Time for Homowo again – 8th September 2018

Awo Awo Awo Awooooo!                 Mother oh Mother

Agban ee                                             Agban the diety

Bleku Tsor                                          Let Bleku rain/pour down

Esu Esu                                               Water, plenty of Water

Enam Enam                                        Fish, let us have a lot of fish

manye Manye                                     Glory, let glory reign

Adban Kportor                                    Let the food be in abundance

 

 

 

It is that time of the year again when I get a lot of calls about what is happening this year and when is Homowo.  Well, Septemeber is here and our Homowo celebration is on the second Saturday of the month – 8th September 2018.

As usual, i get asked a lot of questions about the significance of Homowo to the Gadangme.  I have a short answer for those who are probing and a longer answer for those who genuinely want to learn. For me Homowo is a mixture of a harvest, social and spiritual celebration for the Gadangme of Ghana that usshers in the new year.

The harvest season starts with the various high priests of the principal deities being informed of the calendar.  Each of the deities then go through the weekly processes of harrowing the grounds in the principal groves of their deities and then planting the first corn seeds of the season.

A ban on drumming and noise making is then declared for a month.  Several reasons have been given for this and as Ga has become more urbanised, several people have complained that this is an imposition on those who do not believe in the festival.  To a large degree they may be within their rights since the principal visible duties during this period are the goings and comings of the spiritual people.  My understanding is that there are ecological balance systems at work here; a period of quiet and abstinence does every one some good.  I know that Lent for most Christians is a period where they give up some favourite things and do penance and the Muslims also have their season of Ramadan where there is fasting.   I assume this is a fallow period when the drummers repair their drums and people generally reflect on their live,s meditating on how the old year has dealt with them and looking forward to the promise of the new year. The secular ones amongst us should just see it as a period when we all rest our dancing shoes.   In the middle of this ban on noise making there is an important event relating to the purification of the sea. Legend has it that during the time of the Anglican Bishop Angloby, he always made it a point to accompany the Nai Wulomu to this ritual of the purification of the sea -nshobulemo – so that the fish harvest will be plentiful.

The social aspects of Homowo involve the coming together of the family for a feast.  Those who live outside Ga are expected to come home with sundry gifts of the earth – the harvest from the farmlands that formed an important part of the Ga society; every clan on the coast had a village in the hinterland. This coming home event in the past took place at Okaishie  where those arriving by bus or train are met and helped to carry this goods to the family homes.  This event on the Thursday before the Homowo is termed Soobii.

The Friday provides another opportunity for more socialising outside the family house.  The day of the Twin festival is a yam festival on its own.  Otor the festive yam birthday food is cooked for the twins, they are then bathed in water soaked with the nyanyara leaves. The dirty water has to be disposed off into the Korle Lagoon at Korle Dudor and there is a procession from various houses with the  twins following the people who carry the water.  In days gone by, the 1960s, this was the main event of the long holiday period where those of us in secondary school dress in our best clothes to meet our friends and their friends.  But why this twin celebration?  The Ga consider that twins are special and they are given special names.

The Christian religious slant on this is that this food is to make sure that the younger twin does not cheat the older out of their birthright: plaisble but very Biblical.

The main festival is on the Saturday in Ga.  Most adults contribute financially towards the cost of the food and the festivities.  Usually by way of a levy and others make general donations.  The whole family assembles in the morning whist the special food of kpokpoi is cooked – unfermented corn and palmnut soup.

Before all join in to share from the same bowl, the head of the household pours libation and some of the kpokpoi is sprinked around the house. Some of the food is also dished out in bowls and sent to neighbours who are not Ga so that they can partake of this festival with the Ga – though not enough consolation.

Sunday is the day for noo wala – wishing all well and sorting out all quarrels in the family.  If there have been any deaths in the family, that is when the formal arrangements can begin because for  a month before Homowo, there are normally no burials.

Other events take place after Homowo; we have the Aekoo-Yaaye, the general looting of foodstuffs from traders by the youth who claim that they are sent by Sakumo so if they eat they they will not die.

the last rite is Kple noowala but again the is a festival reserved for the traditional worshippers.

