The role of Panafest in promoting tourism

Wed, 10 Aug 2011 Source: Quaye, Samuel Mensah

PANAFEST is an acronym for Pan-African Historical Theatre Festival. It is said that without a history there is no future and without a root it is difficult to know who you are. It is in this light that PANAFEST came into being. In reality the tribulations of our forefathers in servitude which saw some in foreign lands caused PANAFEST to be initiated.

It was inspired, and takes its source from a paper entitled “PROPOSAL FOR A HISTORICAL DRAMA FESTIVAL IN CAPE COAST” written in 1980 by the late Dr. (Mrs.) Efuah Sutherland, one of Ghana’s dramatist and Pan-Africanist. The idea gained root and took shape in an expanded form as the Pan-African Historical Theatre Festival (PANAFEST) in 1991.

The main objective of PANAFEST was to provide a means to promote unity between Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora and also to encourage those in the Diaspora to help in the development of Africa. It was in this regard that President Rawlings in his speech at Harlem in 1995 announced that people of African descent would be granted Ghanaian citizenship under the ‘Law of Return’. He encouraged Africans with skills to come back to help in the development of Ghana. Furthermore he said, ‘We must open our doors to you so that you and your children could feel in the very soul that Africa is indeed your mother country’.

The festival provides an impressive and symbolic ceremony of remembrance. The Wreath Laying at W.E.B Du Bois Memorial Center, Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Padmore Library are all done to commemorate the deeds of Pan-Africanism by W.E.B Du Bois, Kwame Nkrumah and George Padmore. In addition, the festival continues to give concreteness to the view of Africa as the ancestral homeland.

PANAFEST is worthy to be called *Root Tourism *because it brings Africans in the Diaspora back to their origin to relive the circumstance that saw them in foreign lands. Africans in the Diaspora see it as a spiritual home coming. The history of PANAFEST provides a vehicle for assessing Ghana’s attempt to link its history of slavery and the slave trade to the development of the nation’s tourism industry.

During the PANAFEST, the Ghanaian hospitality is showcased at its best. There is also a display of variety of rich art and culture (musicians, dancers, writers and artists) and different kinds of exhibitors as well as other participants from other African countries. During the grand durbar, PANAFEST show cases chiefs adorn in Kente and their regalia , golden rings and golden bracelet seated under beautifully designed umbrellas of varied colours with their linguists as they tune into the rhythmic sound of the beating drums and the cultural dance: The Paramount Chief of the Ogua Traditional Area, welcomes the brothers and sisters from Africa and the Diaspora ,home to Cape Coast, while a torchlight procession through the streets of the city to the slave dungeons in the evening is carried out to mark the holocaust of slave trade.

The Forts and Castles are significant to PANAFEST because it was in these Castles and Forts that the Slaves were kept. The Cape Coast Castle built in 1492 was used as a coastal transit point for the Slave Trade. It is amazing that these Forts and Castles used for defense and slave trade are now monuments that attract tourists. The number of tourist visiting Ghana’s Fort and Castles continues to grow. For instance in 1993,Elmina Castle recorded17,091 visitors, the overwhelming majority,67 percent of whom were Ghanaians, with Europeans and North American tourist accounting for 12.5 percent and 12.3 percent respectively. In the year 2010 the total visit to the Elmina Castle increased from 17,091 to 83, 293 with 64,169 residents and 19

, 124 being non residents.

To this present day, the political impact of the slave trade Forts and Castle is still clearly visible in Ghana: The seat of the government of Ghana is housed in the former slave fortification of Christiansborg Castle and the Ghanaian term for government ‘aban’, is the Akan word for fortification a clear reference to the Forts and Castles found along Ghana’s coast.

PANAFEST’s events testifies to Ghana’s continuing interest in drawing tourist from all over the world especially among Africans of the Diaspora to the nations cultural , arts and monuments to slavery and slave trade.

Samuel Mensah Quaye

Ghana Institute of Journalism

Columnist: Quaye, Samuel Mensah