‘HOGBETSOTSO’ is derived from the word ‘HOGBE’ or ‘HOHOGBE’ the day of exodus, the moment in time when the Ewes were in the walled city of Nortsie in Togo.
Historians have it that, the original home of all Ewes of which the Anlo people form part, is traced traditionally to Oyo in Western Nigeria from where they migrated to their present country in the seventeenth century. There is ample evidence to prove that the Ewes stayed in Nigeria. Cultural traits of the Yoruba people can be traced among the Ewes of Anlo which is clearly evidenced in musical forms i.e. the Ganu (Anago) dance, ancestral worship, the worship of deities and divination (Afã Kaka) an art perfected by the Ewes while in Nigeria. Afã is among the favourites of Anlo-Ewe divinities. Afã is popularly known as Kpoli (destiny) or “divinity of divination” and fulfils, among other things, the human desire to peep a little into the future through the art of divination. Other traditions among the Anlo people are TRONUAWO – priest-kings and TROXOVIWO – vestal virgin shrines as well as Yeve which is revered divinity. Popularly known as “Tohono” or “divinity of thunder,” Yeve often uses the forces of thunder and lightning in revealing concerns and anger.
Anlo-Ewe traditional state is presently among a political union of distinct traditional states known as the republic of Ghana. The political union was created by the British government during the period of the historic Western European partitioning of Africa. It was originally called the Gold Coast and was renamed Ghana when it achieved self-government on March 6, 1957. Anlo-Ewe land occupies the south eastern corner of the modern republic in an administrative region known as the Volta Region.
According to oral history, the Anlo people settled at their present home around the later part of the 15th century (1474) after a dramatic escape from Notsie, an ancestral federated region currently within the borders of the modern state of Togo. The escape and subsequent resettlement are commemorated in an annual festival known as Hogbetsotso Za.
The people while in Notsie under the wicked king devised a way to escape from the town. They were led by a brave warrior known as the “Red Hunter”. The town was enclosed with a mud wall mixed with broken bottles, a wall which measured 24 feet tall and 18 feet wide, wide enough to allow for patrols with horses. Some historians have agreed that the walls were to prevent slave raiders from attacking the residents in the royal city. Others believe it was prison that they were serving under the king. So the Anlo women were secretly advised to pour water on particular side of the wall anytime they had to dispose off any water.
This made the spot soft, and the people were able to break the wall and escaped overnight.
To avoid being caught, they “walked backwards” so as to confuse their pursuers and even the legend has it that “The Red Hunter” turned himself into a rat and walk over all their footprints to make them look old.
When they got to their present home, they created the festival Hogbetstso (Festival of Exodus) to mark this event.
The Festival is then celebrated by the people of Anlo in the Volta Region of Ghana. The celebration starts in the month of November at Anloga, which is the traditional and ritual capital of the Anlo state. There the Festival unfolds Ewe history and brings to play the memories of legendary exodus and heroic acts of men of boldness and their mystical powers that liberated the them from the rule of tyrant King of Kings; Torgbui Agorkorli of Nortsie in Togo.
The event brings together all the chiefs and elders of Anlo-land at a colourful durbar to mark the annual event in the Volta Region. Drumming and dancing becomes the number tourist attraction here because the dance is not for the feeble but rather the warriors and the courageous.
Click this link to watch a preview of the festival. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtVDxqYa_Ko