James Barnor JamesTown Revisited – Ghana@60 a community photographic exhibition

James Barnor JamesTown Revisited – Ghana@60 a community photographic exhibition

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James Barnor has returned home and we must applaud this young at heart, 87 year old son of James Town, who still active with more projects and things to do, and who in recent times, has consistently put Ghana and Africa right at the top of the world’s attention with his iconic photographs of Ghana in its formative years.

He has been excited from last October 2016, when he held another exhibition in France at Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière where his photographs were projected all over the Metro stations and streets of Paris as publicity for the exhibition.  This exhibition was also used to promote a book of his photographs and he had an opportunity to present one to President Mahama who was then in France to attend a conference at Unesco.

Continue reading “James Barnor JamesTown Revisited – Ghana@60 a community photographic exhibition”

James Barnor JamesTown Revisited – Ghana@60 a community photographic exhibition

James Barnor JamesTown Revisited – Ghana@60 a community photographic exhibition

baffourOseiAkoto

nixon

Ever Young_Jamestown.jpg

James Barnor has returned home and we must applaud this young at heart, 87 year old son of James Town, who still active with more projects and things to do, and who in recent times, has consistently put Ghana and Africa right at the top of the world’s attention with his iconic photographs of Ghana in its formative years.

He has been excited from last October 2016, when he held another exhibition in France at Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière where his photographs were projected all over the Metro stations and streets of Paris as publicity for the exhibition.  This exhibition was also used to promote a book of his photographs and he had an opportunity to present one to President Mahama who was then in France to attend a conference at Unesco.

In our weekly discussions since then, he has continued to talk about how his original studio EverYoung on St Edmonds Street needs to be turned into a photographic museum to inspire other young people in James Town British Accra where it all started.  His other project was how to replicate the exhibition of his works that the Black Cultural Archives had mounted in Othello House Kennington to commemorate the Ghana@50 anniversary.

So, when he called one day, and left a message with my son for me, saying that he was on his way to Ghana, I did not quite know what to make of it till I saw in the Ghanaian news online that he had been invested with the honour of Member of the Order of the Volta.  He came back and I was privileged to have attended a reception held in his honour by one of his good friends and Black British celebrated photographer Neil Kenlock, who once co-owned the first commercial Black Radio Station in Britain and he would not stop talking about Ghana@60

Then one day he blurted out the good news. He was going back to France in February to host an exhibition on Ghana@60 at Unesco and then he was going to take that exhibition to Ghana to the former seat of government, the Christianborg Castle.

Well, certainly some of his photographs are now at that Ghana@60 exhibition, but it never really was the the solo exhibition he had contemplated.  The first time Mr Barnor had exhibited in Ghana was in 2012 at the British Council and the Accra Mall, an exhibition sponsored by Myx Quest of Qirv, but now he has two exhibitions going – one at the Movenpick that has been sponsored by the destination-ghana conference and has been ably organised by Ambassador Johanna Odonkor-Svanikier and another at Jamestown Café in Ussher Town.

The James Town exhibition is one of the most innovative exhibitions that has been curated in our time.  It challenges but also projects and promotes the concept that our productive endeavours will best flow out of our creative thoughts and energies and that unless we can appreciate our own arts and culture, our growth and development will remain deficient and dominated by foreign content.

Joe Osae-Addo has turned his ArchiAfrika Gallery and his James Town Café into a community facility to host this important exhibition.  In so doing he is providing a service to the JamesTown community that once boasted distinctive architecture of yesteryears and he has staked his commitment to the regeneration of the area in a way that blends with the people and their spirit.  Into this mix appears Allotey Bruce-Konuah, a visual communicator now running ‘accralomigh’, a scion of the original Bruce who gave us Bruce Road and the Konuah family of educational entrepreneurs who gave us Accra Academy.  He has done marvellous work with the young pupils in Chorkor and probably now coming back home to help transform the artistic and cultural landscape of JamesTown with this unusual exhibition.

Allotey had started his working life at ‘photofusion’ in Brixton and had always been interested in recording and documenting iconic images of communities in transition so that their visual images can be preserved for posterity.

Allotey was the first to start digitising Mr Barnor’s work in 1998 at the offices of Equinox Consulting in Brixton South London. Mr Barnor had exhibited his photographs before on his 75th birthday, an exhibition attended by the then Ghna High Commissioner in the UK, Isaac Osei; his works have been previous curated by Rachel Pepper of the Acton Arts Centre, but it was Allotey who introduced Mr James Barnor to the Black Cultural Archives and through him that he met other curators who have exhibited his works at the BCA in South London, at the Autograph in Shoreditch, at the prestigious October Gallery in Holborn, in Manchester and Bristol and Medway, at Harvard University, in Chicago, in Toronto, Canada in South Africa and France and several other places.

