Anxious celebrants of fire festival waiting for their chief to set the tone
The annual Bugim festival (fire festival ) has started in the northern region.
Folklore has it that the origin of the festival dates back to the time when one king lost his dear son. As the story goes, the child went out to play with his colleagues and as they played, he became tired and went and laid down under a tree. He soon fell asleep. The other children forgot of him and went home when they finished playing.
In the evening, the parents (King & his “Paani”) did not see him. The King thought he was with the mother and the mother also thought the child was with the father. After supper, the mother called on the King to take the child to bed. It was at that moment that they found the child was not with any of them.
The king ordered people to go round the neighborhood in search for the son but they did not find him. Even the children he went out with could not remember where exactly they had left him. The King quickly assembled his warriors and told them what has transpired. The warriors were instructed to look for the son. Because it was in the night and it was dark, the people lit torches in search of him.
They finally found him under a tree deeply asleep. They sent him to his parents who were desperately waiting for his arrival. The parents thought that the tree stole the child and hid him. They therefore considered the tree an evil tree. The people threw the torches they were carrying on that tree and shamed it.
The community soon regarded that tree as an evil tree and many feared it. The king decreed that the event should be marked yearly to commemorate the event. Each year during the fire festival, the first month of the Dagomba lunar year, the Bugim Goli – the month of fire – is celebrated on the ninth day of the month.
The people assembled in front of the King’s palace and set fire and the King is the first to lit the fire with his torch. He did not go far before dropping his torch and returned home. Meanwhile, the people continued to the evil tree (currently they just roam round the town/village) and throw their torches on it. While marching to the evil tree, they played and danced ziem, a dance for the ‘tindaamba’/land priests.
People still dress as warriors when celebrating fire festival/”Bugim Chugu” in Mamprugu & Dagbon.When the people are celebrating Bugim Chugu, they dance “Ziem” even to this very day. It is older than any other dance in Dagbon. It is played with gungong, which is older that any instrument in Dagbon.
Some scholars try to associate the Bugim festival to Islam but there are many reasons why it is argued that Bugim chugu has nothing to do with Islam but only a traditional festival of the Mole-Dagomba. In the first place, it is not celebrated by the Muslim world. It is not one of the important festivals of Islam.
So, the idea that it originated when the Ark of Noah landed and the people in it came down with torches to search for the son of Noah who did board the boat cannot be true. Dagbamba & Mamprusis do not originate from Aad and have nothing to do with Arabs. Dagombas, Mamprusis and Nanumbas have a commonality in the Gur language and all tribes who celebrate the festivals are Gur.
Bugim Chugu is a typical traditional festival celebrated with traditional and local tools such as torches and the celebrants dress like warriors and they often carry cudgels and cutlasses along.
They play and dance ziem as they celebrate. Bugum Chugu is completely different from other Islamic festivals imported into the country. Islam was introduced into Dagbon by Naa Zanjina. But there is a claim that Bugum Chugu was celebrated before the arrival of Islamic clerics.
The celebration starts at about 9:30pm local time at the Chief’s and sub-chiefs’ palaces with celebrants brandishing cutlasses and fire crackers on the major streets amidst the chanting of war songs. It will be celebrated under heavy police and military guard and is expected to last about four hours.
Fuel stations close
Fuel stations in the Tamale metropolis closed as early as 8:00p.m. local time. The closure was due to the unbridled exuberance of the celebrants across the metropolis and beyond.
The climax will be the ‘Ziem’ dance which is only for survivors of the fittest. At the chief palace, only the strongest can have a feel of prepared concoctions believed to strengthen the weak.