Panafest, from all indications, has come to stay. It has become an integral part of the cultural landscape of Ghana and the rest of the Global African Family. With its perfect marriage with Emancipation Day, both festivals are potentially a viable source for economic, political and spiritual reunification of the Global African Family. Increasingly they are jointly evolving into a major Pan-African commemorative celebration manifesting the essential ideals of Pan-Africanism – unity as an indispensable foundation for the struggle for a total economic and political liberation and advancement of the Global African Family. Potentially, Panafest is a pot of gold in the spiritual, economic and political sense. Panafest/Emancipation Day manifests the adage that there is more that unites the Global African Family than divides it. It underlines the potential power of culture for a vigorous pursuit of a total political and economic emancipation of the Global African Family. Past and present events in our world today have clearly affirmed the reality that African unity is a pre-requisite to Africa’s total emancipation. Given that truism, the cultural unity of Africa, provides an indigenous solid foundation, a natural starting point for the search for all other forms of unity. So far the programs of Panefest/Emancipation Day have amply demonstrated the common roots of the divers cultures of the Global African Family and the potential power they hold for the spiritual, economic and political re-unification of Africans. To fully realize this potential power, Panafest has to be perfected and Emancipation Day emancipated from parochial group interest, unhealthy competitiveness and from all forms of partisan party politicization. Panafest, in the context of pure Pan-African principles pre-dates partisan politics. The African Family should therefore persevere to preserve the purity of those principles. The process of perfecting Panafest is already in progress. The Panafest Foundation has already put in place the mechanism for pruning Panafest’s operational excesses in order to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. The appropriate governmental agencies both in Ghana and in other branches of the African Family around the world have taken steps to support and strengthen Panafest/Emancipation Day. Evidently, there are still challenging hurdles to be cleared to ensure the survival and viability of this twin Pan-African commemorative festival. With a concerted effort, by individuals, organizations and state agencies, these challenging hurdles can be surmounted. The intent of this article, therefore, is to contribute to the ongoing effort towards a maximum realization of the potential benefits of Panafest/Emancipation Day. The writer examines the historical background and inherent lessons of Pan-African cultural festivals; and discusses issues relating to organizational structu! re, funding sources, role of the state, program content, and mode of operation, promotional strategies and dissemination of program outcomes. Parents of Panafest Panafest/Emancipation Day is an offspring of earlier efforts to apply the power of culture to promote a reunification of Africans around the world. Built on the foundations of such earlier efforts these twin cultural festivals are rapidly growing roots, reaching far and near in the African World, and providing the impetus for a closer spiritual, political, intellectual and economic interaction among the scattered sons and daughters of Mother Africa. In addition to its impact on the African World, Panafest/Emancipation Day is bearing positive fruits among friends of African peoples. With their exciting and thought provoking programs this twin festivals are revealing the hidden truth of the outstanding contributions that African peoples have made towards the development of human civilization. As a result, friends of Africans are being sensitized towards a higher sense of humanism and a genuine appreciation of both the glorious and painful histories of the African peoples. It is an evolving phenomenon that has the potential of liberating friends of Africans and Africans themselves from prejudices based on misconceptions and ignorance. With the entrenchment and the rapid growth of Panafest/Emancipation Day, the vision of our beloved ancestor, Nana Efua Sutherland (the founder of Panafest) and all others who came before her has come to pass. The seeds they planted have sprouted and grown roots deeply embedded in the rich and fertile cultural soil of Ghana. They have also nurtured a sense of human mutuality in the hearts and minds of Africans and friends of Africans around the world. Our illustrious ancestors have passed the mantle to our generation; what we do with it would demonstrate the depth of our commitment to uphold their vision and enshrine it for posterity. While Panafest has its uniqueness, it is not without precedence. The formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in May of 1963 inspired a cultural renaissance of African peoples. Pan-African cultural festivals were conceived planned and implemented to infuse a sense of belongingness and cultural pride among Africans around the world. The earliest of them was the First World Festival of Black Arts held in Dakar in 1966. The Dakar festival was rooted in a continuing search for ways of reviving the ideals of the Pan-African Movement. The originators of Pan-Africanism recognized the importance of using culture as a unifying factor among the Global African Family. In the spirit of that vision the Dakar festival set the tone and energized the Global African Family. It was to become a bi-annual event to provide the platform for the display of the rich and dynamic cultures of Africans around the world and also to provide a stimulating environment for a sober reflection on the part glorious and part painful histories of the African Family. It was not to be. Adversaries of the African Family saw in it a formidable power to unite and infuse a sense of cultural pride and political reawakening among the African Family. It promised to be too powerful a phenomenon to be left to evolve into an effective tool for the struggle against external economic and political domination. The less united Africans are the easier it would be to exploit them. Forces inimical to the African struggle used both internal and external agents to undermine the viability of such a Pan-African oriented festival. Vulnerable African leaders succumbed to these machinations and instead of using culture as a unifying force; it rather became a divisive force. Ill-motivated desires of some leaders to draw attention to themselves and their respective countries endangered continental unity. Other leaders felt more allegiance to their former colonial masters than to the Pan-African cause. Efforts by some progressive