Global Ghana, the second edition of The Africa Institute’s annual country-focused season, is presented in Sharjah, UAE and Accra, Ghana in 2021-22. Convened by leading scholars Akosua Adomako Ampofo (University of Ghana, Legon), Jean Allman (Washington University in St. Louis), Carina Ray (Brandeis University), and Joseph Oduro-Frimpong (Ashesi University), Global Ghana will include a two-part interdisciplinary scholarly conference beginning with Global Ghana: Sites of Departure/Sites of Return held in Sharjah, followed by Global Ghana: In Search of Africa’s Black Star, held in Accra.

The multidisciplinary program will also include a film festival, a series of musical performances, a staged theatrical performance, and an exhibition showcasing dynamic work by contemporary Ghanaian artists. The season will be launched with a keynote lecture and press conference on 12 November 2021, followed by a musical performance from Hewale Sounds featuring singer Ruth Ama Williams.

The Africa Institute created this annual series to highlight the complex history of the African world while also providing a forum for creatively engaging its present and imagining new futures. Inaugurated in 2019-20 with Ethiopia: Modern Nation/Ancient Roots, the country-focused season is an integral part of The Africa Institute’s year-round work to develop and support original scholarship and programming that expands understanding of African and African diaspora studies among the academic community and the broader public.

The Africa Institute’s Ghana-focused season aims to critically and creatively engage Ghana’s history and contemporary condition. Pushing beyond conventional narratives that oversimplify the nation’s profound significance to its citizens, continental neighbors, and the larger African diaspora, the season seeks to reveal the complex and contested forces that have shaped Ghana, past and present.

 

Inaugural Program

Friday, November 12th

Welcoming Remarks

Hoor Al Qasimi
President of The Africa Institute
5:00pm – 5:05pm
Location: Al Qasimiya School

Introductory Remarks

Salah M. Hassan
Director of The Africa Institute
5:05pm – 5:10pm
Location: Al Qasimiya School

Inaugural Lectures

Akosua Adomako Ampofo, University of Ghana, Legon
Jean Allman, Washington University in St. Louis
Joseph Oduro-Frimpong, Ashesi University
Carina Ray, Brandeis University
Salah M. Hassan (Moderator)
5:10pm – 6:30pm
Location: Al Qasimiya School

Dinner

6:30pm – 8:00pm
Location: Abayomi Restaurant

Hewale Sounds Music Performance

8:00pm – 9:30pm
Location: Al Qasimiya School

This program is free and open to the public. The health and safety of guests and participants are of utmost priority to The Africa Institute. All COVID-19 precautionary measures will be in place on the day of the program.

 

Inaugural Lectures

‘Gimme my check…Watch me reverse out of debt’: Kente Cloth and the Cultural Appropriations Debate”

Akosua Adomako Ampofo, Professor of African and Gender Studies, University of Ghana, Accra, Ghana

Inspired by song lyrics by Beyoncé and Jay Z, this presentation frames debt not only as a condition resulting from the theft of African peoples’ bodies, and the appropriation of their knowledge and cultural products, but also as something owed to people of African descent that–if paid–has reparative powers. Contestations surrounding the use of Ghana’s iconic woven kente cloth offer a unique window onto this debate. Kente has been a ubiquitous feature of college graduations across the African diaspora. Recent attempts to employ it more broadly in the fashion industry have been met with strong objections, mainly by Africans in the diaspora. Yet in Ghana, kente is heavily marketed for tourists of all races. So, who can access “our” culture authentically and where? For whom is it appropriation? This presentation explores Ghana’s pivotal role in debates around cultural appropriation that are shaped by histories of slavery and colonialism and fueled by demands for repatriation, reparation, and restitution.
 

