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27.03.2009 Feature Article

Gimme His Majesty, King Badu Bonsu’s Head Back.

Where is the beef? No dividend from King Badu Bonsu's brouhaha!

THE SAGA OF KING BADU BONSU can only be summed up as a head- for -head feud, which left three people headless and one's offspring penniless.

Let the celebration begin!
The media back home is filled with news report about the Ghanaian government's demand for the return of a 170- year old skull of an ancient king, from the Dutch .And, that has gotten the readers and news -junkies gabbing in Ghana and abroad. Some are even scratching their heads saying, “Is that all we can do?” It conveys a message of people with mixed -up priorities.

It has also pushed down the pedal of our traditional religious beliefs and the debate about our sense of imagination and creativity .Personally; I view the whole episode with jaundiced eyes.

In fact, there are so many reasons to be skeptical of the government's decision to accept the skull. First of all, the decision is made without any economic value and the fact that the “head” is going to be buried in Ghana makes us look more prosaic than proficient in a decision-making process

With our way of thinking, I wouldn't be surprised if we turned this drama into a 170- year anniversary, victory celebration, National holiday, funeral, and a day –of- atonement, all rolled into one.

Let me see if I got it right: Ghana is experiencing its biblical proportion of the topsy-turvy, global economy ---- which has a huge unemployment and other social problems. But, the officials at the Ghana embassy in the Netherlands are busy cheer-leading the return of an ancient king's skull for burial in Ghana. What are they thinking? Where is our creativity?

According to the news report, this skull (the “king's head”) has been in the Dutch's possession for 170years. Right?

Supposedly, King Badu Bonsu's head was “hacked off in retaliation for the killing of two Dutch emissaries, whose skulls were found hanging from the tribal leader's throne”, 170 yrs ago.

Have you heard the one about his spirit? We now want to bring the King's head home for burial because we think the “deceased's sprit will be hunted in afterlife” say what? Really? .That is a joke, right? Please tell me that is a joke, I would feel much better.

Speaking of spirit what about the spirits of the two emissaries? Oh, I got it, they don't count. Let's get a life for God's sake. With all due respect, we're talking about 170 year -old skull from which we don't intend to get any financial dividend. However, the Dutch are probably laughing all the way to the bank at our expense. Oh, Amma Ghana!

Now here is the part that worries me. We are demanding this skull which has been on display in the Dutch's museum for almost two centuries, to now be buried in Ghana, just to satisfy our cultural ego or religious beliefs and promote funeral celebrations. I bet we will assign some days to celebrate the king's funeral once the skull hits on Ghana's soil.

Halba !, we did not even negotiate with the Dutch to get any financial reward from this historical “artifact” (if I may) .With considerable respect, I think the people of Ahanta Traditional area could have benefited a lot more from this tragic chapter in history if we had the vision to see it from a different perspective .

I personally think taking the skull to Ghana for burial is not going to give us anything other than a boost to our pride and a chance to massage our deflated ego. Instead, we could have asked the Dutch to keep the skull in their museum, but get a percentage of the proceeds from the fees they charge visitors. That money could set up a scholarship foundation in honor of His majesty, Bonsu to educate the children of Ahanta traditional area.

Not only that, we could also set up a Dutch-Ahanta exchange program---which could allow students from Ghana and Holland to study each country's historical facts. That will be a step in the right direction.

I sincerely think the King's death would be more memorable, invaluable and meaningful if we can look at the entire picture, instead of looking at it through our short-sighted prisms----with the tendency to throw in a lavish funeral celebration with all the trimmings.

Trust me, I'm not exaggerating. The burial rituals won't be complete without an extreme extravagant funeral celebration. Ghanaians know how to spend money wastefully, and that could be the perfect opportunity for them to show off their “skills”.

I bet the Dutch are having a good belly laugh .Our actions have probably confirmed the negative perception they have of us. We're so unimaginative and uncreative that we look at things one dimensionally.

Forgetting the way the Dutch ancestors treated the black South Africans and the outcry of the world community to end the racist apartheid regime, is probably the real reason for handing over the skull to us; they want to get rid of an “unwanted Skull” and divert world's attention away from them ---after all, they have probably made tons of zillion dollars from its exhibition.

I figure this is only the tip of the iceberg---more of the story is going to emerge in the future .The pundit and historians will no doubt, dissect the issue in years to come.

But, then, what do I know? I'm just an ordinary Ghanaian who thinks too much about our priorities and needs. I think, I have a different way of seeing things and that gets me in trouble sometimes.

Listen: we have to learn how to be imaginative and creative .The decision to take the skull home for burial is influenced by religion and culture, and nothing else. We have time for things that yield no economic dividend .Take our church services on Sundays for instance. In Ghana most people spend an average of four hours in churches every Sunday. Can you imagine what we could achieve if we spent half of those hours to invest in productive endeavors to improve our personal growth?

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not here to advocate for the commercialization of the king's skull. All that I'm saying is, in this day and age we have to learn how to think outside the box, for the interest of the nation's economic well-being. I'm not talking money, money, and more money. Instead how, can we turn this bitter chapter into a better chance for the descendants of the deceased, who suffered the horrific ordeal?

By the way, whose idea is it? And, what is the main reason behind that? Can't we get some dividend out of that historical episode? Mandela's former prison is a “palace” today, ---where visitors pay money to see. Former slaves' “warehouses” are now tourists' destination .So why can't we make something positive out that?

I'm beginning to wonder if our decision to take the skull for burial is not dripping with messages that portray us as people with vision-impaired, no goals and limited creativity.

What do we value more, the ownership of a 170 year-old skull of a King or a chance to educate hundreds or perhaps thousands of the descendants of King Badu Bonsu?

This is just a thought. What do you think?
Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi ([email protected])
*The author is a social commentator, and the founder of Adu-Gyamfi Youth Empowerment; Educational and Apprenticeship Foundation of Asuom, in the Kwaebiribrim District, E/R

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi
Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi, © 2009

This author has authored 198 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: KwakuAduGyamfi

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