visionary African leaders were undermined by their own people acting on the orders of their external manipulators. Attempts to form regional political and economic unions were sabotaged. Rather, few politically naïve military officers were urged on to pursue fruitless military adventurism that resulted in a wanton destabilization of the emerging democracies and the cradling modern economies in the African World. Military coups begat military coups; autocracy fed popular discontentment and the resultant social instability blurred political visions and diluted passion for Pan-Africanism. Consequently, the need to use culture to bring the Global African family together was not a priority within the individual branches of the Family. At this time the OAU at its teething stage, could not muster enough muzzle to foster a true African Unity. Once again, Africa was literally partitioned and used as a pawn in the geo-political power play among the industrial powers all eyeing the rich natural resources of Africa. W! arnings by the early Pan-Africanists of an impending “neo-colonialism as the last stage of imperialism”, unfortunately, were not taken seriously by some African leaders whose perception of their national advancement was more linked to outside political blocks than to Africa. Clarion calls of “Africa Must Unite” were ignored and the disunity of Africa fertilized the industrial supremacy of the industrial powers. Did the African Family learn any lessons? We are yet to find out. Notwithstanding the inability to build on its success, the First World Festival of Black Arts provided the impetus for FESTAC (The second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture) held in Nigeria in 1977. Despite its lateness, FESTAC finally came to pass. As was envisaged, it brought together peoples of African descent from around the world, including the black indigenous peoples of Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Caribbean, Central America, South America, North America and Europe. It was a premier Global African event that had the potential to give African unity a great boost. It’s magnitude and spectacle was unprecedented. Indeed, it was the cultural Olympics of the African World. But that too suffered the same fate as the First World Festival of Black Arts. The Global African Family did underestimate the intrusive and destructive power of its external adversaries and their internal agents. The same level of political vulnerability and egotism that characterized the immediate post-independence African leadership, (with few exceptions) reared their ugly heads again. Some African leaders would rather spend their national treasures in acquisition of destructive military arsenal to fight among themselves than fund Pan-African cultural festivals. They would rather empty their national coffers to fill the banks in foreign lands than to build cultural institutions to showcase the splendor and dignity of their arts and culture. The blunted edge of the envisaged power of Pan-African cultural festivals during this period was symptomatic of the political chaos and an absence of vision that characterized political and intellectual leadership of that era. With the absence of all that could unite us, a vacuum was created and filled by all that could divide us. FESTAC in spite of all its shortcomings demonstrated the potential of such festivals as vehicles for a collective appreciation of the factors that unite us and therefore diminish those that divide us. It was amply demonstrated that the power of cultural unity and all its manifestations can blunt the inimical effects of territorial squabbles and political misconceptions. If it had stayed course, FESTAC would have given the African Family a platform for an annual gathering to showcase our creative ingenuity and replace gatherings for cross border exchanges of bullets, grenades and bombs. Sounds of horns and drums would have been for praise and glorification of excellence rather than for preparation for wars. Dances and acrobatic displays would have been for the exhibition of our physical agility and a celebration of our past glories rather than for the display of our ability to inflict physical brutalities upon ourselves. Our visual creative expressions would have celebrated the beauty of our land, the richness of our customs and traditions, the grandeur of our past and present and the outstanding achievements of our heroes and heroines rather than a visual documentation of the horror and devastation that come with wars and social tensions. In short, FESTAC was a comprehensive festival pregnant with tremendous potential for giving Africans around the world reasons to want to be Africans and live together in peace and in harmony. But that too was not to be. The next edition of FESTAC was to have taken place in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. But, oh no; Africa, Mother Africa was made to shed tears again. While one of her children cried for this, another cried for that, while others cried for neither this nor that, (to paraphrase, Alan Paton in Cry My Beloved Country). Ethiopia was engulfed in political chaos that resulted in economic devastation and social instability. The African Family was at war with itself, helped by outsiders who wished no peace and stability for the scattered children of Mother Africa. Africa was caught between the senseless Cold War power struggles among their former colonial masters and their adversaries. Consequences of Africa’s entanglement in the Cold War were rampant military coups in many African countries that fostered autocratic leadership who only existed to supervise economic devastation and political chaos. As our African sages have said, when two elephants are fighting, it is the grass that suffers most. Rampant social and economic instabilities in Africa diminished enthusiasm and pride within the rest of the African Family outside the continent. What Africans around the world would have been proud of about Africa were unfortunately overshadowed by what they were shameful about. There was very little within Africa to be proud of, and almost nothing worthy to go back to. Consequently, like its predecessor, The First World Festival of Black Arts, FESTAC succumbed to destructive external and internal manipulations and distractions. In the process, it crumbled under its own weight and another FESTAC never came to light. The African Family coiled into its shell and went into a long cultural hibernation. The demise of FESTAC, however, fertilized the soil for the germination of yet another festival. The resilience of the African spirit for survival, like a cork under water, can never be permanently pushed down. It popped up again. The dormant spirit of FESTAC was revived and manifested itself in numerous other cultural festivals within the African Family around the world. We are experiencing a dispersal of seeds from a big tree that seized producing fruits, because unscrupulous individuals scrapped off its bark. Yet the towering dormant tree provides abode for birds and other creatures which continue the chain of dispersal of seeds from the new trees that came into being as a result of the dispersal of seeds from the old tree - FESTAC. Though FESTAC failed to fulfill its expectation as heir to the First World Festival of Black Arts, it nurtured the germination of numerous Pan-African oriented cultural festivals around the African World. Variations of similar cultural festivals modeled after FESTAC have since emerged in other parts of the African World. Senegal has its Biennial DAKART (Dakar Art). In the U.S. the Black Arts Festival is held bi-annually in Atlanta and in the Caribbean and among Caribbean communities in the U.S., there has been a blossoming of cultural festivals all with Pan-African orientation. Emancipation
