Togo is a narrow coastal country in West Africa. Ghana is to the west, Benin and Nigeria are to the east, and Burkina Faso is to the north. But for such a small country, Togo has an incredible diversity of ethnic groups (over 40 indigenous languages) and arts and culture. In the language of the Ewe people in southern Togo: Woezo-lo! or “welcome!” Ghana and Togo share a border in West Africa, and some of the same ethnic groups can be found in both countries, among them the Ewe. They live in the southeast corner of Ghana and in Togo and Benin. The Ewe people are noted for their drumming and dancing.
Sohu is a dance of the Ewe. It is a sacred ritual of cleansing. While communities traditionally performed the dance at the death of loved ones, its function developed into a symbolic rite of purification in which all the bad spirits plaguing the community would be removed. Dancer Jeaunita Olowe says that Bi-Okoto dancers normally do not smile while performing Sohu, but instead try to maintain a serious expression of spiritual focus.
The dance begins and the dancers point to their eyes to symbolize tears that would be shed, moving their bodies to the floor in an act of prayer. They push their hands outward to ward off their bad spirits, and then pull their arms in to gather in good spirits. One dancer enters carrying a brush and a bowl containing a potion of magical and spiritual power. The community’s elder uses the potion to clean the environment and all the participants. Another woman approaches looking possessed, as she has taken on the load of everyone’s impurities and bad spirits. The group casts her away in a symbolic expression of ridding themselves of evil and they rejoice when she leaves.
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