Proverbial Gems: Book review of ABETEI – Modern Gadangme Emblems

 

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ABETEI – Modern Gadangme Emblems

Created by Ishmael Fiifi Annobil, Totem ISBN 978 1 899151 08 0 2016

Proverbial Gems

I have always been fascinated by Adinkra symbols that were popularized by Professor Ablade Glover with the posters that he sold from his studio at La and I led many tourist in the 70s for them to purchase copies.  So, when my older brother completed his Postgraduate thesis on ‘Signs and Symbols of the Ga State’, in the early 70s from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology I have asked him several times to retrieve a copy for me.

However, my search for Ga symbols started in earnest when I tried to find a replacement for the logo of the church that I attend.  I discovered that some symbols had been emblazoned on the walls of the Ga Mantse Palace and my search led me to Michael Adashie whose symbols were from his thesis College of Art at KNUST. He had used proverbs featuring animals as a basis for this work and he willingly sent me copies of his symbols.

Early this year, my computer started throwing up a book titled ABETEI, the google algorithm must have been at work because I must have been posting articles on Gadangme issues.  I initially ignored these suggestions, but it became persistent till I followed the link and realized that it was a book on Gadangme symbols.  It felt like my prayers had been answered.

There was no review of the book and I did not know what to expect but I decided to give it a go and bought the book.  This book was also about symbols derived from proverbs and the author had been impressed by the work of Rev Professor Kudadjie who had come up with a Gadangme proverbs appropriate for preaching the Christian word.

Reading Ga in capital letters can be difficult, especially if it has all the diacritics of the old orthography and I found this a minor irritant when I initially flipped through the book.

But the book was so beautiful that I could not put it down, I devoured it till the morning. I started reading the table of contents that had all the proverbs and the pages on which they appeared in the book.  As I read the Ga and then the English translations that were conveniently placed underneath the proverb, tried to imagine how they would be represented in the main book, I was captivated because most were new proverbs that I had not encountered in other books.

By the time I started turning the pages, I was already in love with the book.  This book of emblems is a beautiful book, aesthetically well designed, more like tastefully presented and a real coffee table book that gets conversations going.  Simple, lots of white spaces, minimalist, my favourite colours, black on white.  The fonts are bold and elegant. The arrangement attractively presented – one design a page on the right side of the page with the proverb and explanation on the left side of the book.

But it was not just symbols. The genius of a creator had written a worthy article about why he worked on these symbols, his motivations and why he chose the proverbs that he did.  Essentially this is about giving life to the many wise sayings that are used for elegant public speech or for advice behind closed doors.

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The emblems capture the essence of the culture and deserve to be read by all.  The proverbs are refreshingly appropriate, and the book is one more feather in the cap of those who want to rehabilitate the creative industries as a prelude to sustainable development of our people and our country.

For the author, and for me as well, projecting the culture of Gadangme can be achieved in different ways and in multiple media platforms.  The arts and craft that are in danger of being lost must be reclaimed and reinvigorated.  The symbols on our lintels and on our canoes must be preserved for the future generations.  The onslaught on the language must be arrested and the we must be vigilant so that any threat of cultural misappropriation must be reversed.  There is room to accommodate Adinkra symbols with Adashie and with Abetei and even more symbols from the different regions of Ghana.  This book is all about culture, about symbols, about rebirth.  It is also about the mind of an artist filmmaker.

These are proverbial stones or rocks, I call them proverbial gems will make an excellent addition to the cultural revival of Ghana, the precursor to economic development using the creative industries.

My view has been that without a period that reformation that makes us comfortable with our identity to the extent that we are confident to project our Ghanaian personality and creativity we will continue to copy the icons of the west and our development will continue to be warped in that fashion because we will not be able to play catch up successfully.

Because if we are to be productive, we must think in our languages and our expression of thought must be framed around out innate values so that our products and services will satisfy the real needs of our people. It is therefore with a great sense of pride that I welcome these symbols and recommend the book to every Ghanaian.