Day is celebrated in a number of Caribbean countries and among the Caribbean communities in North America and Great Britain. The Birth of Panafest The historical background of Panafest/Emancipation Day is as instructive as it is inspirational. An awareness of it would deepen an appreciation of the vision that gave birth to them and throw light on their political, historical and economic import. Panafest is a contemporary by-product of Pan-Africanism. Its underlining philosophy is deeply rooted in the ideals of Pan-Africanism as envisioned by such illustrious sons of Africa as Marcus Garvey, Eric Williams, W.E.B. Dubois, and Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah among others. Cast in the mold of the Pan-African spirit, Panafest was meant to provide a framework for a Pan-African cultural expression with the intention to bring the Global African Family together to revive, reaffirm and sustain the glorious aspects of our civilization in order to provide the bonding ingredients for our modern development effort. The term PANAFEST is an acronym for Pan-African Historical Theatrical Festival. The name and the essence of the festival were inspired by the title of a paper “Proposal for a Historical Drama Festival in Cape Coast” written and presented in 1980 by our beloved Nana Efua Sutherland, a celebrated Ghanaian playwright, dramatist and an avowed Pan-Africanist. The spirit and the vision behind that paper bore the first fruits when the first Panafest was planned and successfully executed in 1992, with the full support of the Ghana Government under the leadership of Flt. Lt. J.J. Rawlings, then the President of Ghana and the Organization of African Unity (now African Union). The first Panafest set the stage for the mood and the structure for subsequent ones. The general theme for Panafest is “The Re-emergence of African Civilization – Reuniting the African Family” with a sub-theme reflecting critical concerns of the time. The theme for Panafest 2001, for example, was “The Re-emergence of African Civilization: Bringing the African Family together through Information Technology”. Program content of each Panafest has consistently reflected historical issues and critical concerns of the day within the Global African Family. In line with this principle Panafest 2003 has been themed “The Re-emergence of African Civilization – Reuniting the African Family” with a sub-theme “African Traditional Rulers – Partners in the Development of Africa and Strengthening of the African Union”. Panafest is guided by a set of objectives rooted in the spirit of Pan-Africanism. These are: 1. to establish the truth about the history of Africa and experience of its people, using the vehicles of African arts and culture.
2. To provide a forum to promote unity between Africans on the continent an in the Diaspora.
3. To affirm the common heritage of African peoples the world over and define Africa’s contribution to World Civilization.
4. To encourage regular review of Africa’s development objectives, strategies and policies.
5. To mobilize alternative options for development. And driven by the collective will of Africans to come together to reclaim their past and build for the future.
Since its inception in 1992, Panafest has featured numerous performing and visual artists of international repute from the African World. Among them are such highly celebrated and internationally acclaimed musicians as Stevie Wonder, Diane Warwick Isaac Hayes from the U.S. Rita Marley (Bob Marley’s wife) from the Caribbean, and Yvonne Chaka Chaka from South Africa. In addition there have been world-class performing artists from Great Britain, Nigeria, Surinam, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica. The international Visual Art Exhibition has also featured outstanding artists from the U.S., Caribbean and Nigeria. Scholars of high repute from the African World have participated in the scholarly colloquium. Like Panafest, Emancipation Day is a celebration rooted in the history of the Global African Family. It was born out of the desire to enshrine 1st August, the day of the Proclamation of Emancipation (1834 in North America and 1838 in the Caribbean) to end the enslavement of Africans. It was intended to be a day of celebration of victory over the forces of evil and a solemn observance of both the spiritual and political significance of the day to Africans everywhere. Emancipation Day keeps reminding us of the evils of slavery that our ancestors endured and strengthens our resolve never to allow it to happen again. Consequently, August 1st was observed as an important day in the Caribbean, especially in Jamaica and Trinidad. The spirit behind Emancipation Day found a rich and fertile cultural soil and an accommodating Pan-Africanistic political environment nurtured in Ghana since her independence in 1957. Given such a supportive atmosphere, Emancipation Day thrived in Ghana ! when governmental support initiated its transplantation to Ghana in 1997 and had a perfect marriage with Panafest. Since then both have been celebrated together, as a twin commemorative festival, with elements of each complementing the other. Today, Panafest and its twin sister Emancipation Day have grown roots and are showing signs of survivability. Together they place Ghana in a unique position to continue to provide leadership in the nurturing of Pan-Africanism and the struggle for true political and economic emancipation in the African World. In this context, therefore, it is encouraging that during his launching speech at Panafest 2001, Vice President Alhaji Mahama gave the assurance that, the government places premium on these events because Ghana’s role as the beacon of hope for the Black race cannot be compromised, given that, Ghana, since independence in 1957, has served as the catalyst for regaining the dignity of peoples of African descent.