Site of Imagination: Dreaming Freedom in the Black Star of Africa

Jean Marie Allman, J.H. Hexter Professor in the Humanities and Professor of African and African American Studies, Washington University, St. Louis, USA

By independence in 1957, Ghana occupied a central position in multiple political imaginaries as a new country of infinite possibility, a place from which a new postcolonial world was about to emerge. Ghana’s amplification on the world stage was closely tied to a longer history of radical Black internationalism that Kwame Nkrumah had helped forge during his years in the United States and then as a leading participant in the 1945 Pan-African Congress in Manchester. As independent Ghana became the epicenter of Pan-Africanism and the “African Revolution,” it also became a sanctuary for an astounding array of transnational actors, who saw Ghana as a safe harbor for freedom dreams. This presentation revisits that moment in time when activists from across the globe, with their Ghanaian hosts, cooperated, colluded, and collided over how to build a fully decolonized, non-racial, non-aligned, and nuclear-free world at the very height of the Cold War.
 

On Convivial Scholarship: The Case of Popular Ghanaian Media Genres & Epistemologies

Joseph Oduro-Frimpong, Media anthropologist and Director of the Center for African Popular Culture, Ashesi University, Accra, Ghana

Inspired by Francis Nyamnjoh’s call for “convivial research,” which insists on the scholarly relevance of “sidestepped popular epistemologies,” this presentation deploys the concept of pleasure to read the work of Bright Ackwerh, a Ghanaian visual satirist. Departing from the normative use of ‘pleasure,’ in Standard English, to denote either sensual self-indulgence or the trivial, I show how the concept of anigyeɛ, as understood within Akan languages, allows us to comprehend Ackwerh’s underlying themes, communicated through ludicrous visual distortions of his subjects and their environs, as pleasurable. Pleasure, then, becomes an alternative and significant discourse through which to comment on social and political matters in Ghana. This approach to Ackwerh’s work allows us to grasp nascent contemporary critical youth discourses and activism in Ghana’s Fourth Republic which are mediated through social media platforms.
 

Black on White: Writing Race Across Ghana’s Long Twentieth Century

Carina Ray, H. Coplan Chair of Social Sciences and Associate Professor of African and African American Studies, Brandeis University, Massachusetts, USA

There is a stubbornly persistent myth that European slave traders and colonizers were the sole progenitors of racial discourses in Africa. While the history of race in Ghana is intimately tied to the Transatlantic Slave Trade and to colonialism, a more capacious account of it emerges when we consider the diverse ways Ghanaians wrestled with and wrote about race across the multiple registers they traversed–colonial, national, transnational, and diasporic. Focusing on Ghana’s dynamic print culture, this presentation explores how Ghanaian writers turned the press into a generative site for debating race across the long twentieth century as they constructed, claimed, and contested blackness as a political identity in opposition to (white) British colonial rule and in conversation with African nationalism and global Pan-Africanism.
 

Music Performance

Hewale Sounds featuring Ghanaian singer Ruth Ama Williams

Hewale Sounds is an ensemble that specialises in playing neotraditional music, including their own renditions of Ghanaian highlife and Afrobeat.  They regularly perform to highly enthusiastic audiences in Ghana and have played at major arts festivals in Europe, the United States, and across Africa.

Currently based at the W.E.B. Du Bois Centre in Accra, the group has been experimenting with a vigorous blend of jazz and diverse traditional Ghanaian rhythms, which they have dubbed Hi-Jazz. The group continues to evolve through collaboration and influences from around the globe.

Band Members

Ruth Ama Williams – Singer
Caleb Osei Waree – Guitar and Bell
Charles Kwame Konu – Lead Percussionist
Emmanuel Ohene – Bell Maracas and Vocal
Evans Aduful – Guitarist
Henry Holdbrook-Smith – Lead Vocalist
Yaw Dela Botri – Bambino Flute & Vocals
Prince Gyasi – Gome Drum

Global Ghana, the second edition of The Africa Institute’s annual country-focused season, is presented in Sharjah, UAE and Accra, Ghana in 2021-22. Convened by leading scholars Akosua Adomako Ampofo (University of Ghana, Legon), Jean Allman (Washington University in St. Louis), Carina Ray (Brandeis University), and Joseph Oduro-Frimpong (Ashesi University), Global Ghana will include a two-part interdisciplinary scholarly conference beginning with Global Ghana: Sites of Departure/Sites of Return held in Sharjah, followed by Global Ghana: In Search of Africa’s Black Star, held in Accra.

