LOOK AGAIN AT PLANNING PANAFEST
By: Baba Abudulai.
I do not know whether the acronym PANAFEST which represents the Pan African Historical Theater Festival now stands for something else.
The Ghanaian Times in it issue Saturday July 4, 2009, attributed the acronym to Pan African Festival of arts and Theater.
However, I stand by the first name since I was among those honoured at the third PANAFEST held at Cape Coast, the capital of Central Region in 1997. Since the Certificate of Appreciation defines the acronym PANAFEST as the Pan African Historical Theater Festival and do not know of any name change, I will maintain that PANAFEST means Pan African Historical Theater Festival.
This year's PANAFEST and Emancipation Day kicked off last Thursday under the theme “Communicating the African Reality” With a series of activities in Accra. Among the activities lined up for the celebrations were Wreath laying at he grave sides of leading Pan Africanist like Ghana’s first President Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Dr. Du Bois and George Padmore, a durbar of chiefs at Mantse Agboona at James Town~and a remembrance activity for civil rights activist like Marcus Garvey and Melcom X at Bono Manso in the Brong Ahafo Region.
Other towns where activities were slated to take place are Salaga in the Northern Region (largely because it had a slave market), Assin Praso, Assin Manso, Akwamu and Keta.
PANAFEST 2009 will open officially on July 25 at Cape Coast Jubilee Park and it is expected to be attended by participants in the African Diaspora and members of the government of Ghana.
Clearly this year’s PANAFEST has moved away from earlier ones that were heavily concentrated on musical activities that saw likes of Dionne Warwick, the late Isaac Hayes and most politically conscious of American rap groups Public Enemy performed.
This years PANAFEST is also clearly about the issues of slave trade and subsequent issues of civil rights that it brought.
I have a problem with organizing such events because of the simple reason that almost always the impression is given as if slavery largely took place in the coastal towns. Often the three northern regions which were mainly the theaters of slave raiding activities, of the likes of Samori and Babatu are largely ignored with only the singular exception of the slave market town of Salaga.
Probably if attention is paid to the three northern regions, then people will understand why this part of Ghana are sparsely populated and also people will also know that the grave of Babatu is in the Northern Region.
In 1998 during the National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFAC’98) at Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region, I saw a dance performance by one of the groups representing the Upper West Region; I was to1d it was a stave victory dance created to commemorate the defeat of the slave raiding parties of Samori and Babatu. This dance, in my opinion, should be brought to national prominence especially in a time like this when the country is celebrating yet another PANAFEST and Emancipation Day. I also spoke to people from the region about slavery during the NAFAC ‘98 and they told me a lot.
Since the Ministry of Tourism seems to be in charge of planning and organizing PANAFEST now, I will suggest to them to do a lot of material gathering regarding slavery in the three northern regions.
There is a lot for them to document and factor into the future planning of PANAFEST and Emancipation Day. I must say though that, I know that the Ministry’s core responsibility is the promotion of tourism and because of that there is the temptation to limit activities largely to the coastal areas where there are slave forts and castles.
But those forts and castles were exiting points where places like no return’ could be found.
The slaves who made those treks and bathed in the so-called Slave River came from the northern parts of this country. They were brought to the Salaga Slave Market before being brought down to the forts and castle on the coast.
If we know this simple truth about the history of slavery on this side of the Atlantic then we will be telling the history in its entirety and the way it should be told.
How will anybody celebrate Emancipation Day in Ghana and not include those who defeated the slave raiding party of Babatu, and even created a dance to celebrate that victory, beat my imagination.
Lets all know that events like PANAFEST and Emancipation Day in Ghana are not about boosting tourism figures and having a healthy foreign cash flow that will come as a result.
The two activities are also about remaining true to our history and letting the world know what exactly happened on our side of the Atlantic during the period of the Trans Atlantic Slave trade.
It is not too late to male additions and Emancipation Day since July 31, has been slated for the celebration of Reverental Night to usher which falls on August 1, the planners can do the right thing by taking a second look at the programme the have come up with.
This way they can make additions and subtractions to make this year’s celebrations richer than the ones that came before it.
Spectator Page: 18 Saturday, July18, 2009