The bugum (fire) festival is widely celebrated by majority of northern tribes. It is a festival which is rooted within the history of the Mole Dagbon kingdom, however most tribes in present day Northern Ghana have adopted and celebrate in their own style whiles maintaining the central theme and its originality. In Mampruli, the Fire Festival is called Bugum Toobu (Fire Throwing) or Bugum Kyuu (Fire Festival) and the Dagombas call it Bugum Chugu (Fire Festival).
This festival is celebrated during the night to mark a very interesting adventure that occurred during the reign of a powerful Dagbon Tindana. His son left home with his friends into the outskirts of town to play, he became tired and went and laid down under a tree and fell asleep. His friends forgot of him and went home when they finished playing. It was in the evening that the Tindana and his wife realised their son did not come back. Other narrations have it that, the boy left his friends and went deep into the bush and could not find his way back to their playground, he became exhausted trying to find their usual route home, night fell and he located a big tree and decided to rest with the intention to continue the next day.
An army of warriors were assembled to go into to the forest and retrieve the boy. The search began in the night, as a result, bundles of grass were used as torches. The boy was found sleeping under a big tree. He was brought home to his parents and since then that occasion became a memorable festival among the people at the time. This festival has been with the northern people for centuries.
Mode of Celebration
The wide adoption of the festival among most northern tribes signifies the unity and strong relationship. This is an opportunity to experience a festival that is deeply rooted in northern culture and lifestyle. There has been an introduction of lungsi (drumming and dancing) in centuries back which has energised the youth into fully observing everything about the festival. While marching to the evil tree, they played and danced ziem, a dance for the tindaamba 'land priests'. The people used to and still dress as warriors when celebrating the fire festival. However, children apply white powder on their faces and follow the procession.
During the occasion one will experience live dancing of Ziem (an old dance of the people of Dagbon), complemented by the use of the gungong. During the main activities of the festival, other side attractions such as displays of traditional war instruments, garments and amulets by the youth can be seen.
That night is very lively as thousands of celebrants march to the chief’s place. They wait for him to initiate and light his bundle of grass, speak to the gods and perform certain rituals, ones he throws his torch, the crowds rush in to light their own torches from his flame. The chief’s warriors will fire their guns into the air and then chaotic fun ensues as everyone (mostly young men) run around playing with fire.
The night is then filled with magical performances as some youth show off their powers by playing with knives and fire. You may see some cutting themselves with knives yet not bleeding and others touching flames and not being burned.
The festival often attracts foreign tourists and cultural researchers who come to experience the festival. This is a festival one cannot afford to miss.
SEE YOU IN THE NORTH THIS YEAR OR THE COMING YEARS!!
Images used are not the property of northern heritage.