And before you ask why I am so keen on this book, it is because I will buy it as many times; I bought one for my chief collaborator on Gadangme cultural issues – Mr Allotey Bruce-Konuah for him to evaluate.  Then my wife saw the book and wanted one for her filmmaker nephew in Ghana and then my other collaborator on Gadangme organisational issues, Owula Albert Johnson came to visit and I showed him the book and then he said he wanted one, so I bought another copy which is yet to be delivered to Numo Nortse Amartey and then another and all this while, I was really meaning to evaluate the book and read it properly.  Then I went to a memorial service and I met the gentleman, Mr Ishmael Annobil who wrote the book and then I decided that I should really write this review.

Ade Sawyerr
London, May 2018

 

 

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The Kyebi Ritual Murder influenced the pace of the campaign for independence so why has it disappeared from public discourse?

masterfully written

reimagining

Ekow Nelson

The Kyebi Ritual Murder and the protracted legal battle that followed it had more influence on Ghana’s politics than many appreciate. Strangely, and rather worrisomely, not much is written about it in Ghana and it is hardly ever discussed – not even in the context of the biography of its key defence protagonist, Dr. J.B. Danquah. There is a deafening silence about his role in the interminable legal challenges that followed the awful murder of the Odikro of Apedwa, Nana Akyea Mensah.

Murder at the Omanhene’s Palace

Six months after the death of Nana Sir Ofori Atta I in August 1943, the Odikro of Apedwa disappeared. According to evidence presented at the trial that followed, while Nana Akyea Mensah was on his way to the Palace to perform the traditional custom of Wirempe – the consecration of the stool of the deceased Omanhene with ‘a mixture of soot…

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The origins and the case for introducing preventive detention under Nkrumah

updated and still relevant contribution to our debate,,,,

reimagining

Ekow Nelson and Dr. Michael Gyamerah

August 2010; Updated January 2013

For all the criticism of Nkrumah from much of the western press and the opposition in Ghana, he did not kill any political opponents; neither did he massacre groups of people opposed to him. Indeed in his often cited work – ‘Ghana without Nkrumah-The Winter of Discontent’, Irving Markovitz confirms that at the time of Nkrumah’s overthrow, “Ghana was neither a terrorized nor a poverty-stricken country”. Yet Nkrumah’s detractors would have us believe his was the most cruel administration in history, citing in their defence, the much-debated Preventive Detention Act (PDA) of 1958. But how did this piece of emergency legislation, not too dissimilar to the wave of anti-terrorist laws adopted by many countries after September 11 2001, come about, and was it justifed?

We argue in this paper that the PDA was a necessary piece of emergency security…

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Dr. J.B Danquah’s achievements are being over-hyped

We thought that the history of Ghana was straight forward and has already being written and settled…then in comes a politician historian whose main sock in trade is revisionism

reimagining

A few years ago, Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata triggered a debate about Dr. J.B. Danquah’s legacy and profile when he said rather blithely that the latter’s imprisonment under the Preventive Detention Act and subsequent death may have exaggerated his influence and contribution. If Dr. Nkrumah hadn’t detained him, his reputation might not loom as large as it currently does. Or something along those lines. I have thought about this over the years and still find it profound and intriguing.

Irrational comparison

Increasingly, there is an equivalence drawn between Dr Danquah and Dr. Nkrumah. If Dr. Nkrumah is honoured, there must be an equivalent for Dr. Danquah, otherwise we are biased, we are told. The effect is we tend to judge Dr. Danquah more as a countervailing force to Dr. Nkrumah rather than on his own merit – warts and all.

So, for example, while Dr. Danquah is hailed as a scion…

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Tribute to Elder Statesman K. B. Asante from the Convention Peoples Party

Tribute to Elder Statesman K. B. Asante from the Convention Peoples Party

 

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The old man has gone back to the village and we shall no longer be regaled with deep insights of a man who lived a full and fruitful life and who selflessly shared his wealth of knowledge with all. KB Asante, a man of many parts has passed on to the ancestors and the people of Ghana and the wider African family in the diaspora will forever miss him. We in the Convention Peoples Party will miss his unbiased views about events in the country and his words of wisdom and knowledge of government, acquired through his many years of service to the country working in different capacities at different levels and with different shades of governments.

