Saturday, June 16, 2007.
GHANA@50: The Kente Cloth and the symbolic Quilt of Nationhood
GHANA at independence, fifty years ago, was made up of four (4) provinces, namely the Northern Territories, Ashanti, the Colonies and the Trans Volta Togo land, and to day, this has grown into ten regions which embrace over sixty dialect groups, which also come under about seven broad languages or categories; Akan, Ewe, Ga-Dangbe, Mole-Dagbon and constitute a key group with remarkable national dispersion, comprising the Nzimas in the Western Region, the Awutu-Effutus, in the Central Region, the Adukrom and Larteh people of the Akuapems in the Eastern Region, the Yeji people of the Brong Ahafo Region, the people of the Northern Volta area of Nkwanta in the Volta Region, and the Gonjas and the Chokosis in the Northern Region, all of Ghana.
From the above, it is understandably logical to conclude that the quilt of our nationhood into one people with a common destiny has been forged out of rather diverse ethno-regional origins, much in the same way, the Kente cloth is symbol of complex mosaic of colours. This is indeed the metaphor for the similarity between this nation of ours and the Kente cloth, which symbolizes in many ways our national pride and identity.
The Kente cloth has since time immemorial, become a major hallmark of the entire Ghanaian community, despite its Ashanti and Volta Regional origins, it is normally used at both state functions and during most traditional festive occasions.
At state level, the President, as the guarantor of the constitution, receives the credentials of foreign diplomats with great pomp and pageantry, in kente cloth. Ghanaian diplomats presenting their letters of accreditation also wear the Kente cloth on such occasions, which has the dual role of portraying our Ghanaian identity and heritage, while also symbolizing our sense of national cohesion, a fact very much deepened by population movement and boundary shifts. The Mo people in Bamboi, although geographically and technically, part of the Northern Ghana, use kente extensively by virtue of their Brong roots.
In other parts of the old North, especially in the Mole Dagbon ethnic group, for historical reasons, both the batakari and the kente have existed side by side as an array of national costumes. To this end, it is logical to conclude that the kente cloth encourages Ghanaians from all walks of life to strive for national unity, despite our ethno-regional diversity. It is therefore our national duty to find ways and means of adding value to this important national fabric.
It is sad that as a people, we often take a lot of things for granted, despite the enormous profitable opportunities open to us through the adoption of effective commercial policies geared towards the kente cloth.
As a solution, the following government agencies, namely, the Ministry of tourism, the Registrar Generals Department of the Justice and Attorney-General’s, the Ministry of Trade and Industries need to work in partnership with the National House of chiefs and the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) to institute measures or schemes towards the registration of the gamut of kente production, codification of the meaning of the various designs and in accordance with the International Copyright and Intellectual Property Law. This in my view could earn Ghana the undisputed patent rights and the relevant benefits therefrom.
Please allow me to caution our compatriots, here assembled or at home in Ghana and abroad, that any further delay in this quest could result in the loss of this God-given privilege to the “smart but undeserving” with the appropriate technological know-how in China and the Asian Tigers-Japan and South Korea to adopt synthetic materials to pirate this pride of nationhood from us. Against this backdrop, those of us in the diaspora should be in the forefront of the crusade to elevate the value of the kente as our great national heritage through following the fact of continuously patronizing the cloth at all social functions.
The watchword is that Ghanaians must champion this endevour and hold it to public adoption and acceptance. Against this backdrop, the Consulate-General of Ghana thanks the organizers led by Mr. Kojo Bonsu, the publisher of Ghana based Agoo Magazine for their initiatives and pledges its total commitment to ensure the success of this laudable venture. May God bless the good people of Ghana?
This speech was delivered by Obeng G. Busia, Ghana’s Consul-General to the United States, at the 50th Anniversary Kente Dinner dance, held on Saturday 25, 2007, at the Manhattan City Mahattan, New York.
TIMES WEEKEND - Saturday, June 16, 2007 Page: 13