully performed their newly learned movements to celebrate the health of their dying Queen mother, while the elderly women also picked up the movement and perfected it into the modern-day “Adowa.”

It must be noted that during the performance of Adowa, every single movement of the performers has a message to tell. The message can be sorrowful, agonising, romantic, exciting, and/or sarcastic. It is a dance full of meanings.

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What Are The Significance Of Adowa Cultural Dance?

The dance “is subjective” and might have some changes in its performance and costume, its significance has not changed. Although many popular dances had faded out, Adowa would continue to dominate the cultural arena due to its uniqueness and Ghanaian identity.

Adowa dancer
Adowa dancers and drumers:photo credit/youtube.com

According to information gathered by Scholars based on the oral account of Adowa, the inventors of the dance mimicked how Antelopes honoured their dead ones.

A scholar added: “It is believed that when an antelope dies, the remaining ones go round it to mourn it and that explains why Adowa performers usually go round when performing the dance.”

Adowa was originally a funeral dance, it had now become a social dance receiving overwhelming patronage at all kinds of social gatherings.

The dance was predominantly performed by the Ashantis, it could also be found among other Akan- speaking tribes.

The expressive nature of the dance enabled the performers to easily communicate with their body movement. Adowa is performed using mostly the whole torso, head, whole arm, foot and the hand, which enables the dancers to express their emotion effectively. For instance, when a performer put the fourth finger in his/her mouth or the hands either at the back or on the stomach, it signifies emotional pain, especially when the dance was being performed at a funeral.

Since the dance was originally meant for funerals, its costume “is usually black and white clothing” but other colours could be used in recent times because of its social status.

Presently, it is “Occasion” determines the costume to put on.

Adowa is a “bisexual dance”, women mostly performed it because of its expressive nature leaving the men with the task of drumming, although both men and women can dance Adowa

It must be mentioned that Adowa is performed with songs that are based on cultural beliefs and social issues.

Economic Impact of Adowa Cultural Dance

Apart from Adowa being used as a means of cultural display, social, and emotional opinions, the dance also comes with some economic benefits.

It creates business opportunities for artisans such as wood carvers, blacksmiths and goldsmiths who make the drums, bells and ornaments respectively for the performance of the dance.

It is important to mention that through these artisans, our fathers were reasonably engaged. They ensured that the dance is preserved and passed on from one generation to another.

Look what a Scholar said about Adowa Cultural Dance of Ghana:

“Adowa is an admirable work of art. If we stop Adowa, we may be starving some people of what they like to see.”

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