KB was a teacher; he taught at Achimota School his alma mater before and after he graduated with a Mathematics Degree. His teaching skills never left him since he continued to give lectures in his later years at home and abroad.

He was a civil servant; he worked in several departments including Trade and Industry, Finance and Economic Planning. As a diplomat, he helped set up several embassies and missions during the fledgeling years after our independence. His work in the Bureau of African Affairs at the Foreign Ministry provided him with insights about issues relating to the implementation of the pan African mission. His work as the executive secretary to Dr Kwame Nkrumah brought him into close contact with politics at the highest level observing the intersectionality of the variety of demands on a newly independent country.

 

Though he retired from the Civil Service, KB never retired from public service. There were too many things for him to do in politics, as a community activist and as a dedicated old student of his alma mater.

As a politician, he fronted the Social Democratic Party, a coalition of trade unionists and other centrists who stood to empower the larger labour movement but that was fiercely Pan African in its principles. Though the party did not flourish as much as he would have liked, Comrade KB never compromised his principles for fairness and social justice.

He went back into public service as one of the older statesmen ushered in to provide credibility to a struggling military regime propounding ambiguous socialist principles. As an experienced administrator and diplomat with a deep knowledge of the history of the country and where it should be, he served with honour. The older mature KB saw it as a duty and service to his country and he served very well in ambassadorial roles as well as in running some of the vital departments of government.

In later years he came into his role as a senior citizen and elder statesman with ease, he continued to be an ambassador for the country though he no longer had a role in government, delivering lectures during his many travels abroad.

He was an excellent and engaging raconteur. His knowledge of the finer details of how governments function was unsurpassable, and he became a much sought-after speaker and lecturer on the foreign circuit; there are many in London and elsewhere who flocked to listen to him, many ardent pan Africanists went to hear him speak on wide-ranging issues that almost always ended on the topic of African unity.

Ever the community activist, he held many meaningful positions in the community. He was dedicated to serving Achimota School on several levels and the visible face of The Gadangme Council, championing the cause of the pre-eminent civil society organisation that campaigns for redress of the many social and developmental arising out of Accra becoming an overpopulated highly urbanised place with its attendant issues.

Elder KB continued to be involved in public and social life and he is best known as the incisive critic and social commentator in his column ‘Message from afar’ in the Peoples Daily Graphic where he was at his best doing was elder statesmen should do! – sharing their rich experience with all in an unbiased way with the government and the people.

As a fearless advocate of fairness, as a champion of social justice and self-determination and as a passionate proponent of pan Africanism, we in the CPP have no doubt that he was comfortable in our midst, providing much-needed advice from afar and cheering us on as we seek to reconnect with the masses to provide them with a government based on Nkrumaist principles of self-determination, social justice, and Pan Africanism
Comrade KB, we wish you safe crossing on the journey back to the village where your ancestors await you. Please let them know how difficult times are and how we are struggling to slowly but surely put the country and continent on the right path. Please ask them to send us advocates who will direct us and show us where we should be going.

We know that it will be difficult to walk in your shoes, but we trust that having listened to and read your wise words over the years, that transformation will yet come and Ghana will slowly and gradually become a better place.

Rest in perfect peace in the Lord and to borrow from your Ga, Tsulɔ kpakpa, oba tsu ohawɔ, agbenɛ yaawɔ ojogbaŋŋ yɛ oNuntsɔ minshi!
Forward Ever!

Comradely Yours
Prof. Edmund N. Dell
National Chairman & Leader
Convention People’s Party
Accra

Continue reading “Tribute to Elder Statesman K. B. Asante from the Convention Peoples Party”

History of the Gold Coast and Asante: Reindorf, Carl Christian. (1895) – A thematic review by Gyau Kumi Adu

(Reindorf, Carl Christian. History of the Gold Coast and Asante. 2nd Edition. Ghana University Press, 2007) A thematic review by Gyau Kumi Adu Email: (joewykay55@gmail.com)

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 Have you ever thought why “history” is the mother of all knowledge? One reason is that it shows the level of progress of any body of knowledge or event, and the functions of a thing: whether it has been able to stay on course or stray off-course.

