Akpéma Ceremonies

When our family moves to Togo, we will serve among the Kabiye people. In November, we shared about part of their culture – Evala wrestling, or the initiation of young men into adulthood. Today, we want to share some about the female initiation, called Akpéma.

And just for reference, this map from the Joshua Project shows where the Kabiye people live in West Africa:

As in the male tradition, this rite of passage is steeped in fetish beliefs and practices.

Akpéma ceremonies begin the week after Evala. The idea is that these ceremonies strengthen the girls and grant them courage while helping preserve some of their virtues.

Most girls participate in this ceremony at age 18. They begin by shaving their heads and walking nearly naked through town to a designated sacred spot as a group. There, they sit on a sacred stone to prove their virginity. If one of the girls is not a virgin and still sits on the stone, it is believed she will begin bleeding and/or be stung by bees. After the ceremony at the sacred stone, the girls parade back into town and are praised by other women, parents, and more.

The Tchimou dance signals that the Akpéma ceremonies are drawing to an end. At the dance, any girls promised in marriage to a Kabiye boy will participate in this courtship dance. During the dance, the boyfriend, his parents, and his friends will try to prove their wealth and ability to care for the girl by offering huge amounts of sorghum beer.

This brief video highlights part of the ceremony:

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