Sawla Heu Festival Of The Savannah Region Of Ghana

By Jocob Ahiah
References Sawla Heu Festival Of The Savannah Region Of Ghana

Geographic Location of Sawla
Sawla Boundaries: Sawla is a Vagla town that shares land boundaries with other Vagla communities. To the East, Sawla shares a land boundary with the Kunlog Traditional Area with the capital Kunlog (Jelinkon) under the traditional leadership of Kunlog Heuhin. To the West Sawla shares land boundary with the Dagbigu Traditional Area with the traditional capital as Dagbigu. South Sawla shares a land boundary with the Chorbang Traditional Area on one side and Mankuma Bolhin (Kadiwura) on the other. To the North, Sawla shares land boundary with the Nuuk))bi (Nakwabi) in the Nakwabi Traditional Area. These reflect the land history of Vagla.

Sawla Lands are communally owned by the traditional groupings based on settlement and in line with the Vagla Traditions and Customs. The lands to the East are owned by Luri-Sal under the traditional leadership of Sawla Gbandi, whose appellation is Gbandi. The Sawla Central Lands are communally owned by Sindaa-Sal under the traditional leadership of Sawla Heuhin with the appellation Siayo. The Sawla West Lands are communally owned by the Hanbol under the traditional leadership of Sawla Koro with the appellation Jara (The Koro is mostly called Vagli-Koro from the outsider's perspective). The three skin lands are administered by the three traditional chiefs on behalf of the people of Sawla. Historically the appropriate title is spelt as Koro, but it got corrupted in the early 1980s. The corrupted version seems to be widely used by the new generation from the 1980s/1990s and in the 21st Century. Also, it is appropriate to note the original titles of the Vagla Traditional Chiefs as Koro and Heuhin. These traditional officeholders are co-equals. Each Vagla community has its traditional structure in terms of seniority and order of authority.

The Sawla Heu Festival is an annual event for the Chiefs and people of Sawla. It is often celebrated in line with the Vagla Lunar Calendar which is mostly not consistent with the Gregorian Calendar. The Sawla Festival is usually celebrated between August to October each year in the Sawla Traditional Area. The Sawla Heu Festival started in August when the three Traditional Leaders of Sawla namely Sawla Gbandi, Sawla Koro (Vagli-Koro) and the Sawla Heuhin informed their elders and people. The traditional leaders also informed other settler communities in the Sawla Traditional Area of the Annual Heu Festival ahead of time. This is to let all the people both the Sawla natives and the settler communities plan in terms of farm produce like cereals, and animals like fowls among others for rituals or sacred rites to the gods of Sawla in line with the rich cultures of the Vagla people of Sawla. After the notification of the Annual Heu Festival of Sawla, a date is set in line with the calculations of the Lunar Calendar and announced to the people.

Sawla Heu Festival Events
There is the Traditional Dance in the night to give way to the festival. The slaughtering of fowls to the gods of Sawla (prayer of libation). Each of the three Traditional Chiefs has a key role to play as part of the Heu Festival. The Sawla Gbandi (Charles Kipo) is very instrumented with the sacrifices of the Great Biizie. The Sawla Koro (Daani Salia II) plays omnipresent roles on both sides of the rituals with the Gbandi and with the Heuhin including incantations and prayers. The Sawla Heuhin (Kipo Ampara II) performs the direct rituals at the powerful shrine of Sawla Heuzie. These traditional rites get to their climax with the return from Woori (hunt for game) and the display of hunting prowess of the people. This is usually more of men's affairs, but women join at the entry point when the men return to the Traditional Arena (Sawla Bosibaan) also known as Gbalzenzie. The Vagla traditional Dance known as Kpana is one of the historical and ancient dances. The word Kpana in Vagli refers to Hunters, thus KPANA DANCE in Vagla is the Dance of the Hunters. It is important to note that other tribes who lived with the Vagla Tribe learned and adopted the Kpana Dance and these Gonja Tribes do admit that KPANA DANCE originated from the Vagla Tribe of Gonja. Besides the Kpana Dance other Vagla dances like Dugu, and Zingo are danced as part of the Sawla Annual Heu Festival celebration.

This year (2023) the traditional Chiefs and the people of Sawla celebrated their annual Heu Festival on September 13 (Wednesday) in Sawla where many sons and daughters participated. It is important to acknowledge the participation of other Gonja Tribes at the 2023 Sawla Heu Festival. Key among them is the Ngbanya tribe of Gonja and the Safalba tribe of Gonja. The Choruba tribe of Gonja served notice but could not participate likewise the Nomee/Batigee of Gonja. Other important groups of tribes who contributed with some cereals and fowls are the Lobi/Brifo/Miwo and the Dagaba. Thus, the 2023 Sawla Heu was celebrated with the Beauty of Multiculturalism. This is one of the significances of the Sawla Heu Festival, a sacred feast that brings good harvest, rains, and fortunes to various tribes and the diverse people in Sawla and the surrounding villages like Sansanbol (yiri), Yobobol (Yoboyiri), Dinzie among others in the Sawla Traditional Area.

Credit: Faala Wia, 2023