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

 

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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 Martyrs of our independence – 28th February 1948

The Martyrs of our independence – 28th February 1948

Lift high the flag of Ghana,
The gay star shining in the sky,
Bright with the souls of our fathers,
Beneath whose shade we’ll live and die!
Red for the blood of the heroes in the fight,
Green for the precious¹ farms of our birth-right,
And linked with these the shining golden band
That marks the richness of our Fatherland.

The words of our first National Anthem, abandoned after 1966 explains that the red in the flag signifies the blood that was shed by heroes in the fight for our independence.  But who are these heroes adn how have we honoured them.  Have we so soon forgotten Sgt Adjetey, Lance Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey Lamptey, who unlike our politicians who led us to independence paid with their lives so that we should be free?

The 28th February Road that leads to Christiansborg Castle at Osu, was the seat of government in 1948 as it is now.  The actions of that day triggered a series of events that led to our independence and we should learn to honour the heroes and others who played a significant role in those events. Continue reading “The Martyrs of our independence – 28th February 1948”

Futumfunafu dyenkyem funafu, wom aforo bom nso worididia na wom kom.

At long last the battle has ended and Ghana our beloved country is free forever.

 

These memorable words of the late Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah have come to signify the dawn of independence for the continent of Africa as a whole. I was too young to have gone to the Old Polo Grounds or to have understood the significance of Kwame Nkrumah’s words; but at six years old and in class three, I definitely knew that something important was happening in the country and I fully participated in the independence celebrations.  The day had been declared a holiday, we assembled at school much earlier in the morning and marched all the way from Bannerman Road to the Stadium.  I watched every single bit of the show.  I knew something was different; this was not the Empire Day that we used to celebrate.  This was Independence and therefore in addition to the lemonade and the cakes we ate, I was also presented with an Independence Day Cup.  So for me Independence was about one big celebration of freedom and nothing else.   It was only in later years that I realised that independence meant freedom to control our own destiny in Africa.

Continue reading “Futumfunafu dyenkyem funafu, wom aforo bom nso worididia na wom kom.”

Ghana at 45 years – Great time to hit maturity

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Ghana at 45 years – Great time to hit maturity

By: Ade Sawyerr (2002-03-06)

This article was first published in West Africa Magazine, Issue 4315, 4Th -10th March 2002

I have not heard anyone say that it was only just yesterday that Ghana gained independence; for a large number of us whop witnessed the event it has been painfully been a long time. But it has been worth it, we are maturing if not as yet matured.

We have made our mistakes, but as all adults do, we can reflect with the benefit of hindsight on what went wrong, and after objective reflection chart a new positive and brighter course. We are doing that now with our fledging, but new found democracy.

The test of success for any nation is good governance. Good governance is what brings nations prosperity. Our leaders can have all their good ideas and intentions but if these are not firmly rooted in good institutions, systems and governance, they will remain but visionaries who could not lead us into the state of prosperity that has been eluding us.

Continue reading “Ghana at 45 years – Great time to hit maturity”