Time-honored cultural practices and traditions have served as the foundation upon which most African communities have thrived for centuries. Disregard for traditions often provoked swift disciplinary actions. Puberty rite is among the many significant African cultural practices among the Akans and Ashantis in the West African country of Ghana.
The Akans practice Bragoro, also known as Brapue, a puberty rite, especially the Ashantis. The Bragoro rites are typically performed by a young girl following her first period/menstruation, which the Akans believe signifies the girl coming of age, and necessitates the performance of certain puberty rites.
A young girl’s mother notifies the council of elders, queen mothers, and community leaders when she experiences her first period in order to let them know that her daughter is ready to be initiated. An adolescent girl’s opportunity to be fully accepted as an adult in the Akan community comes with the puberty rite.
These civilizations value this stage highly because it is often marked by young people’s emotional transformations, physical maturation, and growth. They need to be informed of cultural values and given instruction on their responsibilities as young people at this time.
How Bragoro is performed
Spiritual and physical activities make up the event’s two main divisions.
The spiritual aspect is determining whether the young girl’s soul is consistent with the event since certain girls’ souls are seen to be incompatible with the entire procedure, prompting the withdrawal of that girl from the ritual to avoid spiritual disasters like spiritual disease.
Once that process has been successfully accomplished, the family starts making material provisions for the celebration by providing the girl with an appropriate outfit and food. The girls are then delivered to a queen mother, who conducts a special, age-old test on them to see if any of them are pregnant or have had sex in the past, so that they can be rejected as well.
Virginity is highly respected since it is seen as purity in the community.
“Enstoolment” is the word of the ceremony’s opening ritual. It is run by an elderly woman who is known in the village for having a large family. She is given a wash by the initiates, who cover her head from top to bottom but leave her face uncovered. She is repeatedly seated and raised on a stool three times.
She is now sitting motionless for the third time without getting up. Typically, the stool is set on a mat that is covered with a blanket or the customary kente cloth. An egg is submerged in water that is infused with “Odwen” leaves in a brass bowl that the locals refer to as “Yaawa.”
Additionally, a dried “okro” fruit is set just next to the initiator. All of these things have great symbolic value and importance to the neighborhood. A woman is seated next to the “Yaawa.” She showers the girl with water while using leaves from Odwen, or “Odwen Ahaban.”
The water is said to be sprinkled to protect her and ward off any evil spirits that could render her infertile. Women sing and dance around the girl as they celebrate, and there is a lot of joy and excitement.
The ceremonial bath is the following ceremony. It should ideally be carried out next to a river or stream. But on the other hand, water can also be placed into a “Yaawa” for the same purpose if there isn’t a river nearby. She is then welcomed into the mouth-touching ceremony known as “Anoka.” Elephant skin, bananas, mashed yam, boiled eggs, and roasted groundnuts are the main dietary items.
Typically, this is a dedication ceremony. Before food is placed in her mouth to taste, libation is poured to honor the ancestors. A prayer follows each course. The initiate is then given a boiled egg to place in her mouth while having her head covered with a towel. She cannot bite or chew the egg; she must swallow it whole.
The mashed yam requires the same procedure from her. It’s thought that if she chews or bites any of those things, she might become infertile. A durbar is held after the Bragoro ceremony, and everyone in the town gathers to watch it on a common field.
One of the most ingrained cultural practices in Ghana that many tribes engage in is puberty rites. Despite the influences of modernization, education, and missionary counter-teachings, many behaviors have persisted.
It is understandable why many foreigners from around the world visit the West African nation on an annual basis to see these spectacular initiation ceremonies. The popularity and significance of Bragoro among the Akans, however, appear to have declined in recent years as just a small number of Akan groups currently observe it.