The republican nature of the Ga and their traditional relationship as city states is manifested in Homowo qith the dirrent groups celbrating on different days

  • Nungua start the celebrations because they were the first to settle – the main feature of their celebration is the Kpledjoo
  • Lante Djan We, a division of Asere celebrate four weeks later
  • Tema celebrate a week later on the Friday
  • Ga Mashi follow a week later on the Saturday
  • Osu, La, Teshie and Kpone follow 10 day later on the Tuesday
  • The La shankamo takes place on the Thursday – a day reserved for general hugging
  • The Teshie Kpanshimo is on the Sunday – the libel laws are suspended and the Asafo groups sing their songs about scandals over the past year

 

The Krobo and the Ada and Dangme  have allocated specific days for the celebration, For instance the Adas celebrate on the Bank holiday in August

 

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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”

ACHIMOTA AND ITS IMPACT ON THE CREATIVE ARTS

ACHIMOTA AND ITS IMPACT ON THE CREATIVE ARTS

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By: Nat Nuno-Amarteifio

Since its founding, Achimota College and School as it was named at the time of its inception, has had a disproportionate influence on the creative arts in Ghana. In every area of creativity, music, painting, sculpture, literature and theatre, Achimota’s influence has been deep and consistent. This paper seeks to explore the reasons for this phenomenon and to identify some of the main reasons that made these achievements possible. We shall also examine the contemporary nature of this impact.

Colonialism begun in Africa in the final decades of the 19th century when Europeans scrambled for terrritories and took political and military possession of its lands. In India, British rule lasted over two centuries. In Africa colonialism was expected to last at least as long until Africans absorbed the lessons of pax britanica and learnt to govern themselves. The 1920s was a time of unbridled and unapologetic racism. Accra, the ramshackle capital of the colonized Gold Coast was recently segregated along racial lines. The goal was political but the official reason was medical. The policy was justified as a necessary measure to save European lives from African diseases by keeping the two races apart, especially at night. It was generally believed by European medical specialists that Africans were immune to the effects of malaria but that their blood was full of the parasites. The evening was when mosquitoes fed on human blood and transported their contaminated cargo across racial lines to infect Europeans.

On January 28, 1927, the Prince of Wales College and School, Achimota was formally opened. The campus upon which the school stood was segregated. No Africans could stay there overnight without official sanction. It took the personal intervention of the Governor to obtain permission for Dr. James Kwegyir Aggrey, nominated for assistant headmaster, to spend a night under the same roof as Rev. Alexander G. Fraser, the headmaster.

African culture was regarded by many Europeans as backward and retrogressive and the African middle class bought into this perception. In 1918, Kobina Sekyi a Cape Coast author and social critic wrote a play called the Blinkards. It was a devastating satire on the nascent African middle class of the 19th century. Their social ambition was to strip away all identification with their cultural roots and to present themselves as English gentry. It was a cartoonish portrait of delusion and deliberate self-deception. The play warned of the consequences when a society loses its moral compass.

Against the background of these perceptions, the three principal founders had every reason to be proud of their achievement. For one thing, in the tight colonial world they inhabited, they had been accorded the rare honour of a royal visit. The heir to the throne, Edward, the Prince of Wales was himself present to bestow his name on the institution. The three men, Sir Frederick Gordon Guggisberg, a brigadier in the British Army and Governor of the Gold Coast (1919-1927),   Dr. James Kwegyir Aggrey, a native of the Gold Coast, born in Anomabu and educated as a cleric in America, and the Reverend Alexander G. Fraser, a Scotsman and professional educationist were loyal to the crown. They belonged to the liberal and progressive wings of European politics and fervently believed that the key to African emancipation was education. The institution they created was designed to justify their hopes and ambitions. They saw the visit as the ultimate endorsement of their enlightened beliefs. They gave birth to a school, and let loose ideas that would lead in three short decades to the end of British rule in the Gold Coast.

