11th Culture Day marked with debate and symposium

Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mark Okraku Mantey, right, presenting a certificate to a participant from Ebenezer Secondary School

The Ghana Culture Forum (GCF) has marked the 2022 Ghana Culture Day celebrations in Accra. Since its inception in 2012, the celebration has remained a flagship event of GCF; an advocacy platform consisting of the widest scope of cultural practitioners, activists and organisations united around a common vision of affirming the cultural foundations of development and enhancing the cultural sector.

The 11th edition celebration saw a new introduction to the series of events that marked the celebration. The maiden edition of the Ghana Culture Day Interschool Debate was held on March 11, 2022 at the Peniel Congregation of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, in Teshie.

Four schools within the Greater Accra Region battled for glory and an automatic qualification to next year’s debate. After an enthralling debate, Accra Girls’ SHS and St John’s Grammar SHS emerged winners picking up automatic spots for next year’s competition. Prizes for participating schools and winning debaters were presented at the Ghana Culture Day Symposium on March 14, 2022.

On March 14, the Ghana Culture Day Symposium was held at the Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre for Excellence in ICT, Accra. The welcome address was delivered on behalf of the Chairperson of GCF, Asare Konadu Yamoah by the General Secretary of GCF, Nana Otuo Owoahene Acheampong.

In his address, he called on the Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture to lead discussions in defining and drawing up the architecture of the Culture and Creative Industry. He acknowledged that the current arrangement seems rather unreliable and considering the establishment of various agencies drawing their respective strengths from parliamentary approvals, “we could find the whole industry duplicating roles and responsibilities which could be counterproductive.”

He added that we have to promote ‘easy’ initiatives that could offer immediate returns for our country and no right approach is better than investing in the Arts and Culture space.

An address, on behalf of the government of Ghana, was read by Mark Okraku Mantey, Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts & Culture. He noted that culture has remained one thing that must be not be screened by political lenses as it has remained a unifier to mend the patches of the political divide.

He expressed his gratitude to Abla Dzifa Gomashie, MP for Ketu South and a former Deputy Minister of Tourism Arts and Culture, for taking a stance for culture and supporting him at the Cabinet Budget Committee meeting. He reminded cultural practitioners that as a cultural practitioner himself, he was ready to continue to pursue the cause of culture at the governmental level.

He indicated that the current leadership at the Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture intends to make tourism the number one contributor to Ghana’s GDP and certainly this vision is achievable by strengthening the cultural and creative industries as tourism is not a product. He recounted the successes of the Year of Return initiative as feasibility for the vision.

He also noted that the film domain is one of the tools their leadership hopes to use to drive its vision. In the wake of coup d’état treats by some Ghanaians, Mr. Okraku Mantey charged film producers to consider film projects that will highlight the devastation caused by coup d’etats as film is one of the foremost tools of social change. He added that the government will be open to supporting such projects.

Speaking on the theme for the celebration, ‘Strengthening the cultural and creative industry for socio-economic development’, Mike Amon-Kwafo, former Director of Television at Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, noted that we cannot stay on the same old trajectory of socio-economic uncertainty and speculation.

According to him, the blueprints of our development can be found in creativity and innovation. He added that culture-led development communication can position Ghana as a potential regional or zonal broker on the AU map.

Mr. Amon-Kwafo noted that it is common knowledge that proud people make a successful nation; however, we have an identity problem as a nation. Alluding to our political dispensation, he acknowledged that our nationalism is suffocated because the things that bind us together are overwhelmed by the things that divide us. He remarked that the way out of this will include conscientisation within the ambit of our constitution and along the building bridges of cultural awareness and embrasure.

Enthralled by the audience, Mike Amon-Kwafo’s presentation was metered with a resounding standing ovation. He concluded his presentation by making the following calls towards strengthening CCIs for socio-economic development:

  1. adaptation of the Ghana Tourism Authority model for the Culture and Creative Arts sector by
  2. converting the Creative Arts Council to the Creative Arts Authority to be the regulator for literary, performing, visual and plastic arts;
  3. converting the National Commission on Culture to the National Culture & Heritage Authority
  4. pilot the New People venture: culture communes designed and engineered by young creative professionals that can take in National Service personnel to create prototype models in all sixteen regions.
  5. the creation of a national audio-visual hub for the digital market by the Film Authority. This can be done in collaboration with the modified arts authorities;
  6. conversion of southern Ghana (Aflao – Elubo) into a global tourist destination. The Marine Drive is not enough. Instead of trying to fight the sea why not let it in where we have Ramsar sites to build beautiful waterfronts. Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum built Dubai which is a phenomenal touristic statement not because he had oil but because he was running out of oil. Dubai is a manifestation of what a threatened economy can do when you bring in the artists, the designers, the engineers.
  7. adding value to our foremost forts and castles and creation of festivals around them as UK does with its Shakespeare festival.
  8. developing of national parks to the level of East and Southern Africa’s Serengeti and Kruger National Parks.

Other speakers at the symposium were Janet Edna Nyame, Executive Director of the National Commission on Culture; Abdourahamane Diallo, UNESCO country Representative for Ghana. Also present at the symposium were some high-level dignitaries and cultural luminaries including the former Second Lady of Ghana, Matilda Amissah-Arthur; Ama Serwah Nerquaye-Tetteh, Secretary-General – Ghana National Commission for UNESCO; and Akunu Dake, former Co-convener of the Ghana Culture Forum.

The Chairperson for the symposium, Abla Dzifa Gomashie, MP for Ketu South and former Deputy Minister for Tourism, Arts & Culture alluding to the concerns of funding raised by Edna Janet Nyame charged Mark Okraku Mantey to establish the office of Directors of Culture and Arts in addition to the Director of Tourism to assume the full complement of the organogram of the ministry.

This, she indicated, will ensure equitable distribution of funds to the three sectors of the ministry. She also reminded Mr. Okraku Mantey that as cultural practitioners who have been offered opportunities at the table of government, it is important for them to work hard to prove that the opportunities offered them were not a mistake. She then encouraged practitioners who have the capacity to take up leadership roles to develop capacities to seize the chance as they come since that remains a way to improve the cultural sector.

The second part of the symposium witnessed discussions around the theme facilitated by Professor Kodzo Gavua, Professor at the Department of Archaeology-University of Ghana and Patron of GCF, Mr George Bosompim, lecturer at NAFTI and Kwabena Nkrumah ‘Spikey’ from Joy Fm.

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