The fifth edition of PANAFEST (PANAFEST 2001) and its twin festival, Emancipation Day achieved significant success. In the spirit of the vision of its founder, it showcased the painful but inspiring memories of the history of the Global African Family, the resilience of its spirit of survival and the splendor of its indomitable cultural heritage. In its usual spectacular display of colorful sight and pulsating sounds, Panafest 2001 in a spiritual and festive union with Emancipation Day gave Ghana a platform to bring the scattered sons and daughters of Africa together to remind themselves of both the greatness and the pitfalls of their past and how to use the lessons of the past to face the challenges of the present and the future. Cognizant of the challenges of the realities of today’s technological globalization, Panafest 2001 focused on the theme “Bringing the African Family together through Information Technology”. Notwithstanding the usual logistical constraints and organizational handicaps, Panafest 2001, indeed succeeded in bringing together the young and the old of the African Family from far and near. With an utmost sense of positive pride, they came to display the historical significance of their creativity in the visual and performing arts, to collectively ponder over critical and challenging social and historical issues of the day, and search for strategies to ensure the survival and advancement of the African Family. The sixth edition of Panafest/Emancipation Day 2003 begins on July 23 and ends on August 5. It continues the general theme of Reuniting the African Family for Development. This general theme is supplemented with a sub-theme relating to the strengthening of the newly born African Union and an exploration of the role of traditional rulers as partners in development in the African World. The official theme for this year’s celebrations is: “RE-emergence of African Civilization” – “Reuniting the African Family” – “African Traditional Rulers – Partners in the Development of Africa and Strengthening of the African Union”. There are reasons to believe that there is a collective international will to nurture Panafest and Emancipation Day to bear the envisaged golden fruits. The enormous reservoir of goodwill towards Ghana on the international scene, over the years, has been extended to the Panafest and Emancipation Day movement in both tangible and intangible ways. Increasingly, these twin Pan-African commemorative events are becoming a source of inspiration within the Pan-African cultural communities because of their historical, cultural, political and economic significance to the total liberation of Africans and peoples of African descent everywhere. Such an inspiration is likely to be reinforced by the merging of Panafest with Emancipation Day. Since Emancipation Day was being observed in some parts of the African Diaspora before the inception of Panafest, the logistical merger of the two offers Ghana the opportunity to live up to its role as the guardian and a frontline country for cultural affirmation and economic liberation of African peoples. All these are positive indications of a bubbling creative and political energy on the international arena nourishing the roots of this unique Pan-African cultural tree – Panafest/Emancipation Day. For this tree to bear the expected golden fruits, the people of Ghana and their government should muster all their creative energies and resources to complement the international goodwill and make Panafest/Emancipation Day a powerful vehicle for political and economic development in addition to its spiritual rejuvenation role. There is ample evidence suggesting that the people of Ghana and their government have sufficiently demonstrated their willingness to nurture Panafest and Emancipation into maturity. Despite her current temporary economic difficulties, Ghana has demonstrated a strong commitment to the realization of the goals of Panafest/Emancipation. The general mood of the people and government policy initiatives are pointers to a collective will to make Ghana a welcoming home for Africans around the world. Pronouncements of high government officials in recent times give comforting indications that the Government of Ghana has recognized its role in maximizing the potential economic and political benefits of cultural festivals. During the launching of Panafest/Emancipation Day ’01, The Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama and Madam Hawa Yakubu, Minister of Tourism emphasized the Government’s recognition of such cultural events as important vehicles for national development. As the Vice President aptly put it, “…culture is the primary force of collective consciousness that makes it possible to build national awareness”. In similar spirit, Madam Hawa Yakubu pointed out that “…events such as Panafest and Emancipation Day create business opportunities for our local people and the business community at large” When all these sentiments and pronouncements are translated into practical realities, Panafest/Emancipation Day will significantly enhance Ghana’s global image politically, and economically. To achieve the inherent political and economic benefits, Panafest/Emancipation Day has to be seen in the total context of our national effort to develop tourism as a major foreign exchange generator. The current official estimation is that tourism has the potential to become the second largest foreign exchange earner for Ghana. Potentially, Panafest/Emancipation Day can become a major hub in the wheel of the tourism drive. Because of its international character, it is increasingly attracting more tourists than any other traditional festival in Ghana. Indeed, Hon. Kojo Yankah, Chairman of the International Board of Panafest was reflecting the realities on the ground when he proclaimed during the launching of Panafest’01: “…I can say with a great deal of pride and confidence that it is still the biggest international cultural festival on the continent of Africa”. If Panafest/Emancipation Day is complemented with our traditional festivals such as Odwira, Akwasidae, Damba, Aboakyer, Bakatue, Homowo, Akwambo, Apoo, Hogbetsotso and others, Ghana will truly become a cultural Gateway to Africa. The economic and political implications are invaluable. Perfecting Panafest For Ghana, Panafest/Emancipation Day is a unique phenomenon and has an implication for her role as a leading exponent of African Unity. It is in the context of this role that the nurturing of Panafest becomes a strategic political and economic tool. As Vice President Alhaji Mahama aptly put it when launching Panafest/Emancipation Day, “Its utility, therefore has to be seen not only in terms of the economic bonanza for Ghana, but how it can be used as a psychological booster for the reunification of the African Family”. It is noteworthy that the seminal theme “The Re-Emergence of the African Civilization and the Re-Unification of the African Family” quite appropriately expresses the spirit that gave birth to the Panafest movement Since its inception, Panafest has gone through its teething problems and is now at a point