On most occasions whenever the opportunity offers itself these institutions have made passionate appeals to the government to consider increasing their budgetary allocation so that they will be able to position themselves well to implement their programmes and policies. Their appeals have also been supported by many well meaning Ghanaians and other relevant institutions. But the situation has not improved significantly over the years. The latest individual to throw his weight behind these calls was Hon. Isaac K. Asiamah, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Youth, Culture and Sports at a public workshop for members of the Select Committee at Koforidua. The workshop was organized by the Cultural Initiative Support Programme (CISP) under the auspices of the National Commission on Culture. The objective was to sensitize the select committee members on the Cultural Policy of Ghana and the activities of the Cultural Initiative Support Programme to enable the Committee members more resourceful to advocate cultural issues in Parliament.
The Arts and Culture Sector is a very important sector. It plays a major role in our quest for socio economic development. It is perhaps the most single important medium we can effectively utilize to facilitate national unity and development. It is the bridge that cuts across every political and ethnic divide. It is an essential ingredient for national integration. Unfortunately State resources to this Sector and especially to the various institutions of state mandated by law to promote the development of the Arts and Culture has not been very encouraging. Most of the times when it comes to discussing issues relating to Culture, the perception is that it is a sector which is outmoded and has no relevance to contemporary times by many people. It has always been erroneously perceived that Culture is the realm of drumming and dancing. Then festivals and funerals. Even our schools especially at the Basic level are guilty of this. Cultural Studies times mean a time for entertainment and story telling accompanied by drumming and dancing. This is unfortunate.
For a better understanding, culture is the totality of our way of life evolved by our people through experience and reflection in an attempt to fashion a harmonious co-existence with our environment. Culture gives meaning and order to the social, Political, Economic, Aesthetic and Religious practices of our people. It is manifested in our ideals, ideas, beliefs, values, folklore, science and technology. The artistic forms of our culture which gives meaning and expression to our everyday life include our dance forms, drama, music, architecture, carvings, paintings and others. Simply put, our culture comprises our core values, norms, expectations and behaviours, all of which impact greatly on our way of life either positively or negatively. It is the bedrock for the socio-economic development of every nation. Ghana is indeed blessed with a variety of rich attractive culture which has become the bait for many tourists from all over the world. Come to think of our cuisine, festivals, historical sites and monuments and indeed the proverbial Ghanaian hospitality. Our Culture has always been a source of our strength and unity. It has carve an enviable image for us as a nation of peace and stability. It has played the pivotal role of our social, economic and political achievements over the years. In spite of these achievements however, we need to do more to revitalize the sector. The Sector should become the indispensable foundation for achieving greater heights. The realization of these objectives to a very large extent depends on effective and adequate funding by the state.
One writer recently described the sector as the sleeping giant, the untapped gold mine. This cannot continue to be so. If the argument that countries such as Japan, China, Korea, India, Malaysia, Singapore and others have attained their present level of Socio-economic and political development because of the importance they attached to their culture, is anything to go by, then it is a wake up call for our policy makers to inject more funds to the sector.
Since independence, various governments have established institutions for the formulation and the implementation of policies and programmes to build a viable and vibrant Cultural Sector for the country. It started with the Arts Council. Then the Ministry of Arts and Culture to the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture from 1972-1979. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism lasted briefly when it became the Ministry of Education and Culture from 1986 – 1989. In 1990, the then government established the National Commission on Culture. Among the functions of the Commission, it is expected to initiate policies and programmes for the dissemination and propagation of ideas for the promotion of national pride, solidarity and consciousness.
