Entertainment Tue, 23 Sep 2014

The Creative Arts in Ghana; A picture of melancholy

I am not about to pour scorn on the government or attempt to get it to change its policy on the creative arts but from where I sit, I am rather saddened by the lack of action on the part of government to deliver on its promises.

For many of us, the reconfigured Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Creative Arts was a welcome departure from the norm where the creative arts was not even included in Government portfolios.

Even though I believe that the addition of the creative arts portfolio to Tourism and Culture was misplaced and ill-advised, I believe that it was a good start in recognising the sector for its contribution to national development.

The challenge for many of us in the creative arts industry, however, is the rather slothful progression of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts to get the creative arts wheel turning. Ghana’s creative arts industry is perhaps the oldest industry we have.

From the days of our forefathers, we danced, had a theatre, played music, made amazing crafts and artifacts and created fine garments.

The creative arts industry involves a vast number of other disciplines. Fashion design, textile making, accessories design, even architecture and landscaping are all elements of the creative arts. The number of people involved in the creative arts industry is counted in the thousands and rising.

From the smock weaving, xylophone and calabash making centre in the North of Ghana to the kente weavers of Bonwire and Agbozume; from wood carving at Ahwiaa and Aburi to the bead makers at Ada and Somanya, every corner of this country is labelled with someone from the creative arts industry.

Ghana has the capacity and the skills to be at the forefront of an African cultural and arts renaissance, yet we sit unconcerned as others around the world strengthen their creative industry.

It is sad to note that with the exception of the Centre for National Culture in Kumasi, most of the other Centres are all but dead and almost buried. I can not fathom our appetite for the things that so destroy our heritage and identity.

First of all, we throw out our history and our culture from our schools and replace them with shadows of some resemblance. We look down on our music and crave for something else. Then a window of opportunity comes!

Young men and women find their voices, they find their pens, and they find their dancing feet. A revival began about 15 years ago.

New Ghanaian films were produced; a new genre of music was born, dance routines took a global picture and some even became a worldwide phenomenon. All this while, no support came, none whatsoever.

So it was indeed welcome when President Mahama decided it was time to recognise the creative arts industry. A new buzz filled the country. Meetings were held, seminars attended and workshops organised, but that’s where it ends.

The many promises to help the industry shattered; Government Lied! They promised a lot and delivered little! They created a portfolio without the necessary attachments to make it work.

Daily, I hear people in the arts speak about their challenges and their difficulties, yet many are scared to speak out because some have aligned themselves to the one who has the golden chicken so are comfortable that once a while, they are passed a golden egg.

The film industry is all but dying except for some brave ones holding the fort. Authentic Ghanaian music is almost gone. The new wave of Ghanaian musicians stand tall in what they do without a support.

The National Theatre is reduced to beauty pageants and wedding receptions. Only one or two people make an effort to revive the theatre. The School of Performing Arts and NAFTI produce students who end up in the banks and as teachers.

The once well-known Abibigromma and the Ghana Dance Ensemble are in hibernation or even in a permanent slumber for lack of funding. Our top fashion designers and craftsmen limp along hoping that soon they will get to the promise land.

As a country, we are drawing closer to becoming a zombie nation. For when the music stops and the laughter cease: when the looms are silent, and the potter’s wheel is hushed, we will draw the curtain on what gives us our identity and our heritage.

That day fast approaches if we don’t get the wheels spinning again. Posterity will judge us. We have to act now. T

The author, John Osei Tutu Agyeman also known as JOT Agyeman, is a Ghanaian actor, media practitioner and television anchor. He is also the President, Institute of Media Practice.

Source: ghanagist.com