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The Africa Institute presents Global Ghana, the second edition of its “country-focused season”—an annual initiative exploring one African country or African diaspora community through a range of scholarly and public programs. The Global Ghana programs conclude with a conference in Accra, Ghana from October 27 through October 29 themed Global Ghana: In Search of Africa’s Black Star.

Global Ghana is organized by The Africa Institute in collaboration with leading scholars Akosua Adomako AmpofoCarina RayJean Allman and Joseph Oduro-Frimpong, and will explore the multiplicity of meanings that have been and continue to be invested in Ghana as a beacon of African emancipation, African unity, and continental innovation.

The program aims to eschew racially essentialist interpretations of the Black Star in favor of diverse perspectives informed by Ghana’s complex history­­—from Ghana’s role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the 17th and 18th centuries to its place as one of the most significant sites for Afro-Arab solidarity in the 20th century. Deep historical perspectives will inform the program’s consideration of how younger generations in Ghana today are reimagining what and who constitutes the Black Star nation and its possible futures through a range of different media, including visual and performing arts.

Following the successful rendition in Sharjah themed, Global Ghana: Sites of Departure/Sites of Return held between March 08-10, 2022, we are excited to continue another segment of the conference through a dynamic mix of scholarly and creative programming that offers audiences an opportunity to engage with scholars, writers, artists, and activists. The conference venue is Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, Accra, Legon (Location Map).

Conference Program

Panel 1

The Archival Diaspora of African Liberation:  In Search of Ghana’s Postcolonial Past

Moderator:  Jean Allman – Professor of History, The Africa Institute, Sharjah, UAE 

Much has been written over the past three decades about the colonial archive, particularly as a technology for reproducing state power.  But what of the anti-colonial archive, the archive that documents the challenges to colonial state structures, the struggles to disassemble them? As Ghana’s postcolonial past so vividly illustrates, coups and counter-coups, structural adjustment, and economic precarity have wreaked havoc on the making of postcolonial archives in Africa. And yet there are fragments of documentation dispersed around the globe that constitute a vast transnational, postcolonial archive of African liberation. Featuring archivists, activists, and academics, this panel explores the archival diaspora through which current and future generations will reconstruct Ghana’s postcolonial past – from the early years of Nkrumah through the close of the Rawlings’ Presidency in 2001.

Film Screening + Talk

“When Women Speak”

Moderator: Shamima Muslim – Founder and Convener of the Alliance for Women in Media Africa (AWMA)

This documentary film focuses on Ghanaian women’s organizing and campaigning strategies under military, single-party, and short-lived multi-party governments, particularly in the under-studied period between the mid-1960s and the early 1990s. During this time, Ghanaian women negotiated national priorities, cultural particularities, and universalist ambitions, both at home and as part of an international women’s movement. Ghanaian women were important players in the creation and implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and they campaigned for new national laws on marriage, divorce, inheritance, and child maintenance. By highlighting their ideas and their strategies, this film challenges the representation of women as passive bearers of timeless and essentialized ‘African culture’, and reshapes public understanding of gender activism as an integral part of Ghana’s national history and international relations. This roundtable brings the film’s producers and director into conversation with activists and scholars to not only discuss the film but also the wider field of political, social, economic, and gender justice and activism that it seeks to portray.

Panel 2

At the Cutting Edge of Ghana Studies

Moderator: Carina Ray – A.M. and H.P. Bentley Associate Professor of African History, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA

Over the last half-century, Ghana Studies has witnessed tremendous growth. Its areas of scholarly inquiry have pushed far beyond the Akan-centric world that characterized its earliest thematic interests and it has opened up to disciplines beyond history. Gone too are the days when just a handful of scholars from the global north held sway over the field in journals of record and in elite African Studies programs in the US and UK. This sea-change has ushered in successive waves of vibrant research agendas pioneered by scholars who have continued to expand the purview of Ghana Studies and African Studies writ large. This panel brings together 4 early career scholars who will discuss what their work heralds for the next half-century of Ghana Studies.

Panel 3

On the State of Contemporary Art Practices in Ghana

Moderator: Joseph Oduro-Frimpong – Director of the Center for African Popular Culture, Ashesi University, Ghana

Within Ghana’s contemporary art scene, one witnesses an interesting trend. Here, some of the respected and young artists are locating their expansive ‘studios’ within the very communities they live in. In these spaces, it is not uncommon to observe locals being hired to work in these studios. In others, artists purposefully bus young students from under-resourced communities into their artistic work environments to let them make and experience varying art forms. What motivates such emerging practices in contemporary Ghana? What do these artists, who currently spearhead these practices, hope to achieve (or have achieved) with such endeavors? In this panel, we explore these questions and other new practices with the following creatives: Ibrahim Mahama, Serge Attukwei and Kwame Akoto-Bamfo.

Theatrical Performance & Book Launch

‘Song of the Pharaoh’

By Ma’at Global Players

Showcase of an excerpt of the play and relaunch of the Africa Institute bilingual publication “Song of the Pharaoh” written by acclaimed Ghanaian author, Mohammed Ibn-Abdallah

Film Screening + Talk

“Fati’s Choice”

Moderator: Carina Ray – A.M. and H.P. Bentley Associate Professor of African History, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA

This moving documentary explores the challenges faced by one woman, Fati, when she decides to leave Italy and return home to Ghana to take care of her five children.  “Fati’s Choice” draws much-needed attention to the theme of return migration and centers the experiences of African women in the migration crisis, which is often portrayed through the stories of young men. This panel features discussants who bring a unique set of perspectives to the film’s subject matter: Professor Akosua Darkwah’s research probes the intersection of gender and migration; Abdullah Osman is a Tamale-based entrepreneur, who, like Fati, made the difficult decision to return home to Ghana after finding disappointment in Europe; and Fatimah Dadzie is the filmmaker responsible for bringing Fati’s story to the screen.

Panel 4

From the Black Star to the Black World and Back

Moderator: Akosua Adomako Ampofo– Professor of African and Gender Studies, Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana.

The Gold Coast nationalists, and especially those at the forefront of the independence movement were relatively young by today’s standards of formal leadership—Kwame Nkrumah was 43 when he became prime minister in 1952 and Mabel Dove Danquah was only 26 when she started writing for The Times of West Africa, Ghana’s first daily newspaper.  From Pan-African political engagement and the promotion of African popular culture to African-centered scientific, culturally relevant innovations, the years leading up to independence and immediately thereafter were rich with hope in ways that resonate with what we might today call an Afro-futurist agenda. While some Ghanaians today still see the Black Star as a relevant symbol for many Pan-African projects, it is also a very Ghanaian symbol, perhaps due to its pride of place on our flag. However, a rather checkered national psyche has emerged in the intervening years.  Today, despite choreographed efforts such as the Year of Return that brought much cultural excitement and some diaspora connections, a flagging economy and growing state repression, alongside obvious corruption and wealth disparities, seem to have generated a sense of hopelessness and cynicism among many young people.  Strikingly, one response to this has been a youth-driven explosion of creativity and innovation. This panel brings together a group of dynamic young Ghanaians to explore what the Black Star means to them today.

This program is free and open to the public. Click here to register. 

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