Thursday, August 2 – 8, 2007
By: ADWOA SERWAA BONSU & LINDA SAFOA ANTWI
The eighth edition of the biennal Pan-African Historical Theatre Festival (PANAFEST) opened in Elmina last Friday with an Akwaaba ceremony on a rather quiet note.
On entering Elmina last Friday afternoon, there was no indication that an event that big was happening in the town as the people went about their everyday activities without any hurry. It seemed like it was an ordinary day in Elmina.
The venue, the Elmina Castle Park, was the only indication that something was happening. Once the ceremony took off, however, the locals trickled in before long there was a full house.
But Rabbi Kohain Halevi, Executive Secretary of the PANAFEST Secretariat, said the low participation of the locals is because the event has happened so many times that they have taken it for granted. He refuted the notion that the enthusiasm is dying. “I will say the enthusiasm is the same. The festival has even taken greater roots despite challenges that it faces.
He admitted however that finance is a major challenge the foundation faced but that wouldn’t be a stumbling block to the sustenance of the festival. “Yes money will affect the quality of the organization but not the quality of spirit and enthusiasm. It is the major catalyst for the spiritual and cultural reunion of the African family”.
The Akwaaba ceremony held to welcome the home comers saw them arrive in three boat loads from Cape Coast to Elmina. After disembarking at the banks of the Benya Lagoon, the home comers were greeted by the Nananom of Elmina with the pouring of libation and slaughtering of a sheep.
In welcoming them, Nana Kwesi Tandoh 1V, Co-Chairman, Local Executive Board, PANAFEST, said they were glad that the home comers had come back home after they were brutally and forcibly taken away from the shores of this country hence the pouring of libation and the slaughtering of the sheep.
After exchanging hugs with the chiefs and people of the town, the home comers were treated to a ceremonial meal of mashed yam and palmwine after some had been sprinkled for the gods and ancestors.
In his welcome address read on his behalf, Omanhene of Elmina, Nana Kodwo Conduah V1, said patrons of the festival should spread the news to others who couldn’t be here.
“Panafest has come to stay. Let’s inform others that it is for all of us so let us sustain it. And for those of you who are interested in investing in Ghana, there is land available for both residential and business purposes.
The ceremony ended with a spiritual dance by the Omanhene to evoke the spirits of the gods, infront of the door ‘Door of No Return’ of the Elmina Castle.
When Panafest was officially opened the next day, Saturday, at Cape Coast Victoria’s Park, it was the Nananom, masqueraders, cultural troupes and other performers who stole the show.
Nananom, led by the Omanhene of Oguaa traditional area, Osabarima Kwesi Atta 11 dressed in their rich kente clothes and bedecked in gold ornaments were ushered onto the grounds by the Asafo companies.
Patrons were treated to performances from colourfully dressed masqueraders as well as boys in stilts. They skillfully danced to music from the brass bands earning cheers from the mainly tourist audience.
Dance groups from Ghana and Nigeria did traditional dance pieces that depicted their cultures. The groups included African Footprints, Wuza Wuza, Centre for National Culture Cultural Troupe from Ghana, the Abuja Cultural Troupe and the Standing Troupe of Lagos State Council for Arts and Culture from Nigeria.
Another performance that elicited lots of cheers from the audience was from The Baby Boys of Canada. The groups, made up of about eight young boys put up various types of choreographed dances using a medley of songs ranging from hip hop, R&B to reggae.
Under the theme “Re-uniting the African Family”, this year’s edition had delegations from North America, Surinam, Nigeria, the Caribbean, South Africa, England, Canada and Burkina Faso.
Giving the welcome address, Osabarima Kwesi Atta 11 said that since we have to know where we come from before we ascend into our future “It is necessary for us to visit cities like Cape Coast and Elmina which have borne reminders of Ghana’s sordid past in history in order to remind us of who we are as a people”.
He advised that the union which had been forged by the common past shared by our people of African heritage should help in bringing out economic policies that will benefit us as a people.
* And the Traditional Leaders from South Africa,
PRINCE BURNS-NEAMAGHE and PRINCESS WEZIZWE SIGEAN.
On his part, Nana Ato Arthur, the Central Regional Minister who officially opened the festival said that even though Panafest provides a forum to promote unity between Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora, and also affirms the common heritage of African peoples the world over, its essential element is to enhance development of the African continent as a whole.
Graphic showbiz - Thursday, August 2 - 8, 2007 Pages: 9 & 14