Feature Article of Friday, 5 April 2013
Columnist: Ofori, Oral
By Oral Ofori
Kwame Ansah-Brew, (a direct lineage of Kwame Ansah Sasraku who according to Akan Oral Tradition fought the Danes in battle when they first came to the then Gold Coast–now Ghana) says he feels blessed to be a Ghanaian because Ghana stands as a beacon of hope in Africa, considering the fact that some countries in Africa are plagued by wars and all sorts of civil unrests.
I run into Kwame during a recent trip to the Washington DC area where we hit it off pretty nicely. During a hearty conversation with Kwame, I got to find out that he is a passionate master drummer, a dancer and an actor who teaches traditional Ghanaian dancing in an aerobic class he runs. He also plays the saxophone and feels very proud about his Ghanaian heritage and the fact that he hails from one of the most peaceful countries in Africa today.
A co-director of a storytelling company called ANANSEGROMMA of Ghana which explores traditional music, storytelling, and dances of typical Ghanaian villages and an adjunct professor of University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Goucher College, Kwami said ‘the fact that Ghana has stayed peaceful when some of her immediate neighbors have been faced with political upheavals is reason enough to make Ghanaians not to take the peace they enjoy for granted. We must do all we can to strengthen our nation especially for the future generations and for other African countries and the globe to enjoy’ he tells me.
Kwame Ansah-Brew and I talked about some of the reasons that account for the peace that Ghana enjoys, he said: ‘I think our peace loving nature is due to the fact that something about how Ghanaians are brought up does not allow them to plunge into utter chaos and extreme violence. Yes there is a lot of diversity in cultures, languages and psychology but there is always that sense of civility that allows us to understand each other even in our diversification. We as Ghanaians are not prone to the kind of violence that escalates into large scale bloodshed. This is shown from that fact that even though there’s been a section of the populace in Ghana who are opposing the results of the recent election, it still has not been enough to let the country explode into all out violence’.
The people of Ghana are to praise for the peace and stability the country has enjoyed over the years and this peaceful fabric must be very well guarded because we are humans like those in countries like Rwanda (which has two major ethnic groupings; Tutsi and Hutu) that unfortunately suffered a genocidal implosion which saw the deaths of over half a million people in less than a 100 days in 1994. Politicians and persons speaking on radio and TV stations must be wary of their pronouncements in a country like Ghana which has over ten regions subdivided into some 170 districts that speak almost 80 languages.
Ghana has had its moments in the past where the peace it enjoys has been put to the test but it has always been blessed to emerge stronger and more united as a country. For this to keep happening, we must continue to do what we do best as a people which is to be tolerant and respecting of each others opinions even as we seek to strengthen our democratic institutions. Kwame Ansah-Brew cautioned against the habit of ‘spending time on trying to demonize our culture, this is something some Ghanaians are guilty of. This can be sometimes seen among some parents who go as far as trying to discourage their children from pursuing interests in cultural music, dance and history. Some of these parents or people do not respect their traditional religions and call them vulgar or too primitive’.
Yet it is these customs and traditions which have been handed down from generations to generations by our wise ancestors that have kept the country in this state of peace and unity and earned Ghana the accolade of being one of the most peaceful countries in Africa, making it attract foreign investors who see it as a fertile place to do business. ‘I just want Ghanaians to realize this and cherish what really make us Ghanaians by not trying too hard to blindly copy Western cultures’ Kwame says.
In order to make sure Mr. Ansah-Brew was practicing what he preached, I asked him what he was doing to promote Ghana culturally as someone who lives in the diaspora. In response, he told me he is portraying his culture first by the way he dresses. ‘I prefer to be fully clothed in my traditional Ghanaian regalia to show where I’m from and celebrate my culture as much as I can’. Another way is through his work as a dance instructor where he teaches Ghanaian dancing and music to non-Ghanaians through his aerobic dance instruction company established in the USA in 2011 and called BESA ; the native Ghanaian saying for ‘come dance’.
BESA allows Kwame Ansah-Brew to teach Ghanaian dance forms and the history behind them. Some of the dance thought are ‘Adowa’, ‘Damba’, ‘Kpanlogo’, ‘Borborbor’ including more modern ones like the ‘Azonto’ and others. ‘The movements in these dance can really work you out’ he tells me as I came to discover that he has also been able to market them to audiences at venues like the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Vienna Virginia, and other venues as well as arts festivals throughout the United States.
‘These dances and other aspects of life in Ghana like the ‘Kente’ cloth weaving and its wearing and other unique cultural practices spread across the length and breath of the country are what our ancestors have handed down to us from generations that really make us who we are as a people’. Mr. Ansah-Brew believes if we don’t protect and pass them on we face the unfortunate future of loosing their real authenticity. He cautioned Ghanaians about spending so much effort on perfecting themselves in other peoples cultures and finding everything right about it. ‘We need to see all the goodness about ourselves because Ghana is really loved by the world and has a lot of goodwill in the eyes of the international community’ says Kwame.
Oral Ofori, +1202-706-9881, [email protected], Freelance Journalist: http://www.oralofori.com/ Wikimedia Ghana Enthusiast, Broadcaster, Retail Specialist, Music Promoter, Artiste. http://about.me/oralofori/