The school was created to challenge the existing racial conventions and to instill pride in the nations’s putative leaders. Its motto, designed by Dr. Aggrey and displayed boldly on a heraldic shield, was composed of black and white piano keys. Its message declared that all races are equal and as necessary for civilized harmony as the black and white keys on the piano. At a time when aristocratic and middle-class women in Britain were barred from parliament and other bastions of authority and privilege, the school admitted children of both sexes and educated them together and equally. In 1924, when African culture was regarded by many Europeans as backward and retrogressive, a Department of Anthropology was established on the campus. It was headed by R.S. Rattray, a noted anthropologist. He was given the responsibility and the means to research Asante culture and to make his conclusions available to the government for policy guidance. Rattray employed his students as research assistants and undertook field research in the towns and villages around Achimota and beyond. These communities contained demobilized former soldiers from all over the country. The results were published and used to teach local history. The exercise demonstrated the lie that Africans lacked a history.

Continue reading “ACHIMOTA AND ITS IMPACT ON THE CREATIVE ARTS”

The UGCC was a colossal failure – Ekow Nelson

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I  am struggling to see what is being celebrated here. The UGCC was formed in Aug 1947. Nkrumah joined as SG four months later. As a colonial office dispatch observed, prior  to Nkrumah’s arrival in December of that year the movement’s main supporters were “in the large coastal towns of Accra, Saltpond, Cape Cost, Sekondi and Kibi the home of Dr Danquah”. Aiken Watson of the eponymously named commission he chaired conceded that the UGCC did not get down to business until Nkrumah arrived.

The post war austerity boycotts and exservicemen changed the course of history. The infamous shooting of ex servicemen who sought only to present a petition to the Governor’s office did not include UGCC officers or members. While Nkrumah and Dr Danquah had met members of the legion the day before to help with drafts, the UGCC was not involved in the march and in fact disavowed the riots that broke out following the unlawful murders of three ex-service  men; they blamed it all on Nkrumah. William Ofori Atta and Obetsebi Lamptey ransacked his apartments looking for incriminating material to use against him.

But it WAS precisely these riots that led to the arrest of key UGCC officers (earning them the dubious sobriquet of the Big Six) and the establishment of the Watson Commission which recommended the appointment of a Constitutional Committee to draft a new constitution to pave the way to self government.

The Coussey Committee included UGCC officers who repudiated the riots that created the circumstances for their membership and many sections of society except Nkrumah (blamed for the riots that led to the Committee’s establishment) and Trades Unionists. Even with the scales tipped in their favour, the UGCC managed to botch the elections organised under the auspices of the constitution they drafted and gerrymandered rules they defined and lost in a landslide to the CPP. And with that, they passed on to Nkrumah, who they excluded from the Committee, the mantle of carrying through the programme for self government. That was momentous! It is probably THE day worth celebrating : when Dr.  Danquah’s command of Gold Coast politics ended and Nkrumah’s took off.

So what exactly are we celebrating? What was the singular contribution of the UGCC to an independence struggle they did not trigger? The 1951 constitution? which prominent members among them  (Ofori Atta and Dr Danquah included) and Nkrumah described as “bogus and fraudulent”?

The UGCC were not the handmaidens of our independence. They had no role in the events that caused the British to initiate the process of self-government with the establishment of the Coussey Committee – Nii Kwabena Bone, his boycotters and the ex service men did.

They could not win the first All-African general elections whose rules they wrote and they ceased to exist after the 1951 elections and reconstituted themselves into various opposition parties whose raison d’être was to stop Nkrumah from leading Ghana to independence.

This is a celebration of a party with no singular political achievement or historical contribution!

Here is the crux: There is a dangerous historical conflation here; of projecting Dr Danquah and the UGCC as one. Dr. Danquah’s contribution to the anticolonial struggle is immense and it predated the UGCC by more than a decade. An intellectual colossus of all time, he paved the way for Nkrumah and those that came later. But Dr Danquah’s achievements are not the same as those of the UGCC. In fact by the time of the establishment of the UGCC Dr. Danquah had peaked. His best and most productive years were prior to that.

I have no qualms about celebrating Dr Danquah’s contribution. It has meaning. The celebration of the non-performing UGCC with no singular political achievement makes no historical sense. To the extent that the UGCC achieved anything it was their  invitation of Nkrumah to head the party’s secretariat which together with the boycotts and riots altered our history. But that too was Dr Danquah’s (and Ako Adjei’s) achievement – perhaps his final and crowing glory.

In battle, business and in politics, sometimes the best  and most transformative decisions are in the choice of personnel. The choice of Nkrumah was the finest decision Dr Danquah made – it gave finality to his life’s work.