where it has to be properly nurtured to maximize its potential benefits. Its merger with Emancipation Day expands the potential benefits that cut across all areas of development. It is the view of this writer that, if properly nurtured Panafest/Emancipation Day is a potential pot of gold. Besides its enormous economic potentials, it can provide a psychological boost for African peoples around the world. Presently, it is, perhaps the major Pan-African-oriented international festival that has generated an enormous goodwill towards Ghana among peoples of African descent and friends of Ghana around the World. From personal, experience, the mere mention of Panafest/Emancipation Day conjures up a great deal of pride and enthusiasm, not only among peoples of African descent but also among non-African peoples who have special place in their hearts for Ghana and for that matter for Africa. This is evidenced by the multi-racial composition of Panafest/Emancipation Day participants at all events. All that goodwill and enthusiasm, notwithstanding, Panafest/Emancipation Day still faces mountains of challenges, basically fiscal in nature. Undoubtedly, there is no shortage of capable men and women to manage the affairs of the Panafest Foundation. However, without a strong funding base, efficiency and effectiveness of outcomes will be compromised. This is increasingly being evidenced by the fact that Panafest 2001 is the 5th Panafest, and yet the Panafest Foundation, is still struggling for funding. This continuous scrambling for funding during every Panafest has the potential to undermine efficiency and therefore the overall image of this very important legacy left for us by our forbearers. The success in nurturing Panafest/Emancipation Day into an economically viable national endeavor hinges on two primary factors: National perception and international perception. National perception comes down to selling Panafest/Emancipation as an event for all Ghanaians and not fashioned only for some Ghanaians and foreign tourists. Tourism has both internal and external dimensions, and each complements the other. All Ghanaians should therefore see Panafest/Emancipation Day as a national event beneficial to us as one people. There is not a shortage of good mothers and fathers, grandpas and grandmas to nurture this young cultural institution. However, the young baby, should first, be recognized as a legitimate product of national effort. In other words, the nation has to come to grips with the fact that, Panafest/Emancipation Day is its baby and should therefore show commitment to its survival. Through its governmental machinery the state should provide the necessary support! ive inputs to ensure the growth of Panafest/Emancipation Day. It has enormous untapped economic and political reserves, and if properly harnessed would yield tremendous economic benefit not only to Ghana but also to the entire Global African Family. Recommendations Naturally, there are no quick solutions to the challenging issues raised at the outset. However, where there is a will there is a way. And wherever there are no problems there is no progress. The following recommendations are offered for consideration in our collective effort to search for strategies to nurture and maximize the potential benefits of Panafest. 1. Lessons from challenges and achievements of the past. Analysis of previous efforts point to two major factors that can make or break Pan-African cultural festivals: 1.The presence or absence of unqualified internal support and operational efficiency; 2. Genuine external support or direct and indirect efforts at destabilization.
To guarantee the viability and longevity of Panafest/Emancipation Day, African leaders should put the long term interest of Africa above their own personal political ambitions and give full support to the use of cultural festival in promoting African unity. They should desist from making such cultural festivals instruments of partisan political maneuvering and rather support a group of independent minded, highly dedicated and professionally proficient individuals to plan and manage all aspects of Panafest/Emancipation Day. The African Union should adopt it and weave it into the fabric of its overall vision and programs. Events in the world today have vindicated our forbearers’ insistence on the unity of Africa as the surest way to ensure true political liberation and rapid economic development.
Given what we know now about the capabilities of detractors and supporters of African unity, we should know our true friends and do the right thing to attract their genuine support while we remain alert about potential manipulations and machinations. We can be distracted from our path to progress only if we allow it by not being vigilant. Such detractors will find no fertile grounds to sew the seeds of disunity if we ourselves have saturated the soil with our own seeds of unity. Friends would extend genuine help only when we are genuine and highly dedicated to our cause. Such help should be sought without compromising our dignity and cultural integrity. 2. Governance Given the historical reality that Panafest was born and nurtured in a national cradle, it may be argued that the governance of Panafest should be under an absolute control of its original parent - the State. However, experiences of our political history, alert us to the potential dangers of such an absolute state control. It is all too real the potential for the politicization of such a politically non-partisan cultural institution of an international character. The dilemma, however is that, Panafest/Emancipation Day, at this stage is financially too fragile to stand and walk on its own.
Given the potential development benefits and risks inherent in Panafest/Emancipation Day, its structure and operation should be reviewed and if need be reconstituted. The current Panafest Foundation should be legally chartered as a quasi state cultural institution and charged with the responsibility of administering Panafest/Emancipation Day. It should then be place under an appropriate State Ministry and the relevant cultural agency, the National Commission on Culture, (NCC) in this case. State policy would then guide the festival and all related operation. Financial support from the State should be given without any political strings attached. The NCC should limit itself to playing an advisory role, allowing a full administrative autonomy to the PF. The current structure of the PF may be reviewed and if necessary revamped and strengthened to make it more financially capable. The Smithsonian Institution (SI) model in the U.S. may provide some ideas for modification to suit our local situation. Like the SI the State, through Parliamentary appropriation, should provide financial support, (including wages for executive positions and support staff) for the program planning and implementation. The PF should, however be given the freedom to solicit for funds or in-kind contributions from inside and outside Ghana to augment State financial support. The use of such funds should be fully accounted for in the annual report of the PF.