Global Ghana, the second edition of The Africa Institute’s annual country-focused season, is presented in Sharjah, UAE and Accra, Ghana in 2021-22. Convened by leading scholars Akosua Adomako Ampofo (University of Ghana, Legon), Jean Allman (Washington University in St. Louis), Carina Ray (Brandeis University), and Joseph Oduro-Frimpong (Ashesi University), Global Ghana will include a two-part interdisciplinary scholarly conference beginning with Global Ghana: Sites of Departure/Sites of Return held in Sharjah, followed by Global Ghana: In Search of Africa’s Black Star, held in Accra.

The multidisciplinary program will also include a film festival, a series of musical performances, a staged theatrical performance, and an exhibition showcasing dynamic work by contemporary Ghanaian artists. The season will be launched with a keynote lecture and press conference on 12 November 2021, followed by a musical performance from Hewale Sounds featuring singer Ruth Ama Williams.

The Africa Institute created this annual series to highlight the complex history of the African world while also providing a forum for creatively engaging its present and imagining new futures. Inaugurated in 2019-20 with Ethiopia: Modern Nation/Ancient Roots, the country-focused season is an integral part of The Africa Institute’s year-round work to develop and support original scholarship and programming that expands understanding of African and African diaspora studies among the academic community and the broader public.

The Africa Institute’s Ghana-focused season aims to critically and creatively engage Ghana’s history and contemporary condition. Pushing beyond conventional narratives that oversimplify the nation’s profound significance to its citizens, continental neighbors, and the larger African diaspora, the season seeks to reveal the complex and contested forces that have shaped Ghana, past and present.

 

Inaugural Program

Friday, November 12th

Welcoming Remarks

Hoor Al Qasimi
President of The Africa Institute
5:00pm – 5:05pm
Location: Al Qasimiya School

Introductory Remarks

Salah M. Hassan
Director of The Africa Institute
5:05pm – 5:10pm
Location: Al Qasimiya School

Inaugural Lectures

Akosua Adomako Ampofo, University of Ghana, Legon
Jean Allman, Washington University in St. Louis
Joseph Oduro-Frimpong, Ashesi University
Carina Ray, Brandeis University
Salah M. Hassan (Moderator)
5:10pm – 6:30pm
Location: Al Qasimiya School

Dinner

6:30pm – 8:00pm
Location: Abayomi Restaurant

Hewale Sounds Music Performance

8:00pm – 9:30pm
Location: Al Qasimiya School

This program is free and open to the public. The health and safety of guests and participants are of utmost priority to The Africa Institute. All COVID-19 precautionary measures will be in place on the day of the program.

 

Inaugural Lectures

‘Gimme my check…Watch me reverse out of debt’: Kente Cloth and the Cultural Appropriations Debate”

Akosua Adomako Ampofo, Professor of African and Gender Studies, University of Ghana, Accra, Ghana

Inspired by song lyrics by Beyoncé and Jay Z, this presentation frames debt not only as a condition resulting from the theft of African peoples’ bodies, and the appropriation of their knowledge and cultural products, but also as something owed to people of African descent that–if paid–has reparative powers. Contestations surrounding the use of Ghana’s iconic woven kente cloth offer a unique window onto this debate. Kente has been a ubiquitous feature of college graduations across the African diaspora. Recent attempts to employ it more broadly in the fashion industry have been met with strong objections, mainly by Africans in the diaspora. Yet in Ghana, kente is heavily marketed for tourists of all races. So, who can access “our” culture authentically and where? For whom is it appropriation? This presentation explores Ghana’s pivotal role in debates around cultural appropriation that are shaped by histories of slavery and colonialism and fueled by demands for repatriation, reparation, and restitution.
 

