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Celebrating Easter the Sekondi way

Celebrating Easter the Sekondi way

The people of Sekondi-Takoradi, the capital of the Western Region of Ghana have a unique way of celebrating the Easter festivities with the highlight being the stoning to death of the biblical Judas Iscariot.

Christened “Yesu Asor”, the festival is basically about the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, celebrated as Easter by Christians. However, on the Friday when Jesus is crucified, the focus of the Sekondi community is rather on Judas Iscariot who in the Christian religion is said to have betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.

On the morning of the Friday when Jesus is crucified according to the Bible, the residents sew a dummy to represent the biblical Judas. As this is going on, there is so much excitement in the community as both young and old look forward to the late afternoon procession when the dummy Judas Iscariot, beautifully dressed, is ferried through the township to be publicly disgraced and sent to the “execution grounds” to be stoned to “death”. You will hear chants like “Judas, ewi o, ewi o”, literally meaning Judas, the thief as he is driven along.

As this is happening, there are different stations created around the township with different types of entertainment where one can join to have fun.

Around 2:00pm, the procession starts. It is led by women clad in red, which in the traditional settings, indicate either mourning, danger or something serious happening. These women with their ‘shekere’ calabash gourds, sing traditional songs as they herald the biblical Jesus Christ being led to the cross. Of course He is being urged on by guards with their whips in hand busily beating him.

But of more interest to the crowd which fill up the streets is the bespectacled Judas dummy, dressed with dignity in a suit and being carried at the back of a tricycle. He is hooted at as he passes by with a lot of name-calling including being a thief; all these to embarrass “him”.

He is then led to the execution ground, which is the beach, where he is tied to a long pole to be stoned to “death”. Death here means until the dummy is totally destroyed. It is worthy of note that the stoning is open to every member of the community, both young and old and they take it as a serious responsibility and do it with much joy. To ensure safety, the leaders first inform the police and make announcements in the township of the impending stoning and the need for the residents to ensure their personal safety, so no one can be held liable if hurt by a flying stone. The leaders also manage the stoning to ensure it is accident-free.

It is after the total destruction of the dummy that the focus shifts to the other activities including live shows with renowned musicians among others for their general entertainment.

This year, tertiary students from the community were bussed from some of the universities to engage in what is termed “morale”, basically meaning, chanting of some popular songs amidst drumming and dancing. There was brass band music, people walking on stilts among other interesting sights.

It is worthy of note that there will be another procession through the township at dawn of the resurrection Sunday, to announce the resurrection of Christ. This time, all will be clad in white dancing to brass band music.
The ‘Yesu Asor’ festival is very dear to the people of Sekondi because they have not had a traditional Chief over a long period of time, so they are unable to celebrate the traditional festival of the Ahantas and Nzemas, the Kundum festival.

The leader of the Anaafo group, Owura Vandyck in an interview indicated that the festival was introduced by their forefathers to create excitement in the community during Easter.

They wanted to ensure that the people do not wander away from the community during this period. The stoning of Judas does not signify anything, in fact as Christians, we appreciate the role he played in the salvation story, so it is just to get the community engaged and create some fun and excitement”, he said.

This year’s headline artiste for the festivities is Kofi Kinaata.

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