Danquah, Kwame Nkrumah wa yer wo den? – Ade Sawyerr

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Danquah, Kwame Nkrumah wa yer wo den? – Ade Sawyerr

The Ghana@60 team came over to England in May 2017 to talk about the 60 glorious years of our independence won for us by Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah on the 6th of March 1957.

They treated us to a very well-made film by a charming young man ‘From Gold Coast to Ghana’, that had been premiered in Accra 2 days before the celebration of our 6oth birthday to some acclaim but also to a lot of controversies.  Incidentally, I had written a piece with the same title for our national black newspaper in the UK, the Voice – http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/gold-coast-ghana

So I thought great! Let me listen to this young man and watch his film which must be a bold attempt to depict our history from his perspective, a different light or angle that I may have missed. In his introduction to the film he talked about how our unreconciled history may have affected our development and gave examples of how in places such as the West, most of the contributors to the founding of the nation had been given their due place, recognised and adequately celebrated.  The examples from Nigeria and South Africa were not very convincing, indeed Oliver Thambo had always been the head of the African National Congress and there was no question or debate about that except that because of the incarceration of Mandela for a very long time he had become the international symbol in the fight against apartheid.

But then in the main introduction for the event, I heard quotations from Danquah flowing all over the place and should have realised that something was going on when South Africa was mentioned in relation to Ghana.  What came to mind was Busia’s feeble attempt for dialogue with South Africa and then I remembered that Kufuor had set up a National Reconciliation Commission copying from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa – so in truth our history had been reconciled already!

Paul Adom-Otchere said that his film was about the various and different constitutions of our land so I thought that this was going to be interesting for me and I must suspend judgement so that I would enjoy what this film is all about.

And then the film started and I started noticing several things in the script.  Achimota School and there the names of the mothers of President Nana Addo and the other flagbearer aspirant Kyeremanten came up.  Aggrey was celebrated all right as was Fraser.  The grandees of the Aborigines Rights Protection Society were recognised and celebrated in the film and there was a brief mention of the National Council of British West Africa.

Suddenly from nowhere appeared JB Danquah, framed as one of the leading lights of NCBWA, who was to be the bridge between the past and the future of Ghana looming large in the rest of the narrative and central to the transition between Gold Coast and Ghana.  Sarah Grant was excellent in her account of the events and very balanced but from that point came justification after justification of the role of Danquah had played in our independence including the laughable suggestion that if Nkrumah had allowed his motion of destiny to have been amended our independence would have happened in 1954 instead of 1957.

Of course, Danquah did play a role in our independence, but more as a leader of sorts of the opposition.  He has been honourably rewarded with a Circle as has Obetsebi Lamptey and Ako Adjei with an underpass, maybe the others in the Big Six now need to be celebrated: Akufo Addo pere, and Paa Willie must also have things named after them so that all the Big Six would have been eventually recognised.

There was mention of Sgt Adjetey, Lance Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey Lamptey.

Then there was a map of Ghana and how Danquah was supposed to have persuaded the Asantehene about Ashanti being part of the nation. But hear this, folks – if Danquah was that persuasive in Ashanti how come that in the 1951 election, the UGCC his party did not sweep that Ashanti Region but ended up with a single seat courtesy of an electoral college.  And here was I wondering why the role of the NLM, who the renamed Ghana Congress Party begged to merge with was not given the coverage they deserved in this film.

There certainly was something really surreal about this film – it was as if all the lofty pronouncements about an attempt at reconciling our history, so that the nation would move on,  had been jettisoned under another agenda.  This agenda was to rehabilitate Danquah who was never a leader of our country and who despite his academic brilliance and hard work never achieved the accolade that he went by – the doyen of Ghana politics, a title that he reminded Nkrumah of, in his letter of congratulations on our independence.

It is not everyone who is successful in politics, it is not everyone who is destined to be a leader of the country that they fought for, not all of us will attain the political heights that others do.  That is the fact of life and no amount or attempt to rehabilitate them will let history be any kinder to them.

The film in my view air-brushed out some of the more important people of our story of independence.  No mention of Gbedemah and Botsio who ensured Nkrumah’s victory at a time that he was in prison. No mention of the other active players Dombo no, Apaloo, nada, Antor, nary a mention, Bankole Awoonor Renner, nothing.  Ayeke did not feature and these were all leaders of their parties at independence.