To justify such a State financial obligation, a Board of Directors should be appointed by the State under the recommendation of the NCC and in consultation with the PF. The PF under the guidance of The Board of Directors should be given the authority and the freedom to initiate, plan programs and execute them in a manner that would represent the national character.
To achieve this rather abstract concept of “a national character”, the NCC, the Board of Directors and the PF should solicit ideas from independent and open-minded cultural scholars and cultural practitioners from diverse cultural and professional backgrounds, - a sort of a think-tank. A mechanism should be in place for an interaction among the NCC, the PF the Board of Directors and this think-tank in order to foster the formulation of mutually acceptable program content and implementation strategies. Program content and venues, as necessity should reflect the national character, and accommodate diversity from the Global African Family. Emphasis should be placed on quality, dignity and diversity. The overall goal of “Re-uniting the African Family” should be the guiding light. Certainly, it will take more than administrative and political ingenuity to achieve this goal. Indeed, it will take faith in each other and a mutual appreciation of our common destiny.
The alternative structure of governance is to maintain the private status of the Panafest Foundation and turn it into a sort of NGO. If the PF is to maintain such an absolute independence from the State, it will need to revamp its operations and aspire to self-reliance. Obviously, there are benefits and risks in going absolutely independent, but it is doable. Strategies to achieve self-reliance are discussed below, under the sub-headings, Funding and Promotional and Marketing Strategies. 3. Program Content Since its inception, program content of Panafest has been impressive. Care was taken to include both the famous and the not so famous, local and international, continental African and Diaspora African. As Panafest/Emancipation Day is growing, its program content should grow with it. Past experiences provide the basis for a review of the current program content with the view to eliminate some, improve upon others and introduce new ones. At the moment, there seems to be a strong emphasis on the performing arts with little attention given to the visual and literary arts. This can be corrected by a reorganization of the International Visual Arts Exhibition an introduction of poetry reading and book review sections. As this writer has suggested before, a more accommodating venue should be looked for at the University of Cape Coast campus for a more professional and international level program of display, exhibition opening and related panel discussions and lecture pres! entations. Funds could be obtained from such art related corporations as publication houses, textile companies, graphic display companies and agencies of foreign governments, which support such visual arts endeavors. Acclaimed novelists and playwrights should be invited to discuss their works and answer questions from an audience. The current colloquium format should be reviewed and revised. The current long sessions of presentations should make way for shorter and more issue oriented presentations. Two or three plenary sessions with focused discussions may be more effective than too many small group sessions. Fewer small group sessions should be organized with focus on some really critical issues that require professional expertise, i.e. health related or education related issues.4. Nationalizing and internationalizing program content Program content should reflect cultural diversity within both the host country and the larger African Family. This requires a consultation with national cultural authorities in each branch of the Family. Quality and good taste, however, should not be compromised for the sake of mere diversity. Selection of participants from various branches of the Family should be guided by predetermined criteria and a transparent process of auditioning and quality assessment. On the Ghanaian scene, one of the thorny challenges that Panafest/Emancipation Day has been facing since its inception is how to give it a national character. This is rooted in the question of perception. It is no secret now the fact that many Ghanaians outside Central Region have perceived Panafest as an event for the Central Region folks and their African-American tourists. It is a view that has been expressed to my own hearing a number of times. It may be dismissed as a view rooted in misconception and ignorance. The reality, however, is that, in public relations public perception rules. While such a perception may have been shaped by misinformation or inadequacy of information, it cannot be brushed aside for it has the potential to muddy the waters and blur the vision. The solution lies in intensive and extensive information flow. An information campaign should lay emphasis on the national focus of the original vision of Panafest as has been amply demonstrated in previous Panafest programs. In addition, regional representation should be made highly visible and widely propagated. Yet still, effort should be made to broaden regional diversity in program content. With a bit of creativity, Panafest can take a leaf from the now dormant National Festival of Arts, and develop ethnically inclusive program content. While Central Region should continue to be the primary location of Panafest due to the predominance of historical sites in the region, effort should be made to locate some programs in regions that boast of significant historical and cultural sites and events.
Developing nationally representative program content is as challenging as giving Panafest a wider representation of the diversity of the Global African Family. Effort should be made to extend the net wider to include more continental African countries and other countries. Efforts should be made to attract participation from African countries which have never sent delegations.