Reindorf puts it so beautifully, “A history is the methodical narration of events in the order in which they successively occurred exhibiting the origin and progress, the causes and effects, and the auxiliaries and tendencies of that which has occurred in connection with a nation. It is, as it were, the speculum and measure-tape of that nation, showing its true shape and stature. Hence a nation not possessing a history has no true representation of all the stages of its development, whether it is in a state of progress or in a state of retrogression.” Reindorf’s work is precisely that. That is, to show a true reflection of the state of affairs in Ghana, then Gold Coast, from the period 1500 to 1860, based on traditions and historical facts available during his day. Whether Ghana progressed during this period as a whole or not is left in the hand of the reader to decide. (By Gold Coast he refers to the southern states such as the Gas, Fantes, Anlos, Akuapem, Akwamu, and Akyem). However, he gives more attention to the Gas and Asantes. In the first place, writings of other ethnic groups were difficult to come across. Having in mind that Reindorf was a Ga, this book was supposed to be an initial work which shall be continued by people of other Ghanaian tribes.

 

The book covers a very wide scope such as tribal and inter-tribal politics and wars, economics, religious institutions, migration, social customs, agriculture and missionary work in the Gold Coast. In my opinion, Reindorf must be put on par with writers who wrote chronological accounts of their country such as Josephus – the Jewish Historian, and Tacitus – the Roman Historian, because of the quality and import of his writing.

I shall touch on the following themes in the book, blending it with some contemporary views:

  1. Migration and Settlement of Ghanaian Tribes (with particular interest to the Ga)
  2. Forms of Governments – “Fetishocracy” and “Monarchy”
  3. A Missionary Challenge of the Time, and its Sacrifice

Continue reading “History of the Gold Coast and Asante: Reindorf, Carl Christian. (1895) – A thematic review by Gyau Kumi Adu”

Concluding Observations: King Tackie Tawiah Memorial Lectures by Nii Armah Josiah-Aryeh

LECTURE IX

                                                            CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS

The future belongs to those who plan for it; the good plan takes account both of the present and the past. If we remember not the works and toils of our fathers we have no claim ourselves to be remembered in history, and if we recognize not the defects in the present we would not be stirred into improvement. Our goal is to build the best society there is for our progeny and their compatriots.

It is often said by our fathers that one ought to look back in order to look into the future; the path-maker does not notice the crookedness of the way he plots (gbe-dzelor enaa esee). We have in the foregoing Lectures cast a constant light on the institutions and traditions of our forefathers and discovered that there is a lot in what they created which might still be of benefit to us in today’s world. However, some might argue that the examination of the past is sterile if it does not yield lessons for the future. Therefore it seems appropriate that in concluding this series of Lectures we use the lessons of the past to light up the future.

It is emphasised that the various suggestions put forward here and the programmes advocated on their behalf embrace all peoples, Ghanaian and non-Ghanaian, within the Greater Accra and adjoining regions; they call for the building of social and other infrastructures on the basis of cultural commonality. They also call for equality of treatment of people in a manner that opens up opportunities and vistas for both indigenous peoples and those whose lot has brought them within the ambit of traditions developed by our forefathers; for as we say, ablekuma aba kuma wó (“may strangers be added unto us”). Social and economic failure affect all inhabitants of the region; concentrations of disadvantage need to be tackled irrespective of inhabitants. It is not sufficient to “fire-fight” social and economic problems after they have emerged and taken hold; it is much wiser to plan against their occurrence. Traditional functionaries and their advisors must have the political guts to initiate programmes, particularly for disadvantaged peoples.

Continue reading “Concluding Observations: King Tackie Tawiah Memorial Lectures by Nii Armah Josiah-Aryeh”