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Now, Mr James Barnor’s face and his works have been splashed all over in several photographic and news magazines and respected newspapers such as the New York Times and the Guardian newspapers and though his photographs have been on the walls of great institutions such as the Tate Gallery and in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, but there was still unfinished business between the two.

As Allotey recounts “I am privileged to have known Mr Barnor, who I also consider to be a good friend, and I am very proud that though the genesis of this association started in Britain we are harvesting its fruitful produce in Jamestown British Accra with this unique exhibition of his works”.

Allotey says that “Mr Barnor remains an inspiration to me which is why I  started the EveryoungJBA.org project that is building a veritable archive of our past. It already provides several photographs of places and families, it will now become a fully-fledged audio visual archive to preserve the best in music, film, photographs and important documents”.

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The beauty of the current exhibition being curated by Allotey Bruce-konuah is that these ‘Independence Photographs’ were the very first negatives that Allotey digitised and it is fortuitous that these pictures now have a pride of place in the community where a lot of the action of the independence took place.

Bringing them back to the community is important it may just inspire another JamesTown born 28-year-old, the age Mr James Barnor was when he took those photographs 60 years ago to adopt photography.

In the often-repeated cliché, ‘pictures tell a thousand words’, or rather ‘pictures do not lie’,  the fact that they cannot be easily revised means that they will not excite any controversy.

For me this is the real reason for anyone to attend this exhibition.  There are no photographs of my contribution to the cause of independence and Mr James Barnor did not capture me as I marched down the street to the event, but I was there too, but the are several photographs of some of the unsung ones who helped usher in our freedom, sixty years ago,.

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James Barnor Jamestown Revisited is running till the 5th of May 2017 at ArchiAfrica Gallery, James Town Café and on the streets of James and Ussher Town in Accra.

Ade Sawyerr is a partner in the diversity focused management consultancy Equinox Consulting that works on issues relating to economic development of disadvantaged communities and social cultural and political issues of African heritage people in the Diaspora. He can be reached at jwasawyerr@gmail.com, followed @adesawyerr, and read at https://adesawyerr.wordpress.com

 

The Outdooring, Dedication and Naming of an African Child – A Ceremony of the GaDangme People of SouthEastern Ghana – Ganyobi Kpojiemͻ Vol 1 Book Review by Gyau Kumi Adu

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BOOK REVIEW: THE OUTDOORING DEDICATION AND NAMING OF AN AFRICAN CHILD: A CEREMONY OF THE GADANGME PEOPLE OF SOUTHEASTERN GHANA – Ganyobi Kpojiemͻ  Vol 1 by Ernest H.C. Tetteh (London: Ophelia Vanderpuye On-line Publishing, 2016).

By Gyau Kumi Adu (joewykay55@gmail.com/ https://joewykay.wordpress.com/)

Reflections on the Book

The primal purpose of this book is to explain three interwoven cultural practices of the Gadangmes: The outdooring, dedication, and naming ceremony of Gas. Although there are writings on Ga naming ceremonies, there is no book on the Ga culture that extensively deals specifically with the depth of Ga names this way the book does. The author’s exegesis and mastery of Ga names is incredible.[1] In fact, after reading the book I realized that if you take away a person’s indigenous name, you take away a person’s distinct cultural identity and heritage. Our names partly define us. Can Ghana be said to be Ghana after all the local names have been erased? Am I still a Ghanaian when I have a totally Western name? Can my lineage be traced if I adopt a completely Western name? Can I be an indigenous Ga and still be a Christian? These were some of the lingering thoughts on my mind after I finished reading this classic book.

The outdooring ceremony is principally one in which “a baby is brought outside for the first time (usually occurring eight days after birth).”[2] In the words of the writer, the “beautiful ceremony [is] to symbolically introduce a new-born baby to God… as well as to the mysteries of the seen and the unseen world…”[3] E.A Ammah, looking at its Ga equivalent word, kpojiemͻ, notes the following: Itis made up of three words. “Kpo” is “yard”, “dzie” is from ‘dze’ “come out” or “appear”, and “mͻ” is person[Therefore it] means to “take or bring the child out into a yard.”[4]   It is at this outdooring ceremony that the baby is dedicated and given a name (family identity). Hence, a child is not recognized as part of the family without the ceremony.