In the African Diaspora, effort should be made to target other smaller countries in that region. Besides such Caribbean countries as Jamaica and Trinidad/Tobago that have been regularly represented the net should be widened to include other countries in South America and Central America where there is a visible presence of African culture in many facets of life. The International Advisory Board as a necessity should reflect the diversity of the Global African Family. 5. Funding Funding has been one of the uphill challenges for the Panafest Foundation since its inception. The net for funding sources can be widened both at the national and international levels. Whether it will remain a private foundation independent of the State or whether it would be reconstituted as a quasi state cultural festival under the appropriate State Agency, funds are crucial to its survival and viability. From nine years of his involvement in Panafest, this writer can confidently make the claim for a substantive State financial support. Panafest is a potential pot of gold economically and spiritually. A nation like Ghana that has championed the Pan-African cause since before and after the inception of its nationhood, cannot and should not sacrifice such a precious Pan-African cultural event on the altar of privatization. Panafest/Emancipation Day is bound to the spirit and soul of the African peoples and has become central to the complex web of the political, economical and cultural renaissance of the Global African Family. It is a modern testimony to the tenacity, the indestructibility and durability of what W.E.B. Du Bois termed the “Soul of Black Folks”. In effect, with Panafest/Emancipation Day, Ghana can boldly and proudly reaffirm our forbearers’ proclamation to the African World and the world at large, that “the independence of Ghana will be meaningless unless it is linked with the total liberation of the African peoples”.
Panafest/Emancipation Day therefore has become a tangible expression of that historic statement on the birth of Ghana’s nationhood. When Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah made that statement on that historic day, he was perhaps including Panafest in that divine vision of Ghana’s role in the African World. Panafest/Emancipation Day is a potential tool with which Ghana can amply demonstrate her ability to use the power of culture to foster economic and political interaction towards the envisioned total liberation of the African peoples. Panafest is, therefore, too precious to be privatized. Its twin sister, Emancipation Day represents our collective historical experiences and our collective vision towards our mental and economic emancipation. It is too important to be perceived as peripheral to our common struggle to reclaim and preserve our dignity and honor. That is why the Government of Ghana should accept the responsibility to make both events a national heritage, adequately fund it; encourage the Ecowas and the African Union to embrace it and use it as a model to showcase Africa’s contribution to the culture of this our Global Village. To augment governmental funding sources, the Panafest Foundation should widen its fundraising net. The Global African Family boasts of highly financially endowed men and women who, if properly approached, will happily make impressive financial commitment to Panafest/Emancipation Day. So far that avenue has not been adequately explored. An effective system of fundraising should be established in the major cities in the African World with capable men and women constituting fundraising committees. At each of these centers, an office should be set up with up-to-date business communication facilities and operated by at least one highly aggressive and organizationally savvy individual who would spearhead all fundraising and promotional activities. Panafest has grown to a point where its international operation cannot be run from a brief case. A physical facility is a pre-requisite to an efficient and productive operation. It is from such a facility where serious fundraising efforts would be conducted on year-round basis. From there an aggressive effort would be made to establish a data-base of all potential financial supporters. In order to maintain and sustain their commitment to Panafest/Emancipation Day special incentives should be given to such targeted individuals, organizations, government agencies and corporations. At the end of Panafest’94, this writer submitted a proposal that recommended, a construction of a special wall mural at a strategic location, in clear public view at the Kotoka International Airport where names of donors etched on gold, silver or bronze tablets (commensurate with level of donation) would be mounted as a way of extending recognition and appreciation. This would encourage others to make financial contributions. Funds and in kind contributions for the construction of such an edifice can be solicited from both local and international graphics display and architectural companies. Website for Panafest Emancipation Day should feature list of names of individual or corporate contributors. The current practice of giving awards to contributors should be expanded and improved upon. Such awards should be widely publicized both in print and electronic media in Africa and within the rest of the African Family.
6. Promotional and marketing strategies Panafest has all it takes to promote itself. The nature and impact of the event itself is a powerful selling tool. To maximize this potential creative promotional and marketing strategies have to be adopted. Since perceptions and expectations differ at the local and international arenas, strategies targeted at the local Ghanaian audience should be slightly different from those targeted at the international audience. As suggested earlier, the Global African Family should be divided into regions: North America, Caribbean and South America, Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, Asia, North Africa, Central and East Africa, West Africa and South Africa. A Panafest Office should be set up in one strategic city in each region, with a partially paid person and a host of volunteers to carry out fundraising, promotional and marketing activities. Each regional office would augment its budget with funds legally raised and properly accounted for. Details of this proposal can be worked out by the Board of Directors and the International Advisory Board. An intensive utilization of the electronic and print media should be pursued to sell the image of Panafest/Emancipation to the world. TV and radio programs, videos and posters of Panafest should come out at least three months before the commencement of festival. Libraries of Embassies, cities, schools and colleges should receive free copies of Panafest/Emancipation Day videos for both educational and promotional purposes. Presentations and displays on Panafest should be made at other Pan-African cultural festivals in other cities around the world. Panafest bumper stickers, badges and kente stoles should be made and sold or freely given out for promotional purposes. Funds for this media blitz may be raised from governmental sources, corporate sources, and from individuals. Each regional office can be authorized to engage in the sale of official Panafest videos, CDs, DVDs, photographs, t-shirts, buttons, bumper stickers, program catalogs, booklets and Pan-African books. These ! items may be directly produced by the Panafest Foundation or could be contracted to private businesses under a close supervision of the regional office. If contracted, the contractor would pay an agreeable percentage of proceeds to the Panafest Foundation. 