National Folklore Board cautions against illegal use of Ghana's folklore

The National Folklore Board (NFB) is warning all persons who use Ghana’s folklore outside the customary context and/or for commercial purposes that permission must be sought from its outfit for such usages.

In a release copied VoyagesAfriq, NFB said, folklore includes music, dance, art, designs, names, signs and symbols, performances, ceremonies, architectural forms, handicrafts and narratives, and any other literary, artistic and scientific expressions belonging to the cultural heritage of Ghana which are created, preserved and developed by ethnic communities of Ghana or an unidentified Ghanaian author.
Local usage of a work of folklore outside the customary context and/or for commercial purposes includes but is not limited to, the use of an Adinkra symbol for a company’s corporate branding and the use of other expressions of folklore for promotional and other commercial purposes.

Usage of Ghana’s folklore by foreign interests has seen a sharp rise over the past few years. Unfortunately, persons, both individual and corporate, who have employed Ghana’s folklore for their benefit, have done so without the permission of the National Folklore Board. Recent examples of usage without the permission of the National Folklore Board include the sale of Ahenema for over USD 1,000 by a reputable Italian brand, the use of Kente and Adinkra symbols in a recent fictional superhero movie, and the adaptation of our folklore character Ananse in a popular American series.

It is important to note that personal use of folklore and/or use within the customary context does not require permission from the National Folklore Board.

Per section 44 of the Copyright Act, 2005 (Act 690), a person who sells, offers or exposes for sale or distribution a work of folklore without permission from the National Folklore Board commits an offence and is liable upon summary conviction to a maximum fine of 1000 penalty units equivalent to Twelve Thousand Ghana Cedis (GH₵12,000) and/or imprisonment for a maximum of three (3) years, or both.

Additionally section 64 of Act 690 requires a person who intends to use folklore other than as permitted by section 19 of the Act, to apply to the National Folklore Board for permission at a fee determined by the Board.

The statement which was signed by Acting Director of the Board, Nana Adjoa Adobea Asante further states that in order to avoid being on the wrong side of the law, the National Folklore Board (a statutory body established by Act 690), mandated by law to protect and promote Ghana’s folklore for and on behalf of the President of Ghana, entreats all commercial users of Ghanaian expressions of folklore to send a written request to the National Folklore Board in order to be given the requisite permission.

Inasmuch as the law requires the payment of a fee for the use of Ghana’s folklore outside the customary context, the National Folklore Board emphatically states that the enforcement of the law on folklore is an opportunity Ghanaians to protect their folklore from inappropriate usages and against the denigration of the country's symbols and culture. A clear instance of a misuse of our folklore was the invocation of Kweku Ananse as a spirit in a popular American Series.

"We also urge corporate Ghana and other stakeholders to invest in the protection and promotion of our folklore through the engagement of the services of Ghanaian creative artistes, and also through various usages including company logos, cultural representations in advertisements, and general corporate branding to create jobs and boost our economy. To the twenty-two companies who have been religiously complying with the requirement of seeking permission for the use of folklore outside the customary context, we say Ayekoo!"

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