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Opinions Mon, 31 Jul 2006

Let's preserve our cultural heritage

A GNA Feature by Hannah Asomaning

Accra, July 31, GNA - Until the Ghana Black Stars played in the World Cup to raise the flag of Ghana high, one would not have been wrong to think that Ghanaians were losing their sense of patriotism and "Africanness."

As a people, we like to copy things done by foreigners and when Ghanaians travel to Europe and America for example they take with them their culture but come back with European and American practices. The love for foreign culture is admired so much that if someone speaks a Ghanaian dialect wrongly he is seen as someone who is highly educated with the explanation that perhaps he speaks very good English hence his inability to speak the local language well.

Maurice Donavan, a businessman from the United States Virgin Islands observed the trend and shared his experience with the GNA while in Ghana to join in the celebration of Emancipation. He lodged at a hotel in Kumasi, where everything displayed was of Dutch culture, from the wall paintings, artworks and even music played there was foreign. In addition, the receptionist at the hotel was constantly dressed in suit no matter the day. Maurice asked one of the receptionists why they did not play the Ghanaian highlife music like the Amakye Dede's and the CK Mann's since it was soothing and nice. He replied that the owner had instructed that only foreign ones should be played.

One day as Maurice sat at the reception checking his mails. When a "white man" walked in, he saw the decorations displayed in the reception and questioned the nationality of the owner. He expressed surprise when he learnt that the owner was a Ghanaian who had lived in Holland for a long time.

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The white man said: "But if he is a Ghanaian why is he promoting the Dutch culture, has he sold his Africanness to the Dutch", Maurice repeated and said "most of the time when we come to the homeland we want to see our culture." "We are not interested in the tall buildings or the foreign things being done here, we are interested in seeing our culture," Mr Donavan stressed advising that it was good that Ghana as a country preserved her cultural heritage for the younger generation.

Maurice is not the only person who has expressed such concerns, other foreigners have express shock when they see an African and for that matter a Ghanaian, trying to copy the foreign culture without even knowing what it really means. Maurice and seven others who came to Ghana for the celebration of Emancipation 2006 were really interested in buying items they identify as African, such as pepper, alata samina (locally made soap), shea butter, artifacts, stools, drums and things that they consider real African. They prefer to visit Bonwire, a kente weaving town in the Ashanti Region, the Kumasi Cultural Centre and the museum to learn more about Ghanaian culture than to go to the nightclubs or first class supermarkets to shop. Duane Howell, one of the visitors from the United States Virgin Islands always expressed excitement whenever the group visited historic sites and the experience and knowledge he acquired on Ghana's culture was priceless.

Governments have made several attempts to promote patriotism, by introducing programmes and activities that would promote the Ghanaian culture such as the "Buy made in Ghana Goods" campaign and the "National Friday Wear" campaign, which encourage people to wear African traditional dresses to their work places every Friday. However, a lot of Ghanaians prefer products made in Italy, China, US and the UK to those made in Ghana. The question is: Are we throwing our "Africanness" away or is it inferiority complex, which makes us to think that everything white is better than black.

Nana Kofi Ameyaw IV, Chief of Techiman, at a ceremony held to commemorate emancipation day celebration in Bono Manso in the Brong Ahafo Region called on Ghanaians to stop copying foreign cultures blindly as a first step to emancipate themselves. He asked: "what are we doing us a people to emancipate ourselves? We like every thing foreign more than our own and end up leaving our valued heritage in exchange for foreign ones. Nana Ameyaw IV mentioned the naming of items or places as an example of an influence of foreign culture and said most Ghanaian no longer valued the traditional names and have adopted foreign names. He expressed concern about our marriage ceremonies and noted that the society no longer accepted the traditional marriages but rather preferred wedding ceremonies.

Explaining that our traditional marriages where parents of couples had given consent had been termed "engagement" but that was supposed to be our marriage ceremony. Nana Ameyaw IV said it was important that "we emancipate ourselves from mental slavery before extending it to our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora." Ghana was the first African country to celebrate Emancipation in 1998; the annual celebration is climaxed every August 1 and aims at developing a unique sense of unity among Africans on the continent and those in the Diaspora.

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Emancipation Day celebration in Ghana has always been on the theme: "Our Heritage, Our Strength" this celebration in Ghana always attracts a lot of foreigners, especially the African Americans in the Diaspora with the desire to retracing their steps and knowing more about their cultural heritage. Emancipation Day and it celebration will afford Ghana the opportunity to further promote Ghana as a preferred tourism destination, especially for those in the Diaspora. The potential benefits of attracting tourist to this country for the celebration is bound to have multiplying effects in terms of investment and advocacy, however, how do we achieve this if our heritage, which we use to attract these tourists are wiped away. Ghana occupies a very important place in the history of Pan Africanism, civil rights and the slave trade and they should build on that to promote the country as a tourist destination.

The heritage of Emancipation is the reclamation of the African historic personality, which ultimately must express itself in the creation of an African Paradigm of Power in the 21st century; otherwise Emancipation would clearly signify a continuation of Africa's role as an extension of European history. Africa cannot develop or achieve complete economic and political independence without first making use of its enormous wealth, which has not been tapped. It is imperative that Ghanaians come together on August 1 to give thanks to their great ancestors, who featured prominently in the emancipation process.

They would remain the pace setters in their glowing spirit, determination, purpose and meaning of emancipation. The celebration of Emancipation Day provides the opportunity to go back into history and find out more about activities most cruel in human history and how to change that cruelty into kindness for the African continent. Let the blood, sweat and tears of the ancestors continue to inform the present lifestyles of Africans, both on the continent and in the Diaspora, prepare them to meet the challenges ahead. As we celebrate Emancipation 2006, let us give meaning to the cultural heritage we have as a people, thus strengthening our culture since our heritage is our strength.

Columnist: GNA