Book Launch Animates Ghanaians To Revisit Roots
About a hundred people gathered on Saturday afternoon, February 3rd, at The Priory in Newark for the launch of local author Kofi Ayim’s third book.
Having previously written about a slave-turned-businessman of Akan descent (Jack Cudjo) and then about the heritage and customs of that nation within-a-nation (The Akan of Ghana), Ayim has now completed a volume focusing on a particular state within traditional Akan territory, Akuapem, and the life and times of one remarkable ruler: The Legendary Kwasi Akuffo: King of Akuapem, Gold Coast (Ghana).
The author’s daughter, Akosua Ayim, opened the festivities by introducing Dr. Kwame Akonor, Associate Professor of Political Science at Seton Hall University and director of SHU’s Center for Africana Studies. Before the prepared talks started, there were two ceremonial benedictions.
First, the Rev. Dr. Daniel Nyante, led the assemblage in a Christian prayer; then, Dr. Kofi Boateng performed a traditional Akan libation.
Dr. Boateng’s libation was preceded by his thorough explanation of the traditional prayer, quoting biblical verses. He referred to the King James version where libation is referred to at least thirty-five times and urged Christians to come to terms with traditional prayers. He pointed out that both Christian and traditional prayers invoke their ancestors for divine intervention in their lives.
In the course of it, Dr. Boateng referred to often-retold story of how the Europeans brought Christianity to Africa, teaching the population that they should pray with their eyes closed: “When we opened our eyes, we had their Bible, and they had our land, our gold, and our people.”
In the hour or so that ensued, there were many more reminders of the tense interplay between native tradition and Christianity in the lives of so many African persons.
Two of the speakers who gave preliminary talks ahead of the featured author, Rev. Dr. Eleanor Moody-Shepherd, Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies at New York Theological Seminary, and Rev. Dr. E. Obiro Addo, Associate Professor of African and Religious Studies at Drew University, spoke of the shameful role that Christian churches and missionaries had played in the European subjugation of Africa.
Both are ordained Christian ministers, as well as academic scholars, and both acknowledged the cultural dilemma that this presented for them. They were not alone, as the same held true for many of the historical figures who come alive in the pages of the book being launched.
Professor. Samuel Amoako, Ghana’s Deputy Ambassador to the United States for Consular Affairs, also spoke. Pointing to the importance of a book such as this one that make persons of Ghanaian descent aware of their cultural heritage, he lamented news reports of Ghanaian youth in the United States getting into trouble with the law, a sign of their alienation from the values of their native culture.
He also announced that he was spearheading an effort to create a comprehensive database for persons of Ghanaian descent, not only in U.S. but in the diaspora. Dr. Moody-Shepherd, an African American, suggested the effort must include other African-Americans who have embraced Ghana as their home.
The featured speaker, Kofi Ayim, in introducing his third book, extolled the virtues of the legendary King Kwasi Akuffo: how he conscientiously educated his many children in both academics and the musical arts; his expertise in both traditional and Western learning and both Akan religion and Christianity; and how he made both friends and enemies.
Ayim discussed how, while king of Akuapem, Kwasi Akuffo could not easily pay visits to some of his jurisdictions, especially Tutu, without encountering great animosity; his destoolment and re-enstoolment and how his recall and return to the kingship was virtually a mini civil war in itself. King Kwasi Akuffo, according to the narratives of the author, died “all of a sudden” amid talk of a second destoolment, raising the never-to-be answered question of whether in the end he took his own life.
One grandson and several great and great-great grandchildren of King Kwasi Akuffo attended the event.
Kwasi Akuffo’s grandson spoke of the increased difficulty in keeping the family in contact with each other, as well as the fact that, while some members of the family follow the tradition of calling each other brothers and sisters, others use the very anti-traditional word “cousins,” which is hurtful to those who prefer the more longstand longstanding nomenclature.
There are thousands of descendants alive today, as the king had 52 recognized wives and 127 sons and daughters. Brooklyn Criminal Court Judge Ellen Edwards was in attendance as well as others of all age groups.
Discussions were lively.
The book is available at amazon.com for all who are interested in an enlightening read.