Since its establishment, the Commission has facilitated the construction of infrastructure at both the national and regional levels – to promote the Arts and Culture. Some of these facilities are however yet to be fully completed. There have been series of workshops and seminars with the active support and collaboration of Governmental and Non-governmental organisations throughout the years to enhance our national cultural life. The first ever National Congress of Artists and Cultural workers in Ghana was organized under the auspices of the Commission in 2004 at the magnificent National Theatre spanning over one week. A new Cultural Policy document was launched at the Congress. The birth of a national website email@example.com. came into being in 2006. The website has become an important nerve Centre for education, information dissemination and research on Ghanaian and African Culture. In its effort to accentuate developments at the sector and to facilitate the formulation of national policies, the government in 2006 established a full Ministry of Chieftaincy and Culture. Besides the issue of policy formulation, the Ministry would be responsible for supervising and co-ordinating the programmes and activities of all the agencies and institutions under it. Some of the institutions include the National Commission on Culture, the National Theatre of Ghana, the National Dance Company, the National Drama Company, the National Symphony Orchestra, Ghana Museums and Monuments Board, Bureau of Ghana Languages, the Folklore Board, the Regional/District Centres for National Culture, the Chieftaincy Secretariat among others. Over the years, all these institutions have contributed meaningfully towards the realization of the Country’s Cultural Policy objectives.
Their activities always ensure that the Arts and Culture remain a formidable agent of change and development in our national life. For instance the National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFAC) not withstanding its challenges and criticisms has always been a source of hope and a platform for national cohesion, expressing our diversity in unity as the people, one nation one destiny. The achievements of these socio-cultural institutions have been very laudable, but they can do far better when given the required resources. Almost two years down the lane, the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Culture has made its impact. Several Chieftaincy disputes which otherwise could have resulted into conflicts and thereby threatened national security have been amicably settled. The Ministry has also instituted the annual celebration of Cultural Awareness month every November throughout the country to reawaken our Cultural consciousness and revive our dying heritage. The first celebration was held last year to coincide with NAFAC.
A new Chieftaincy Bill which amended the Chieftaincy Act of 1971 (Act 370) was recently passed by Parliament awaiting Presidential assent. The Ministry continues to hold consultations with all relevant stakeholders including the Regional and National House(s) of Chiefs with a view to promoting the ideals of the sector.
The Cultural Policy: The 35 page document officially outdoored in 2004 was the result of several workshops at the national and regional levels to solicit the inputs of stakeholders towards the realization of the vision of the people of Ghana to respect, preserve, harness and use their cultural heritage and resources to develop a united, vibrant and prosperous national community. The objective is to put Culture and the Arts at the centre stage of our national development with the establishment of the appropriate structures and in collaboration with all other stakeholders. The Policy document goes to fulfill the Directive Principle of State Policy under Article 39 of the 1992 Constitution. It is a document whose impact would be felt only when the programmes are translated into real and practical activities. And again this fulfillment depends on adequate resource funding to the institutions which are the implementing agencies.
nterventions: We are always admonished by the Biblical fact that Heaven helps those who help themselves. And we also take a cue from the proverb that when you carry your load to your knee level, you will always find someone willing to help you put it on your head. The National Commission on Culture in this respect made some interventions towards resource mobilization for its programmes and the Cultural Sector as a whole. One of the interventions was the proposal to the government for the establishment of a Cultural Trust Fund. It is hoped the proposal which has since been endorsed and approved by government is expected to become operational soon. The other initiative and intervention is the Cultural Initiative Support Programme with a grant of 2.5 million Euros by the European Union. The money would be disbursed to individuals and organisations who are into the promotion of the Arts and Culture, provided they satisfy the criteria established. These are meant to complement the budgetary allocation by the State in meeting the resource needs of the sector. Thanks also to Non-governmental Organisations such as Konrad Adeneaur Stiftung which continues to support the Commission. Now with a full Ministry in place, it should be possible for the sector to benefit from more State resources in view of the fact that the sector Minister Hon. S.K. Boafo also an MP would play an advocacy role in Parliament to get the funds released. It is hoped the members of the Select Committee would identify with the Minister and give him necessary push to achieve this objective for the sector. The Arts and Cultural Sector considering its all embracing role in national development certainly needs more resources and funds. Culture is in health, agriculture, education, tourism security and a lot more and all these sectors would reap the benefits of increased cultural activities. It is not asking a mountain out of mole hill. The government must provide. And the time is now.