A festival you have been to

One of the strangest festivals I’ve been to was in the West African country of Togo. It was a Liberation Day event in the village of Tchifama. I went to it when I was a volunteer in Togo.

Liberation day is strange holiday for Americans. The reason is because the holiday actually does not celebrate a real liberation. Togo was a colony of France. In 1960, Togo gained independence. The first president was Sylvanus Olympio, who in 1963 was killed in a coup. It was the first coup in Africa. Later, in 1967, the man who killed President Olympio, Gnassingbé Eyadéma, took full control of Togo. He created a dictatorship and controlled Togo from 1967 to his death in 2005. His son actually became president after his death. Liberation day is to celebrate President Eyadéma coming to power.

The day is somewhat controversial in Togo. In Togo there are many ethnic groups. President Eyadéma was a member of the Kabye ethnic group. The group is not the largest group in Togo, but members of the group receive special benefits because the president is a member. The largest ethnic group in Togo is the Ewe. President Olympio was a member of the Ewe ethnic group. Many Ewe do not like President Eyadéma.

I lived in the village of M’Poti. The main ethnic group in my village is the Adele. Most of the Adele supported President Olympio but did not like President Eyadéma. In my village there is no festival for liberation day. One of the other volunteers, who lived in the village of Tchifama, invited me to come to her village to see the festival. The chief of Tchifama was Kabye so the village has a big festival on that day.

One of the big parts of any Togolese festival is drinking. Togo has three main local drinks. A millet beer called Tchuk, which is brewed in barrels and served in a calabash. The second is palm wine, which is made from the sap of palm trees. The third is sodabi, which is distilled palm wine. When you distill palm wine it becomes like vodka, gin or shochu.

Another big part of a Togolese festival is food. An important festival food in Togo is fufu. Fufu is made by pounding yams. It is similar to mashed potatoes. It is usually served with a sauce, often peanut or okra sauce. Meat is expensive for the Togolese but usually is eaten at festivals. The usual kinds of meat are goat or chicken; beef is sometimes eaten as well.

For a festival in Togo, usually the villagers form a circle. On the outside people are eating, drinking, and singing. People dance in the circle. Each ethnic group has it’s own dance. I forget the Kabye dance, but I can still do the Ewe dance.

For the Liberation day festival there was a big painting of President Eyadéma in an important position. There were also a lot of Togolese flags, which people were waving. People wore green and yellow, the national colors.

Overall, I found festivals in Togo fun and interesting, but the Liberation Day festival felt a bit odd to me. It felt strange being at a festival celebrating the beginning of a dictatorship.



liberation (n) – helping someone or something to be free
independence (n) – a situation in which a country or area has its own government and is not ruled by another country
dictatorship (n) – a type of government where one person has all or most of the power
come to power (idiom) – to get control of a country or orginization
ethnic (adj.) – relating to a particular race of people
calabash (n) – a large fruit, the outside of which becomes hard when dried and can be used as a container
sap (n) – the liquid that carries food to all parts of a plant