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.

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”

The Blackening of the White House – Ade Sawyerr

In the spring of 2008, I gazed into my crystal ball and came out with this. How wrong I was on several fronts!

The Blackening of the White House – Ade Sawyerr

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Barack Obama’s historic appointment as Democratic candidate in the US elections puts the presidency within the grasp of a Black man for the first time. But his views on race are having an impact far beyond the shores of the US, as Ade Sawyerr explains….

On 20th of January 2017, a new president will be sworn in to take charge of America; this new president will be replacing President Barack Obama who would have completed a successful two terms as president of the most powerful country in the world.
President Obama would be handing over to a Democratic Party candidate because he would have used his presidency to deliver on domestic issues of health, education, jobs and a good economy and the concerns of ordinary for all the people in America.  He would most likely be handing over to a woman president who would be following in his mould breaking fashion of his having become the first black president.

Through his historic achievement in becoming Democratic nominee for the US presidential elections, Barak Obama has attained heights that were not achievable for black men in America just 50 years ago. Then African Americans were, in the main, excluded from politics. They were fighting to be allowed to vote,– but their only option was to vote for white men.

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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”

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.

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Tribute to a good friend – Mr Ima Plahar

Nine years ago, my good friend Ima Plahar passed on to the other world.  It was a difficult time for all of us.  Nine years on, tears still well in my eyes when his name gets mentioned.  Still cannot get over his passing.  Today, I share the tribute that i wrote on his passing – a remembrance and testament of my association with him.imaplahar

Tribute to a good friend – Mr Ima Plahar

The success of any immigrant community can really only be judged by the strength of the community organisations that they build. This is because the community organisations provide the supportive welfare and social environment that allows individuals to achieve their aspirations and excel in their professional lives. So the people involved in building and maintaining community organisations who thereby promote involvement in civil society must be applauded at all times.

It is therefore with a heavy heart and a deep sense of personal loss that I pay this tribute to Ima Plahar, a gentleman, a strategist, an organiser and a servant of the Ghanaian community. Though of little stature, he stood tall for his dedication and devotion to the cause of strengthening the community organisations that he belonged to.

Ima helped to organise support for my election as chairman of Ghana Union several years ago. He was steadfast in his belief that the time for change had come, he helped to shape the vision of a new Ghana Union and eventually took his place at my side as General Secretary. of the Union

In our initial discussions we agreed to handle all conflicts within the Union without being confrontational, to be visible and accessible to all, asking for views and ideas, but challenging assumptions in an enquiring sort of way.  Above all, we agreed that we must not only tell the truth to the executive and the membership at large but be seen to do so at all times.

These discussions provided me with an indication of the true character of the man Ima Plahar, for he had character in abundance, he was passionate, he had integrity, he was loyal, he had the due zeal and diligence to undertake whatever tasks needed to be implemented in the union.

It was an absolute pleasure and memorable experience to work with Ima, you just wanted him as part of your team because of his abilities and affability. As we worked together, I came to have absolute trust and confidence in his organisational abilities and would only seek approval for events that he was confident that the Union could pull off.   If a job was worth doing, it had to be done well and that is how it was with Ima.

He would on a daily basis, stop by the Ghana Union office on his way home from work to ensure that things were running smoothly.  He was serving his country Ghana through serving the Ghanaian community here in London and did this at absolutely no cost to the organisation – no fees, no expenses and no pay.

Ima was honest, called a spade a spade, expressing his views in a forthright manner which one might describe as being blunt or even tactless.  He was determined that the unsavoury habits that we had brought with us from our motherland had to be challenged and confronted and that those who deviated from operating in a transparent and open manner should be held accountable and if necessary, openly shamed.   This was someone who was not only selfless but someone who expected the same high standards of accountability, he held, from all around him.

The friendship and trust that developed extended way beyond my tenure of office in Ghana Union.  It was a friendship that was based on mutual respect and admiration and Ima became the dependable person who i came to  on rely very much for advice on all manner of issues.  Our daily lunch break conversations even after we had both stepped down from executive positions were far ranging from politics, social and business and even personal issues. I know that through his dedication and selflessness, Ima has influenced many people just as he influenced me.  I learnt from him valuable lessons about listening to people, suspending judgement till the full facts and context of situations had been established.

The sacrifices that Ima made did not detract from his role as a father and loving consort to his dear wife Tina, the same principles were on display at home.

I can attest that for the four years that I was chairman of Ghana Union, I might have been at the front but he led on most of the activities since he was at his best organising events and making contact with people.   His modesty allowed me to bask in the glory of his achievements during the years that we worked together.  I therefore had no hesitation  in recommending him as Chairman of the Union.

Ima’s spirit of service must give us hope that there are still some selfless and dedicated people within our community.  Let us take consolation in the knowledge that although his life on this earth is over, what he did and what he stood for have more than adequately prepared him for the higher work that he has been called to do above.

Ima let me say this for you one more time – funtumfunafu denkyem funafu, wom aforo bom na nso worididi a na wom aku

We will miss you.Ima, we love you but God loves you best.  .

Rest in perfect peace in the Lord – yaa wo dzogbann

 

‘Africans Were In Britain Before The English…’

This powerful statement of fact is how historian Peter Fryer started his seminal book Staying Power (Pluto Press, 1984) documenting the black presence in Britain

SONGSTRESS: An unnamed member of The African Choir from South
Africa who played concerts for a high-profile audience including Queen Victoria, courtesy of Hulton Archive/Getty Images

 

IT IS a notion that would confound most people, particularly against the backdrop of today’s fierce debate on migration. Yet the truth remains that African history in Britain stretches back to the 3rd Century when valiant and gallant soldiers fought beside the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

Though a few of these largely forgotten heroes remained in England, Scotland and Wales, the focus has been on Africans as slaves and servants in royal courts in the stories of people like Quobna Ottobah Cugano, Olaudah Equiano and others
who documented their lives in Britain.

After the transatlantic slave trade, Africans started coming to this country as much sought-after musicians and performers in the courts of nobility. Others came as seafarers working on ships that brought raw materials from
the colonies to Britain and returned with finished goods fashioned for the tropics.

They settled mainly in the port towns of Bristol, Liverpool and Portsmouth and through the advent of colonialisation
others were brought here to learn the language so that they would act as interpreters to aid trade with Africa.

Continue reading “‘Africans Were In Britain Before The English…’”