By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong
Prof. Esi Sutherland-Addy, of the University of Ghana’s Institute of African Studies, floating of a Ghana Cultural Forum to some sort of differentiate and integrate the Ghanaian culture for progress, once again, enhances the on-going enlightenment movement. For now, as the Ugandans say, deeds speak louder and make words nothing, as Ghanaians realize their culture in relation to the progress game.
Sutherland-Addy gives remarkable sense to the enlightenment undertaking, not necessarily because of her statues as a university don and her vast global reach, but, really, because of her advanced age. The importance of Sutherland-Addy’s age in the enlightenment crusade is that she has the settled mind to contemplate on the immense relevance of the Ghanaian culture to Ghanaians’ progress, for both psychological and material reasons.
For some time, the enlightenment program that seeks to refine the inhibitive values within the Ghanaian culture and help integrate the enabling ideals of the Ghanaian culture for advancement has been too dispersed, with no central focus. The Ghana Cultural Forum could be the rallying centre, a quasi-think tank that would simultaneously help distill the culture for deeper clarity and help lobby bureaucrats, international organizations and other policy-makers for policy makings.
While the prestigious Ghana Academy of Science and Arts got the enlightenment virus and held a colloquium to train journalists to help deal with the culture, especially the inhibitive aspects, it didn’t use its influence for greater attention for the enlightenment efforts.
Sutherland-Addy, remarkably with over 50 publications to her credit in the areas of education policy, higher education, female education, literature, theatre and culture, says the Ghana Cultural Forum is aimed at “monitoring and intervening in the development of the cultural sector to promote Ghanaian cultural identity, and to coordinate and represent the views and voices of cultural activists to ensure that they are heard.” This isn’t new. Also not new is the promotion of “indigenous traditional art and crafts” and “UNESCO’s organised consultative forum on the Power of Culture in Development.”
What may be new is 1. moving cultural organisations, as divergent but one voice with the civil society under the Ghana Cultural Forum, to advocate co-operatively for acute questions relatable to Ghanaians’ wellbeing and 2. in this new platform, use the Ghana Cultural Forum as the centre for grand enlightenment of Ghanaians and Africans not only about the inhibitive values within their culture that have been entangling them but also appropriate the enabling parts of the culture for policy development.
Like the European Enlightenment movement, such briefs of the proposed Ghana Cultural Forum would seriously dispel any signs of ethnocentrisms from any of the over 100 ethnic groups that form Ghana and project the fact that any inhibitions within the Ghanaian culture from any part of Ghana are equally inhibitions in any parts of Ghana. In this sense, the Ghanaian enlightenment movement is more or less an “intellectual interexchange,” as the Ghanaian-British-American philosopher and cultural theorist Dr. Kwame Anthony Appiah would say, among its ethnic groups in their attempts to live a better live than what obtains now.
High incidence of witchcraft beliefs in northern Ghana isn’t a development challenge for only that part of Ghana but the whole Ghana. And so is the high prevalence of the destructive juju in the Volta region that has stifled progress in that part of Ghana despite the region’s indigenes’ high education index and natural development potential.
With such grasp of the implications of the Ghanaian/African culture in progress, Ghanaians/Africans will not need the Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI to tell them that they “must fight against some very dangerous beliefs and superstitions” or the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) coming from London, UK to investigate human sacrifices or the killing of deformed children who are seen as possessed with evil spirits or UNESCO telling Ghanaians to conceive any cultural forum for advancement.
The Ghana Cultural Forum idea, born out of Ghanaians struggles for genuine progress brewed from within Ghanaians’ inborn traditional values, will be a self-realization venture that doesn’t pander to anybody’s pressure but Ghanaians/Africans self-worth in the face of 1. mounting epiphany and enlightenment about their culture and progress, 2. some inhibitive values that make Ghanaians/Africans live uncomfortable lives and 3. the fact that Ghanaians/Africans are the only people in the material world whose progress is dominated by foreign development paradigms.