The 2023 Pan-African Historical and Theatre Festival (PANAFEST) and Emancipation Day celebrations commenced with poignant wreath-laying ceremonies at significant historical sites in Accra on July 24th. Dignitaries and participants gathered at the W.E.B. Du Bois Centre, the George Padmore Library, and the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park to pay tribute to the forbears who led the struggle for emancipation, reflecting on the journey towards freedom and human dignity.
This year’s edition, held under the theme “Empowering the African Family to Confront the Challenges of the 21st Century,” witnessed Ghana’s Minister of Tourism and Creative Arts, Hon. Mohammed Awal, emphasizing the crucial role of education in equipping African families for a prosperous future. The minister stressed the need to provide the youth with knowledge, competencies, and skills to face the demands of the job market, a key factor in Africa’s quest to generate approximately 50 million jobs over the next decade.
Hon. Mohammed Awal highlighted President Akufo-Addo’s landmark initiative, the Free SHS (Free Senior High School) program, which has granted over 2 million young people access to free education. The scheme not only empowers the youth for the job market but also prepares them to confront future challenges confidently.
The celebrations kicked off on 19th July 2023 with a pilgrimage to Northern Ghana, retracing the historical slave routes and paths that Ghanaian ancestors traversed before their enslavement and transportation to the Cape Coast and Elmina Castles. Participants visited significant locations like the Pikworo Slave Camp in the Upper East Region, the Salaga Slave Camp in the Northern Region, and the Bono Slave Market in the Bono East Region. The pilgrimage culminated with a symbolic crossing of River Pra at Assin Praso in the Central Region, symbolizing a return to the homeland.
Numerous activities are lined up during the celebrations, including an inter-faith dialogue, colloquium, return journey, “Akwaaba” ceremony, youth day, durbar of traditional leaders, and women’s day, all aimed at engaging participants and promoting the rich cultural heritage of Africa. A grand durbar of people and chiefs and the global African family at Assin Manso will cap this year’s celebrations on August 1st.
Emancipation Day and PANAFEST
Emancipation Day, observed annually on August 1st, is a significant public holiday in Ghana that commemorates the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade in 1833 and Ghana’s pivotal role in promoting Pan-Africanism. This day honors the enduring spirit and resilience of enslaved Africans while highlighting their fight for freedom.
PANAFEST, the Pan-African Historical Theatre Festival, is a biennial event held in Ghana during July. The festival’s primary purpose is to promote Pan-Africanism, cultural consciousness, and the strength of African identity. It attracts people from various African countries and the diaspora, who come together to celebrate African history, arts, dance, music, and theatre.
The festival features cultural performances, traditional ceremonies, art exhibitions, symposiums, and historical tours, all geared towards showcasing Africa’s rich cultural heritage and fostering a sense of unity and pride among Africans.
One of the major highlights of PANAFEST is the Emancipation Day durbar, a grand parade featuring chiefs, dignitaries, and cultural troupes. The vibrant display of traditional regalia, drumming, and dancing symbolizes the liberation and triumph of African people.
Through PANAFEST and Emancipation Day celebrations, Ghana honours its history, promotes African cultural heritage, and advocates for unity and progress on the continent. These festivities play a pivotal role in preserving and promoting African culture, attracting tourists, and fostering a deeper appreciation for Africa’s contributions to global history and society.
Ghana is celebrating its 25th year of Emancipation Day this year.