Continue reading “The Outdooring, Dedication and Naming of an African Child – A Ceremony of the GaDangme People of SouthEastern Ghana – Ganyobi Kpojiemͻ Vol 1 Book Review by Gyau Kumi Adu”

Traditions and Customs of the Gadangmes of Ghana: Descendants of Authentic Biblical Hebrew Israelites – Book Review by Gyau Kumi Adu

 

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 Book Review: Traditions and Customs of the Gadangmes of Ghana: Descendants of Authentic Biblical Hebrew Israelites by Joseph Mensah (Houston: Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co., 2013.)

By Gyau Kumi Adu (joewykay55@gmail.com/ https://joewykay.wordpress.com/)

 

The thesis of the book is to demonstrate that Gadangmes are of Jewish origin. A careful distinction is made in the book between Jews (from the tribe of Judah) and Israelites (all the 12 tribes). Although, all Jews are Israelites, not all Israelites are Jews. Mensah writes “Most people have come to incorrectly to associate the term Jew with Israelite…  an Israelite is a descendant of Jacob… The term Jew (Hebrew)… means a descendant of Judah.”[1] This distinction is important since in the history of the Israelites, Judah became the southern kingdom, and Israel the northern kingdom. The central theme of this book is that the Gas hail from the Jewish stock.

One of the important discussions that no one studying the Ga culture can ignore is the whether they are from the Jewish stock or not. Mensah agrees with Ga oral history that the Gas are of the Hebrew stock. He further advances this perspective by pointing out that Gadangmes could possibly be from the “Gadites” tribe of Israel using linguistics. He writes.

They [i.e. the Gas from oral tradition] believe they are descendants of ‘CUSH’ or perhaps, Gad and Dan from the twelfth tribe of Israel. It’s fascinating to note the name of their King who led them to Ayawaso in Ghana is Ayi Kushi (Cush); and this lends support to their claim that they are Jews… It will appear that the letter “d” became omitted from the word Gad over several centuries. What we now refer to as Ga people is rather GAD people or people from the tribe of Gad.[2]

In other words, the Ga are Gadites as the word Gadangme suggests. Probably, during interactions between this Gadite stock of Jewish Gas and other cultures, a transformation occurred within the culture. Eventually, a suffix was added to the word Gad: “angme”, making it Gadangme.

Another interesting thing about this linguistic historic analysis of Mensah is that it seems the meaning of Gad and Ga has a strong semblance. The Ga historian, Rev Carl Reindorff notes that the word “Ga” is coined from the expression gaga[3], “connoting black-ants or a marching army of termites which form military troops devouring everything that comes their way. History tells of a similar conquest by the ancient Gas. They destroyed armies that crossed their path.”[4] Hence, the meaning of the word Ga connects to a military soldier. Interestingly, the Hebrew word ‘Gad’ can be also translated as fortune or soldier.

Continue reading “Traditions and Customs of the Gadangmes of Ghana: Descendants of Authentic Biblical Hebrew Israelites – Book Review by Gyau Kumi Adu”

I am not a Cow&Gate baby: I was naturally nurtured


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A year older and hopefully much wiser allows me to reminiscence about a wonderful life thanks to the blessings that God has showered on me.  I was born in a popular place in Ghana, Accra, Ga Mashie near the Salaga Market, delivered by a lady midwife who needs to be applauded for the excellent work she did in supervising my birth and several others of my generation.  I have tried today to find whether there is any mention of her on the internet but sadly cannot find any trace on the web about her midwifery practice.  Then she was just called Aunty Sisi. She was Mrs Nettey-Marbell.  Perhaps the reason why i cannot get Google to trace her is because it was so long ago.

i found this weighing card and thought that it told its own story!

Now let me  reconstruct what must have happened.  My parents lost a son before I was born, so I suspect that after the funeral rites of this brother that I did not know, they were locked up in accordance with Ga custom, and encouraged to try for another child, a fruitful result, if I may say so myself.  Born a bundle of joy to my parents but also causing a lot of anguish because my frequent bouts of illness, they must have spent a fortune those days taking me to hospital after hospital for these undiagnosed illnesses and several traditional medicine practitioners as they sought a cure for my twetweetwe.

Continue reading “I am not a Cow&Gate baby: I was naturally nurtured”

Kings, Priests, and Kinsmen: Essays on Ga Culture and Society -Book Review: by Gyau Kumi Adu

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Book Review: Kings, Priests, and Kinsmen: Essays on Ga Culture and Society, by E. A. Ammah, edited by Marion Kilson (Accra: Sub-Saharan Publishers, 2016).

By Gyau Kumi Adu joewykay55@gmail.com

The thesis of the book is to inform readers about the Ga culture and society in general covering the time of the beginning of the Ga culture and ends at the turn of the 20th century. It uses an interdisciplinary-approach[1] of Ga philosophy, theology, politics, linguistics, religion, history and sociology. One significant theme running through all these essays is that the African culture is very rich, for that matter the Ga culture, in a wide range of subjects (as mentioned earlier).