Site of Imagination: Dreaming Freedom in the Black Star of Africa

Jean Marie Allman, J.H. Hexter Professor in the Humanities and Professor of African and African American Studies, Washington University, St. Louis, USA

By independence in 1957, Ghana occupied a central position in multiple political imaginaries as a new country of infinite possibility, a place from which a new postcolonial world was about to emerge. Ghana’s amplification on the world stage was closely tied to a longer history of radical Black internationalism that Kwame Nkrumah had helped forge during his years in the United States and then as a leading participant in the 1945 Pan-African Congress in Manchester. As independent Ghana became the epicenter of Pan-Africanism and the “African Revolution,” it also became a sanctuary for an astounding array of transnational actors, who saw Ghana as a safe harbor for freedom dreams. This presentation revisits that moment in time when activists from across the globe, with their Ghanaian hosts, cooperated, colluded, and collided over how to build a fully decolonized, non-racial, non-aligned, and nuclear-free world at the very height of the Cold War.
 

On Convivial Scholarship: The Case of Popular Ghanaian Media Genres & Epistemologies

Joseph Oduro-Frimpong, Media anthropologist and Director of the Center for African Popular Culture, Ashesi University, Accra, Ghana

Inspired by Francis Nyamnjoh’s call for “convivial research,” which insists on the scholarly relevance of “sidestepped popular epistemologies,” this presentation deploys the concept of pleasure to read the work of Bright Ackwerh, a Ghanaian visual satirist. Departing from the normative use of ‘pleasure,’ in Standard English, to denote either sensual self-indulgence or the trivial, I show how the concept of anigyeɛ, as understood within Akan languages, allows us to comprehend Ackwerh’s underlying themes, communicated through ludicrous visual distortions of his subjects and their environs, as pleasurable. Pleasure, then, becomes an alternative and significant discourse through which to comment on social and political matters in Ghana. This approach to Ackwerh’s work allows us to grasp nascent contemporary critical youth discourses and activism in Ghana’s Fourth Republic which are mediated through social media platforms.
 

Black on White: Writing Race Across Ghana’s Long Twentieth Century

Carina Ray, H. Coplan Chair of Social Sciences and Associate Professor of African and African American Studies, Brandeis University, Massachusetts, USA

There is a stubbornly persistent myth that European slave traders and colonizers were the sole progenitors of racial discourses in Africa. While the history of race in Ghana is intimately tied to the Transatlantic Slave Trade and to colonialism, a more capacious account of it emerges when we consider the diverse ways Ghanaians wrestled with and wrote about race across the multiple registers they traversed–colonial, national, transnational, and diasporic. Focusing on Ghana’s dynamic print culture, this presentation explores how Ghanaian writers turned the press into a generative site for debating race across the long twentieth century as they constructed, claimed, and contested blackness as a political identity in opposition to (white) British colonial rule and in conversation with African nationalism and global Pan-Africanism.
 

Music Performance

Hewale Sounds featuring Ghanaian singer Ruth Ama Williams

Hewale Sounds is an ensemble that specialises in playing neotraditional music, including their own renditions of Ghanaian highlife and Afrobeat.  They regularly perform to highly enthusiastic audiences in Ghana and have played at major arts festivals in Europe, the United States, and across Africa.

Currently based at the W.E.B. Du Bois Centre in Accra, the group has been experimenting with a vigorous blend of jazz and diverse traditional Ghanaian rhythms, which they have dubbed Hi-Jazz. The group continues to evolve through collaboration and influences from around the globe.

Band Members

Ruth Ama Williams – Singer
Caleb Osei Waree – Guitar and Bell
Charles Kwame Konu – Lead Percussionist
Emmanuel Ohene – Bell Maracas and Vocal
Evans Aduful – Guitarist
Henry Holdbrook-Smith – Lead Vocalist
Yaw Dela Botri – Bambino Flute & Vocals
Prince Gyasi – Gome Drum

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