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04.10.2008 Feature Article

Legacies of Seven Wonders, Five Blunders...

For some strange reasons, my e-mail messages were not getting delivered and were not returned either. I fret¬ted all week. As a word of comfort, a friend said that nobody would notice the absence of "My blog" if it did not appear for that week. I guessed what he was hinting at and I quickly replied that some¬times I did get rejoinders.

Still not satisfied, I have decided to test whether people indeed do read my articles. I am doing so with the figure 7, a sacred number in Ancient Greece, and with the figure 5 repre¬senting the full complement of the fingers of the empty palm and signifying blunders. I am borrowing this imagery with some adaptation from a man called Antipater 1, who lived in Sidon, over two thousand years before the birth of Jesus Christ.

Antipater listed all the man-made classical creations of the known ancient world, in a descending order of grandeur and then further pruned it down to seven. He called this list "The Seven Wonders of the World". His idea caught on and spawned several lists of seven wonders throughout the ages to the extent that there is even "The Seven Blunders of the World" created by Mahatma Gandhi.

Antipater's list was adopted by Herodotus2 and later by Callimachus of Cyrene who re¬named it "The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World” which include The Pyramids of Giza built around 2500 BC, the final resting place for the Pharaohs. The next structure of extreme beauty and awe was The Hanging Gardens built by a Babylonian King to please his foreign wife. The third wonder was a bronze statue of the Greek god Zeus, built on Mount Olympus. The fourth, The Temple of Artemis, a place of worship, can be found as ruins in Eph¬esus in present-day Turkey. The fifth was The Mausoleum of Mausollos at Halicarnassus. It was built by a grieving queen in memory of her deceased king husband. The Colossus of Rhodes, a bronze statue that stood astride of the Persepolis was the sixth in that order. At the bottom of the list was The Lighthouse of Alexandria in Egypt built to guide seafarers. These massive structures built in an age when the technology for scaffolding and lifting were limited to brute slave strength, made the feats really look like miracles.

It has to be noted that apart from the Light¬house of Alexandria, all the structures were built for either worship or glorification. Worthy of note also is the fact that only the Pyramids of Giza still stand today, mainly due to the material of construction and the pyramid design which represents the most stable struc¬ture in civil engineering. The other wonders were either vandalised by invading armies or destroyed by the elements of the weather or earthquakes. But, wherever these ruins could be found, passers-by throughout the ages have never failed to stop, stare and ponder over the culture that had built them.

There exists another list termed "The Seven Wonders of the Mediaeval World." Some of the structures in this category probably existed during the time of Herodotus and Cal¬limachus but were not known to them because the Americas, China and Europe had not been discovered by the known world. Stonehenge3, a mystic arrangement done some 4,500 years ago, of massive boulders of basalt in a definite geometric symmetry, is one such structure. It still stands m the Salisbury Plains of the United Kingdom and its purpose is a subject of intense academic debate but it says a lot for the culture that was probably Celtic. The Coliseum of Rome, a grand stadium built for multi-pur¬pose use lays in ruins today. Ranking closely to the Coliseum is the Great Wall of China, stretching for nearly 6000km in defence of China against foreign invaders. This wall took about 1600 years to complete. The Leaning Tower of Pisa, an observatory in Italy, inclines and at a dangerous angle to the ground that it gives the impression of toppling over any moment. It is followed by The Taj Mahal, an opulent palace completed in 1648 after many years of construction by a Maharaja for his Queen.

Like beauty pageants, several Wonders of the Modern World have been compiled. Of much interest is one by the American Society of Civil Engineers. It rates The Channel Tunnel constructed by digging under the English Channel from 1987 to 1994 to link the UK to France as the greatest engineering feat of the era. The list ranks The CNN Tower completed in 1976 as the tallest building but it has been surpassed in 2007 by the seven-star Burj al Arab in Dubai. The seventh on the list is The Panama Canal that took 34 years to complete in 1914. It cuts a shipping lane across the mosquito-infested jungle of the Isthmus of Panama to link the Atlantic with the Pacific.

It can be seen that in modern times, all imposing man-made structures are erected mainly for the purposes of improving business and the living standards of mankind. Grandeur is no longer the sole motivation and once the vision has been identified, the projects are never abandoned to reflect political succes¬sion.

The seven wonders concept has generated nationalistic fervour as well. Some nations are creating country-specific lists. Thus we now have "Seven Wonders" for Canada, Poland, Ukraine and Portugal and one might ask when Ghana would create one. Why not? I believe that such a list, grouping structures built for socio-economic development, not for self-aggrandisement, is possible. Topping this Ghana list would be the Akosombo Hydro-elec¬tric Power Plant and the resultant Volta Dam. It would be followed by the Tema Harbour and its township. The decrepit railway system, our crying shame, might follow a distant third. Then perhaps if all the asphalted dual-car¬riage ways currently under construction were strung end to end' the super highway so formed might find a place on the list. My plot here is to challenge Ghanaians to complete this country list.

The plot would not be complete without throwing a further challenge to readers to compile "The Five Blunders of Ghana," listing the monumental mistakes that have tar¬nished our history as a nation. This idea came to me when I watched the Convention Peo¬ple's Party (CPP) launch their manifesto on September 21, 2008 in Accra and my mind went back to Uncle Kpodovia's tiny gold¬smith's workshop in Atiavi. On the wall once hung proudly a 1949 Calendar of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), with all the political men of history standing in a certain order around Paa Grant. The calendar had been there before some of us were born but as with things made in that era, it was ruggedly solid and beautiful like a sculpture piece. Nei¬ther the corrosive power of chemical vapours, nor the soot from charcoal fire stoked up by bellows in the cluttered workshop had any effect on it.

Following the events of February 24, 1966 and in the mood created for the time, Uncle Kpodovia was ordered to burn Nkrumah's image with the heat of his goldsmith's blow¬torch because it had become a criminal offence to display such a picture. Nkrumah's face on the calendar - that still exists, but tucked away- is burnt patch of cardboard, lost to posterity.

It was an era of noise when contemporary political history only parodied its name. Plau¬sible stories were told by grriots that were out of breath vying with one another on "What Went Wrong" lecture circuits. A Centre for Civic Education did not help matters.

I believe in history when presented as a physical, tangible object. It could be a broken piece of pottery or a human bone dug from an ancient grave. I trust history left by columns of stone and mortar. I believe the old slave forts, The Pyramids, The Great Wall of China, The Channel Tunnel and The Akosombo Dam. They do not lie to distort history. Nkrumah has left a lot of structures. Never mind that some may have been abandoned to spite his legacy whilst detractors call them white elephants. They vindicate his memory because people will never fail to stop, stare and ask questions. If any of Nkrumah's suc¬cessors have not left enough creations to be remembered by, I say, "That's tough." For the sake of political expediency, storytellers will certainly clean their little achievements off the pages of history books.

You have read this piece, I am sure. There¬fore in truth and in the spirit of restitution, provide your list of the Five Blunders of Ghana. Remember that any list that does not include military coups d'etat is no list at all.

Acknowledgements: 1 Guinness Book of Knowledge, Guinness Publications Inc., .1997.
2. / wiki / Seven_ Wonders_of_the_World.
3 Secrets of Stonehenge, National Geo¬graphic Magazine, June 200

Source: Joe Frazier (Graphic)

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This author has authored 236 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: DailyGraphic

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