Dear Nii Kpakpo,
The very first time I asked about spending Easter in Tamale I was told that during the whole Easter time Christians went to church and Muslims mostly stayed at home. Being a predominantly Muslim community I expected just that until there was an added twist to the information that I got.
Apparently Easter Mondays have always been exciting in Tamale and some people, especially the youth, actually plan the whole year in wait for Easter Monday. Curiosity got the better of me.
Kpakpo it is said that after the war people were divided and formed several associations and at major holidays and festivals these various groups met and not only had discussions in relation to their welfare but also did recreational activities to foster solidarity amongst themselves and also other groups. This is how the Kokomba-Nanumba Annual games started and it’s pretty interesting how the ultimate prize at this particular event is a dog. But hey! That’s up to them and it is a story for another day.
The Catholic Church in Tamale took it upon itself to organize picnics for its members but open to the public and organized in various locations that were rotational on a yearly basis. Gradually it caught on and it became the go-to event for Easter Monday within the Tamale metropolis. The event has been held at various Catholic dioceses throughout the metropolis until some youth started getting rowdy and then it was moved to Kamina and has stayed there since.
So especially during Easter these various groups mostly ethnic based meet at a selected location and have fun sometimes in collaboration and healthy competition with other ethnic groups. At these meets ethnic groups learn each other’s culture and traditions and apprise themselves of the similarities and differences within the cultures especially up north. Mostly there are more similarities than differences and these events therefore foster unity within the ethnic groups.
Nii Kpakpo, so why Kamina. The Kamina Barracks is the home of the sixth infantry battalion of the Ghana Armed Forces and every time there is unrest, usually ethnic, anywhere up north they are the ground forces discharged to dispel the conflicts. Somewhere along the line the base commander decided to provide a location for all these ethnic groups who were meeting at various locations to come together at the barracks on one particular day to have fun.
So the Easter Monday picnic for the various groups and even the Catholic organized one, now has a location at the Kamina barracks.
I have mentioned earlier in one of my letters to you Kpakpo with regards to social gatherings in Tamale and let me remind you again. Tamale people normally move in groups. People will gravitate to a particular location knowing that it’s going to be fun. Unlike in places like Accra where you can just drive your car and go sit at the beach alone, in Tamale you will only do that when you know that other people you know are going to be there. If you don’t really know anybody and you go to an event you will be miserable because you’ll see people having fun and you can’t join in it. Tamale folk have a weird way of making new friends. Somebody in the circle should know you and introduce you to the group and that indirectly acts as the person vouching for you and only then do you gradually get integrated into the group.
Elsewhere you can just go introduce yourself and all you need is a common interest. There was one time I remember during the dumsor era my Nigerian neighbors (my mother doesn’t like them) had DSTV and a gen set and it was a Champions League night. I didn’t want to go to the streetside centres because I’ve had some bad experiences with them and so I just bought a double six pack of Heineken beer from the supermarket and when I got home just put my bag down and armed with my beer I went to knock on their door. “My name is Kola (they pronounce it the Nigerian way) and I live next door. I’m here to watch the champions league match”. You should’ve seen the wide grin on his face as I lifted the Heineken beer as my entry gift. And since then we’re not too close but we say hello to each other in the street when we meet.
My mother doesn’t know so don’t go telling her.
But yes Nii Kpakpo the Kamina picnic has gradually become the biggest event in the Tamale calendar year and I’m really surprised that there is virtually nothing about it online or anywhere else. People from all the various ethnic groups are represented not only ethnically but also people bring their families to spend time outdoors. If I’m allowed to say I’d say it is the Kwahu of the north with people coming in buses from other regions to participate.
Probably because it is a military base there are no banners unlike elsewhere to show various companies advertising or headline sponsoring but there are several business interests on display. It was at this picnic event that I first discovered that there was a smoothie outlet here in the savanna and it is not so bad either. With several people from the south now relocating up north such business as pubs and pizza joints and catching up pretty quick. Furthermore they are staying open till late which is a good thing because people are working late more and will need these things after a hard days work as it is in the capital.
At the Kamina picnic the various ethnic dances are displayed and this one is a public communal dance where anybody can join. Traditional drummers are present and once in awhile they ginger and whip the crowds into a frenzy. Such a beautiful sight especially the energy. The atmosphere is all charged.
For the much younger ones there are also spinners with Djs to belt out the latest tunes and also whip their crowd into a dancing frenzy. Boys and gals huddle in group in the latest fashions available and with slick hairdos and haircuts to look good for the opposite sex. After all it’s a festival atmosphere and anyone could get lucky especially since they’re mostly high school students down for the Easter holiday break.
You remember our days when we were in high school and of attended this interco events? Same feeling. I find myself watching them and their antics and smiling at myself.
In this social media era its is even surprising that even though plenty photos are taken nobody has hash tagged #KaminaPicnic and made it trend. Maybe I could talk to one of the radio stations to do a competition so people post the pictures they took at the event and let’s get some info on it online.
Nii Kpakpo Thompson this issue of writing about this event has been on my mind for over three years and I’ve put together a team of like minded people to brainstorm on how to put some of the savanna events such as festivals online. I really hope some good comes out of it.
Anyways hope you also use your media to help us project the north because as one of my stakeholders said it is difficult to sell the savanna and the negativity is easily perceived quicker. Good things can come from here too.
Kpakpo, this is me from us here. I will be glad if I see you championing the cause of the north.
Until I write to you again. I still remain
Your Cousin In Law