In the Year of Return, what is African Diaspora returning to?


Celebrations have begun in earnest to commemorate 400 years since the first enslaved Blacks reached the shores of the new world, United States of America.

While the idea is to attract the African Diaspora to every nook and cranny of the continent, Ghana as the leader of Pan-Africanism has taken initiative to be the central point for the celebrations. For the thousands of Diasporans that are expected to troop in, one would ask, what are they returning to? For starters, Ghana is one of the countries in Africa which played a very significant role in the Transatlantic Slave Trade, becoming one of the biggest purveyors of human cargo to the Americas and Europe. Evidence abounds in the many slave dungeons, forts and castles strewn across the length and breadth of the country.

These monuments which have since become World Heritage Sites are concrete reminders of our crude and cruel history and a cue that never again shall the Black man allow himself to be at the receiving end of such gross injustice and dehumanizing brutality. Following this era of darkness was colonization which also saw Ghana playing a pivotal role in this “legal slavery” until March 1957 when it became the first Black nation south of the Sahara to declare independence from its colonial imperialists. Independence brought along so many things including “Ghana.” The country was previously referred to as Gold Coast.

In 1960, Ghana attained absolute sovereignty when it became a republic, ending a period of unwanted colonization and foreign dominance. The struggle for independence for Ghana had been spearheaded by the man described by many as African Man of the Millennium, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

This man was so passionate about Black liberation that he made it his life’s work, and his famous line on Ghana’s Independence Day, “Our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up to the total liberation of the African continent,” was in furtherance to his disposition as a Pan-Africanist and a staunch advocate of same.

It is instructive to note that following that momentous speech, over 30 African nations broke free from colonial rule in the next decade. His charisma and strength of purpose towards a free and strong Black continent attracted the likes of Maya Angelou, George Padmore, and W.E. B. Dubois to Ghana with most of them staying for years to work to consolidate the independence that had been won.

With that, Ghana became the mecca for Blacks in diaspora who love to embark on the pilgrimage to discover their ancestral roots. Since then, the West African country has played host to several visitors of black descent both known and unknown, with the first Black President of the US, Barack Obama visiting the country on his first trip to Africa after his inauguration in 2009.

In addition to this is the fact that Ghana was the first African country to commemorate Emancipation Day and together with the Pan-African Historical Theatre Festival (PANAFEST) and other initiatives such as the Joseph Project, has given the opportunity for the Diaspora community worldwide to come home and be part of the global African Renaissance.

Fast forward to 2019, the Year of Return where Ghana has opened its doors even wider to receive the thousands who would want to be part of the 400 years’ commemorations. Again, why travel to Ghana?

Ghana continues to be the beacon of hope for Africa. With a current Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of nearly $50billion, the country has become an investment paradise attesting to its relatively conducive atmosphere for doing business. It is one of Africa’s fastest growing economy. Its capital city, Accra has become a melting pot of artistic and cultural excellence with an ever-growing skyline which gives it a more picturesque look by the day.

There is little or no argument against the fact that Ghana is the centre of the world – being the closest landmark to the point at which the equator (0° latitude) and the prime meridian (0° longitude) intersect. This makes it pretty much accessible no matter which part of the world one is travelling from. Ghana’s democratic credentials make it the envy of her peers in Africa. Having ushered itself into democratic dispensation in 1992, the country has had six peaceful general elections since that period.

Peace and security define the hallmark of Ghana as much as its legendary hospitality of the citizens. The peace is fuelled by the sense of community and camaraderie that exist among Ghanaians; visitors will find the people as some of the most gregarious and hospitable in the world.

So, welcome to Ghana where you will not just find our internationally acclaimed Jollof Rice, but Banku with grilled Tilapia, Waakye with its accompaniments, Tuo Zaafi and the almighty Fufu with Aponkye Nkrakra or Palm nut soup and the many variety of soups not just satisfying, but also are sure to bedazzle your taste buds. As much as you might find pizza, burger or hot dogs anywhere you go across the country, roasted plantain with peanuts, buff loaf, and roasted maize are reliable tummy fillers anytime, anywhere. Asana and Sobolo will help drown these foods for easy digestion.

You will find in Ghana, like in every other nation on the planet, a country which is far from being perfect but in acknowledging this, citizens are making efforts at ensuring their comfort in their own way.

And that is why it is imperative that you take a trip to Kaneshie, Makola or Okaishie markets to get a better understanding of the entrepreneurial side of the average Ghanaian; and that is when you are in Accra. Kumasi, the second largest city and capital of the Ashanti Kingdom also has very large markets with many others across the country that are worth seeing. In the evenings, the mini versions of these markets can be seen as well, adding to the vivacity of the country’s nightlife especially within city centres and big towns.

Ghana has birthed some of the finest human resources in the world. Kofi Annan (Former UN Secretary General), Abedi Pele, Azumah Nelson (Sports Icons), Komla Dumor ( Former BBC Broadcaster), Prof. Francis Allotey (Mathematician and Physicist), Prof. Kwabena Frimpong Boateng (Physician and cardiothoracic surgeon) Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu (Robotics Engineer at NASA) are a few of the many who have helped and continue to shape the world in their respective work disciplines. These are beside the many others around the world who trace their ancestry to the motherland. Boris Kodjoe, Oswald Boateng, Idris Elba, Jerome and Kevin-Prince Boateng, Abraham Attah, Bozoma Saint John are just a handful who are still making giant strides in their fields of endeavour.

Nature’s best secret is kept here on this west coast of Africa. The flora and fauna, the large expanse of rainforest, the national parks and botanical gardens are just a few of nature’s provisions which define the green in the country’s national flag. Pristine beaches, waterfalls, lakes and rivers (both and natural) will ensure that an adventure with water is made complete. Home to the friendliest crocodiles, a large variety of monkey species and birds, the country’s wildlife is one of the most diverse in the world.

On the arts scene, you hear in Ghana some of the best sounds in the world; so whether you are a jazz, R&B, Hip Hop fan or like to hear authentic African Highlife music, then you are welcome. Ghana has produced music Greats such as the Osibisa Band, Kojo Antwi, Daddy Lumba, Amakye Dede, Rocky Dawuni with young acts such as Sarkodie, Stonebwoy, Samini, Shatta Wale, Fuse ODG and many others flying high on the global music scene. A vibrant film industry also thrives in Ghana and has birthed Ghallywood and Kumawood; the respective English and local language speaking sub industries.

A visit to the many arts markets and centres in every part of the country gives visitors an inkling into how creative the local people are. Here, all manner of artifacts can be seen, and the world acclaimed Kente fabric is a further testament to the sheer brilliance and creativity of the Ghanaian. With intricate patterns and a splurge of assorted colours, Kente gained much more notoriety when the Congressional Black Caucus of the US Congress wore it in protest during President Trump’s first State of the Union address.

Festivals are ostentatious part of the Ghanaian culture; there is practically, a festival or two celebrated at different parts of the country all throughout the year. Peak festival periods however, are between July and November where one can witness rich and beautiful display of traditional dance, chiefs and queen mothers in their full regalia propped up in palanquins and an endless display of street activities. Like many other celebrations in Ghana, festivals are always elaborate and the pomp and pageantry that accompany them are a sight to behold.

Sweetening all these is the tall list of activities that have been planned to commemorate the Year of Return, so yes, there are many reasons why should be in Ghana in 2019.

So, as you embark on this poignant journey to Ghana, the warmth of the smiles of the friendliest people on earth that meet you right at the airport in Accra and the cultural delights of Zabzugu in the North, give you a clue to how happy our ancestors were living in their own Motherland.

By: Samuel Obeng Appah


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