I was incredulous, you cannot talk about the history of Ghana without mentioning a political giant like Baffour Osei Akoto who caused the CPP to split in Ashanti and went on to form the formidable NLM or Matemeho.

And truly in discussing our independence, if you can mention, the Big Six, incidental heroes, three of whom the film reminded us were related to president Akufo Addo fils, you cannot fail to mention the central figure of the time – Theodore Taylor in private life but better known as Nii Kwabena Bonne Nii Kwabena Bonne III, Osu Alata Mantse, also Nana Owusu Akenten III, Oyokohene of Techiman, Ashanti.  This man who took on the AWAM and initiated the boycott of the English merchants that coincided with the shooting and the riots certainly deserves a mention in the story of our independence even if the story is based on constitutions of our country.

After watching this film, I just thought that I needed to comment on how revisionist this is and how the current president has bought into this attempt to rehabilitee a fine scholar who was never destined to be the leader of our country.  If this film is a state or party sponsored rewrite of our history, then i can say that our history will never be reconciled.  Fairy tales and  ‘Tsier Ananu stories will not satisfy our youth in their quest for the story our independence if Nkrumah is cast as an incidental character with Danquah as the central figure.

We wish the president well in his mobilisation of the country for the future and in his vision of Ghana beyond aid, but as for his version of history – it has been rejected not only by the youth but by most of us senior citizens.

Let us work together to fix the country let us use our resourcefulness to transform our resources into wealth for future Ghanaians and beyond so that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo will leave an enduring legacy that we will all be proud of.

But frankly, this revision is not going to go down well. As Sarah Grant sang in the film

Danquah, Nkrumah wa yer wo den?

Ade Sawyer is an associate at community engagement and business development consultancy Equinox Consulting and comments on social, political and community development issues. He can be reached at www.equinoxconsulting.net or at jwasawyerr@gmail.com

 

Explaining Christianity – a continuing journey by Ade Sawyerr

Explaining Christianity – a continuing journey by Ade Sawyerr

“Why do you worry when your Lord never sleeps…..prayer for forgiveness, should be our guiding staff, and we will sing Alleluia and never never lose our way!”

Ramblers International Dance Band

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Two holiday periods are celebrated by most Christians across the world: Christmas and Easter. Christmas is a period of good cheer and goodwill amongst men and has been widely accepted by both the secular and religious world as a time for festivities. People go on shopping sprees, exchange cards, gifts and greetings as we usher in a New Year that we wish will be filled with hope and prosperity. It also evokes debates amongst the various sects on the true meaning of the Advent and whether indeed the date chosen is correct or merely a convenient one. This long period of nourishment of the body, soul, and spirit always gives way to Easter and its more profound symbol of a Christ who lived a life of example and teaching but who was tortured and crucified and yet rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven.

These festivals present an opportunity to reflect on various interesting schools of thought surrounding Christianity. So, after these festivals, I felt that after several years celebrating these holidays it is time for me to consider how I might explain why I profess and attest to Christianity in the hope that those with a deeper knowledge of this faith will share with me their understanding and help strengthen mine.

Born and nurtured within a Christian family, I was baptised an Anglican and dutifully followed my grandmother to church at St. Mary’s till I was old enough to follow my older siblings to Sunday School at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Accra, to learn about Jesus Christ and the other stories of the Bible. For a while, I lived with my uncle Mr. Mensah, who led the daily devotion for the whole household at the crack of dawn. I also had the opportunity to attend Brother Lawson’s ‘The Lord is There Temple’ at Korle Gonno the Apostolic sect to which he belonged at the time. When we moved to Accra New Town, because there was no Anglican church in the area, I attended the Presbyterian Church.

In secondary school, I spent my Quiet Time reading the Bible, especially the compelling stories of the Old Testament: the story of the creation, God’s relationship with man, the books of the Judges, Kings, and Prophets. These stories were about how living a righteous life would lead mankind to prosperity and yet despite those teachings, man broke all the covenants with God and strayed onto the path of sin that always ended in adversity and destruction.

Continue reading “Explaining Christianity – a continuing journey by Ade Sawyerr”

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”