|Dipo Ceremony in Ontdek, Ghana © 2008 Ronnie Dankelman. All Rights Reserved|
Every year in April, the Krobos tribe in Ghana marks a girl's passage into womanhood with the Dipo ceremony - an age old ritual and initiation, which has been practiced for hundreds of years. In the past, this initiation lasted a year, during which girls of marriageable age where taught their responsibilities as women in their society such as farming, cooking, and laundering. These days the ritual lasts approximately 4 days, during which Krobo girls of all ages (sometimes as young as 2), who have have come from all over Ghana, perform the rites and symbolically emerge as women.
During the 4 day ceremony, girls follow various rituals which include song, dance, purification and cleansing, and end with being "outdoored", which means being presented as women. The girls are assigned a ritual mother, who serves as a mentor during this initiation. In the past, girls had to be exposed the entire time during the initiation, however initiates are now allowed to cover their breasts with cloth except when a ritual is being performed. Although some rituals vary depending the on clan, the following seem to be the most important and consistent:
The ceremony begins with the initiates entering the ritual house, in which they shed their clothing as a representation of shedding their childhood. They are given a string and red loincloth to wear, and are anointed by a priestess. The girls then have part of their hair shaved off.
Anthony Pappone has an album of photographs of the Dipo ceremony with an emphasis on the beads worn. Please note many of these photographs include top frontal nudity among the girls. You can view them here.
The glass beads are made by hand in Krobo villages and are a source of great pride. They are often handed down from generations, having been accumulated over the years. Blue beads are associated with affection, while yellow beads symbolize maturity and prosperity. This is an opportunity for the family to demonstrate their wealth. The girls then go around the neighborhood, thank their friends and relatives while performing the Dipo dance.
The Krobo girls have now gained the status of women, and are deemed full fledged citizens of Krobo society.
You can watch a short video trailer of a documentary about the Dipo initiation by Ofamfa Entertainment here
In honor of the Dipo ceremony, we made paper and clay beads - find our post here.
The photography in this post was provided by, and are copyrighted to Ronnie Dankelman. I am very grateful to him for allowing me the opportunity to include them. You can find these, and many more stunning and vibrant photographs of his travels around the world on his website, Imaginative, here.