7. Supportive infrastructure and social environment The success of any internationally oriented festival such as Panafest/Emancipation Day lies in the congeniality of the social environment and adequacy and efficiency of infrastructure. This is an area where the Government, in collaboration with the private business community should collaborate. Much cannot be said here about this subject, since the realities are on the ground. There is a dire need to upgrade our hospitality industries, our roads, our communication systems and transportations systems, including the performance of our national airline, Ghana Airways. Since a large number of participants come from outside Ghana, efficient air transportation is indispensable, in fact, it is a pre-requisite. As of now, our national airline has not performed impressively to the satisfaction of our foreign participants. It is an issue that calls for an immediate attention form the State. Efficient and safe road transportation is equally a pre-requisite to the success of Panafest/Emancipation Day. Much has been written and said about these topics, but little has so far been done to improve upon the situation. It is hoped that the new Administration will view these as national priorities, because they have a lot to do with how the African Family and the world at large would perceive us and judge our verbal pronouncement of being the western Gateway to Africa. We cannot claim to be a Gateway to Africa if we even don’t have good drive ways to parts of our capital city and good roads connecting our major cities, towns and villages. Cape Coast and Elmina, the heart of Panafest/Emancipation Day have such deplorable roads they undermine our claim to a Gateway to Africa. It is heartening to learn that an effort is currently being made to convert the Accra-Cape Coast and Accra-Kumasi roads into first class highways. The communication front has improved considerably, but there is more work to be done. There has been a significant increase in the quantity and quality of the telephone system. Mobile phones are easily available and they work in most part of the country. There is still room for improvement in the quality of reception and efficient customer services. Access to internet services is quite good and is rapidly increasing. The low quality of the national phone line continues to undermine the quality of internet services. This problem can be resolved through collaboration between the State and the private business community. The hospitality of Ghanaian people is one great asset that Ghana can proudly boast of. It is an asset that has to be sustained and enhanced since it provides the cornerstone to Ghana’s external image, a crucial factor in the success of international cultural festivals. Appropriate State agency should mountain an extensive educational campaign to induce the populace to continue to display good manners among themselves and extend same to our international visitors. This should include special orientation to custom and immigration officers, airport officials and attendants; civil service officials who come in direct contact with our foreign visitors; the police and other state and private security agencies; cab drivers, bus drivers, hotel attendants, and shop owners. Radio and TV should be employed for such an educational campaign. 8. Dissemination and utilization of program outcomes Effective dissemination and utilization of program outcomes enhance the image of the festival and the image of the host country. They also help raise funds and inspire potential future participants. No matter how impressive festivals outcomes would turn out to be, if results are not effectively disseminated and utilized, they would just be like a pot of gold still hidden in the ground at the end of the rainbow. It is in this light therefore, that efforts should be intensified towards a multi-media documentation of some of the most significant components of the festival, package them and disseminate around the world. A special unit should be set up within the Panafest Foundation and be made solely responsible for all aspects of documentation, packaging and marketing. The proposed regional offices would then be supplied with materials to launch promotional and fund raising events. Some of such materials as video, CDs, DVDs, books, booklets, posters and photographs may be sold or freely given out to schools, colleges, libraries, embassies and cultural institutions for promotional or fundraising purposes. 9. Membership Drive Panafest/Emancipation has evolved to a point where it has to institute categories of membership. Categories may include Government, Corporate, Educational Institutions, Organizations, Individuals, and Students. Membership would come with responsibilities and privileges attractive enough to reinforce commitment and loyalty to the cause of the Panafest Foundation. A committee may be set up to work out the details. Conclusion
Past and modern human histories have confirmed the power of culture to promote political alliances, stimulate economic growth and induce social coherence and stability. Ancient civilizations and medieval empires in Africa and elsewhere employed the unseen hands of culture to achieve great political and economic heights. In our contemporary world nations have consistently used the power of their culture to motivate close political ties which in turn foster bilateral economic ties. In some cases culture helps melt down the threat of wars and animosities. The cases of China versus the U.S. and Russia versus the U.S. are noteworthy examples.
The Global African Family has made attempts to boost unity and stimulate collective economic development through cultural festivals. Early attempts spurred by the ideals of Pan-Africanism faced some teething problems. The vision did not varnish. Lessons were learned and new seeds have sprouted from the soil fertilized by the demise of earlier attempts. The result is a blossoming of new Pan-African oriented cultural festivals all over the African World. Today, Panafest/Emancipation Day that emerged from earlier efforts has become a reality. It offers the African Family an opportunity for a re-emergence of their past glorious of its histories and for a spiritual and political re-unification of the scattered sons and daughters of Mother Africa. The march has only just begun. There are challenges and impediments ahead, but the demonstrated resilience of the African spirit is enough testimony to our ability to survive and triumph.
To triumph, we need to make use of the lessons of the past, rejuvenate our energies, tune-up our systems and utilize all available resources at our disposal. The forgoing has only scratched the surface of the issues. It is intended to stimulate thought and action towards a fruitful Panafest/Emancipation, which would benefit not only this generation, but those yet to come.
Potentially, Panafest is a pot of gold both in the material and spiritual sense. This glittering gold is real gold whose shinning light can brighten the economic and political future of the Global African Family. Africans Must Unite.
The Writer is a Member, Board Member, Panafest Foundation. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.