The Enlightenment And The Ghana Culture Day
By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong
Wednesday, 14th March, 2012 was Ghana Culture Day. Authorities say the day is to promote “mainstreaming of the culture in national development.” This has been going on over the years – basically pandering the same thinking. From Wednesday, 14th March, 2012 till now, I was expecting something more enlightening from the cultural connoisseurs but what I read was the same old, same old rational. Why Ghana Culture Day? To restore Ghana/African cultural values that have been demeaned in the eyes of the world during colonialism and perpetuated by the lethargic Ghanaian/African elites and the fact that Ghanaian/African traditional values have not been integrated fully into mainstream thinking and policy-making.
Hence, “mainstreaming of the culture in national development.” In the Ghana Culture Day, Ghanaians/Africans, more the elites, are getting their heads, once twisted by misunderstanding of Africa and themselves, straight.
Despite the historic African Personality concept advocated by President Kwame Nkrumah that seeks to raise the African’s essence, the idea have been practically unsustainable, making Ghana/Africa the only region in the world where its development process is dominated by foreign development paradigms. It is as if Ghanaians/Africans have no cultural values, that’s no soul of their own, for development. At best, the African Personality concept is shallow, Ghanaian/African inhibitive values are still serious development challenges. The Ghana Cultural Day, a brilliant idea, is yet to incorporate the realities of the on-going enlightenment campaigns by addressing the inhibitive values within the Ghanaian culture and at the same time influence policy-makers to appropriate the enabling aspects of the culture for development.
In this sense, the Ghana Cultural Day could be strategized as part of the engine of reforms being advocated by the enlightenment movement. For, in the final analysis, the Ghana Cultural Day will be meaningless unless the enlightenment effort is incorporated into its programme.
Certainly, Professors Kofi Anyidoho and Esi Sutherland-Addy, key conveners of the Ghana Culture Day and its adjunct Ghana Cultural Forum, could shine on the Ghanaian culture. But realistically, they could sometimes look at the Ghanaian/African diaspora for nourishment: the Ghanaian-British-American philosopher and cultural theorist, Dr. Kwame Anthony Appiah, of Princeton University and author of the brilliantly dazzling Honor Code (2010) that explores how societies are brought to repudiate inhibitive cultures they have long accepted, could be invited, occasionally, to discuss the attempts to refine the inhibitive values that have been entangling Ghanaians’/Africans’ advancement.
The Ghanaian/African enlightenment project is a deep, complicated enterprise, and will need profound sages and experienced thinkers like Dr. Kwame Anthony Appiah on board its programme. In the Honor Code (2010), Dr. Kwame Anthony Appiah, described variously as having “settled mind,” practically speaks to the Ghanaian enlightenment campaigners.
Yes, Ghanaians know about their arts and culture, they know about their traditional food – kenkey/dokonu, omo tuo, waakye, tuo zaafi, fufu with soup prepared with fish, snails, meat or mushrooms, banku/etew, etc. Ghanaians continue to dress in their traditional styles. Ghanaian traditional dresses such as kente cloth are key source of common identity and pride. Traditional festivals such as Aboakyer and Odwira that affirm values of the society are year round events. The Ghana Culture Day, expectedly, also showcased cultural exhibitions and performances.
Unquestionably, periodic rituals of such culture jamborees are good for the Ghanaian soul, especially if the soul has gone through colonial domination for so long that it has affected its self-worth. But in today’s new thinking and enlightened epiphany about the Ghanaian/African culture in the place of progress, the Ghana Culture Day should re-orientate itself and go beyond all the cultural accoutrements and help shine light on the inhibitive values that have been entangling the Ghanaians’/Africans’ life.
This will let Ghanaians enjoy their culture better without fear of witchcraft and other outlandish cultural practices.
The Ghana Culture Day should naturally join the on-going enlightenment movement and find concrete solutions to the question of how to refine such deeply objectionable, deeply obdurate cultural practices that greatly undermine Ghanaians’ larger progress.
Once again, in addition to the showcasing of traditional foods, exhibitions and performances, the Ghana Culture Day could use the occasion to discuss the deeper under-currents of the culture - both the inhibitive parts and the enabling aspects - for the larger progress of Ghanaians. The game here is simply about progress. This is “moral obligation,” as Dr. Kwame Anthony Appiah would say, for the elites behind the Ghana Culture Day.
For part of undoing the colonial damages that have created the long-running inferiority complex that have complicated the inhibitive values and the intellectual laziness of Ghanaian/African elites, is appropriating the culture in policy making in such a way that it would help refine the inhibitive values.