Monday, 15 October 2012

The Panafest/Emancipation Day question.

On 12 July one Ghanaian wrote an article asking if things such as Panafest and Emancipation Day are worth celebrating in Ghana. The writer outlined that "The institution of the Pan-African Historical Theatre Festival (Panafest)... was in line with the country's historic role as the torch-bearer of freedom and unity on the continent."

I understand that slavery was a big part of African history and Ghana, accommodating 80% of the slave castles, has become a focal point for many people's reconciliation with the harrowing reality of slavery. However, must Pan-African history and identity be punctuated and defined by slavery. Is there nothing else for us to remember about Africa. I consider myself a Pan-Africanist with limitations. I think it is a problem that when we think of Pan-Africanism we only think about slavery, and the independence struggle. Is there nothing else to define an African but his/her struggle?

I went to Panafest and Emancipation Day in 2007. We attended some events at Elmina Castle and were treated almost like second class citizens because we were Ghanaian. That isn't a bold unsubstantiated claim, it's the truth, we were helped and looked after when they thought we were "foreigners" until one lady heard me speaking Twi to my driver, and then said "Oh you are Ghanaian, you must get up from here and please move to the back" I appealed, saying I was British and that I had attended early enough to get a good seat and would not be easily moved. She then decided to relocate us to the other side of the event. She gave no reason but proceeded to smile and curtsy profusely for the Americans and Caribbeans and even a Dutch mixed race family. In that moment, I felt like there was a difference between me and them at an event where Ghanaians were supposed to be affirming that there is no difference and that we are all family.

If celebrating Panafest and Emanicipation Day doesn't benefit the Ghanaian, in their image of themselves, their image of their country, why should it then benefit others. What is the purpose? You cannot have events like this in spite of the local population.  That's all I have to say on the matter, I have no solution in this case. I just think that if Panafest and Emancipation Day is to continue, it should be in line with the country's image as a freedom fighter and elevator of the African profile on the continent and so far they are able to do that, long may it continue, but if for any reason it doesn't or in fact devalues or orientalises the African in their own back yard, we should reconsider what is important to Ghanaians - tourism money or pride.

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