Pertaining to how rich the Ga culture is in philosophy Ammah writes: “In the Ga Bible, wisdom is translated as nilee (knowledge of all things). But in kple, we have Oleete for wisdom. When used as Teteoleete, it means “the man who dwells in appearance and show of sense,” as Plato remarked long ago.”[2]

Concerning the depths of the Ga culture in sociology Ammah notes: ‘The sense of Ga community is built on the concrete foundation of… May our brooms be “thick,” may we obtain bestowable things to bestow on it, may it work for us that we may enjoy.…  It can be readily seen from this that the question of the group and that of the individual is not a problem in the Ga society.’[3]

In my view the book meets its main objective by covering these areas. It is a very classical book which will endure for many generations to come. It is very revealing. It covers many important subjects that the youth of Ghana are not privy to. One reason is that many Ga writings are difficult to come by. Some significant writings are also out of print.

Continue reading “Kings, Priests, and Kinsmen: Essays on Ga Culture and Society -Book Review: by Gyau Kumi Adu”

A Tribute the late Dr. Vincent Padi from GaDangme Foundation UK.

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The late Vince PADI

Writing this tribute to the man Vince Padi has not been easy.                                                          Indeed it was with great sense of loss when we heard that our Vince had passed away.

Today we deeply mourn the sudden death of Vince, an affable and charming person who became such a fixture of the Gadangme community both in Diaspora and Ghana and even in his sickness when we visited we would only talk about what the future held for us all.

Vince was a person who was not only interested in academia but also in the community around him and it was therefore, not surprising that he got more involved in community activities to the point that he was seen not only as an elder in the Gadangme Community but also as a leader of all the other black communities in the country.  He had ideas and vision and played a role in the formation of the African Caribbean Parents Advisory Group in Croydon and his organisation, Family & Education Advisory Services Team ( FEAST ) dovetailed beautifully into his work serving the wider black and minority ethnic community.

Vince Padi played an important role in furthering of the agenda of Gadangme Foundation.  As a representative of the Krobo association in the formation of the Gadangme Foundation in the UK, Vince saw it as a duty to participate in the fullest in forging relationships amongst all the interested community associations to ensure that the operation of the foundation worked within the spirit of the principal aim of GaDangme Foundation.

Yes, we had mature and interesting discussions and even if one disagreed with some of views, one had to respect that fact that he thought comprehensively and then followed it up with zeal and passion that such dreams desired.

The bonding of the initial 17 organisations that provided the forum for the resurgent of Gadangme issues in the UK and the reconnection with Gadangme people all over the world were all possible because Vince found the time from his busy schedule to strategize for these things to happen.

We also spent many fruitful hours together in those formative period visiting all the member organisations to explain the concept of the platform and umbrella organisation and how the participation of each of the groups would ensure that there was a much stronger organisation that could bring us all together to do greater things on behalf of Gadangme.

Vince’s passion about Gadangme affairs meant that he took his duties very seriously, representing the organisations in the major conferences of the sister Gadangme International in America and later in providing support for the Gadangme Council in Accra.  He eventually took on the leadership role as Chairperson and it was the background and behind the scenes work that was instrumental in the formation of Gadangme Europe. We recall his warm words of welcome when he hosted the first conference that led to the formation of that organisation in Tottenham. There he told the persons assembled that there was always a purpose for brothers and sisters to get together to think about their homeland and that should always be the pride and joy of those who had the opportunity to leave their homeland in search of better life but that progress is made real if that fortune is then returned to be shared by all.

As the Chairman of GaDangme Foundation he was very instrumental in organising a celebration in Ealing- UK, in honouring  the life of the late Nii Amugi 11, Ga Mantse..

To this end Vince led strongly in the raising of funds to support the organisation in Accra with a Memorandum of Understanding and also to support several charitable organisations that were providing hope for street children in Accra, Ghana.

The several times when we visited during the period of his illness, the discussion was about how we could incorporate the younger Gadangmes into our scheme of things for the revival of the GaDangme Foundation.

We knew he was ill but we did not know that these were the parting days and when we were told that he had been hospitalised our concern was about how he would come back much sturdier than before.

Our heartfelt sympathy and commiserations to the children and his family. We know that this has been a loss of momentous proportions from which we may never recover. It is still very difficult to believe that our brother Vince, is not with us.

Wa nyemi Vince – Yaa wo nge Tse Yawe bie mi.

May Your Soul Rest In Perfect Peace.

AMEN.