Thursday, June 1, 2006
By: Swallehe Msuya
The Togolese community in Minnesota with their invited guests celebrated their 46th independence anniversary at the Center for Families in North Minneapolis on April 27.
It was an evening of jubilation in which Togolese nationals appeared in their colorful traditional regalia, introduced their food to their guests and enjoyed traditional dances that attracted non-Togolese to experience the warm beat of West African music that combined drum beats, Zouk and High Life.
Traditional dances that triggered dancing from almost the entire revealers regardless of their cultural backgrounds included the hip-shaking, shoulder tremor Agbadja, Akpesse, Cantata, and Kamou with elegant scarf waving. Dancers had adornment of beads and musical leg pebbles.
Food that was served included Ablo (corn bread), Ayimolov (bean rice), an assortment of other traditional dishes such as Amadan and Tchitchinga. It was an evening of fan-fare that started at 5:00 pm to beyond midnight in what was a first experience for the people of Togo resident in Minnesota.
The master of ceremonies Gladstone Sabah explained the meaning of the country’s name, the origin of the country’s capitol Lome and the brief history of the people of Togo. He said the name Lome comes from the Togolese tradition of a farmer who grew trees that were used to cut toothbrush. Thus Lome means the territory of toothbrush made of tree branches. The name Togo comes from the word Togodo which means the land on the other side of the river.
Gladstone Sabah explained that Togo was a German colony and became a French protectorate state after Germany lost the war before they became independent in 1960.
Togo is a West African nation of 5.5 million people bordering Benin, Ghana, Burkina Farso and Bight of Benin. It has a tropical climate, hot and humid in the South and semi-arid in the North. It has a gently rolling savanna in the North, central hills, southern plateau; low coastal plain with extensive lagoons and marshes.
French is the official language and language of commerce while the people come from 37 tribes each with their own dialect. The largest tribes are the Ewe, Mina, Dagomba and Kabre. About 51 percent of the people uphold indigenous beliefs, and about 20 percent of the population is Muslim while Christians make up 29% of the population.
Agriculture provides 65% of the labor-force and the main cash crops are cocoa, coffee, and cotton. Food crops include yams, cassava, corn beans, rice, millet, sorghum, livestock and fish. Togo ranks as number 4 in the world’s leading producers of phosphates. The country has a GDP per capita income of US $ 1,700.
The current President is H.E. Faure Gnassingbe Eyadema, who took the reigns of power following the death of his father the late President Eyadema who died in February 2005. The late Eyadema’s party – Rally of the Togolese People (RPT) maintained power since 1967- going down on record as one of Africa’s longest serving Presidents. During the 38year reign of the late Eyadema, Togo did not celebrate the actual independence day of April 27 but observed it on January13, the day he seized power during a 1967 coup. Current present Eyadema has said reverting to the original date is part of his efforts at national reconciliation.
Ama Elli Sabah, a prominent Togolese community activist crowned the evening by thanking the invited guests who so lovingly took time to get “the Togolese experience” and danced the night away with the throbbing beats from an assortment of West African music.