The Pan African Festival (PANAFEST) Secretariat in collaboration with the Centre for African and International Studies (CAIS), has held a three-day PANAFEST Colloquium, under the theme, “Beyond 400 years: Reaching Across Continents into the Future.”
Common Ancestral Language
The Chairman of the PANAFEST Colloquium Committee, Prof. Kwadwo Opoku-Agyemang, said, “It was very important to receive our people back to consider in the deepest possible sense the gift of a common language.” He explained that a common language was a defining priority of all relations, therefore, friends from the Diaspora should be taught an ancestral language. Prof. Opoku-Agyemang was hopeful that the colloquium would create awareness to help people of African descent from the Diaspora to learn and speak at least one common ancestral language so that within a year or two, they could talk to their ancestors in their own language.
UCC’s Association with PANAFEST
Speaking at the colloquium, the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Dora Francisca Edu-Buandoh, noted that the University has been associated with PANAFEST since its inception adding, “We have done a lot of good things to keep the momentum and we should continue to connect the black race and the people of African descent.” Prof. Edu-Buandoh, who also chaired the function indicated that the celebration of PANAFEST has been educative and emotional because it has always created learning opportunities for the students of UCC to get informed about the history of people of African descent and the prospects for us to work together to move our people forward in all aspects of life.
The Pro Vice-Chancellor stated that UCC over the years has been reaching out to Universities and people of African descent in the United States (US), especially, to run programmes that benefit both local and foreign students, and it has been a good experience to have US students in CAIS, Music and Dance to study history and culture. She believed that Ghanaian students learned many things from such students and they also took away a lot of experience, history and culture. “We will continue to open our doors to colleagues outside Ghana, who have interest in people of the continent to work with us, so that together we link up the home, Africa; and the home of African descent,” she said.
Prof. Edu-Buandoh assured the brothers and sisters from the Diaspora to feel at home for fruitful gathering towards PANAFEST,” she added.”
The Pro Vice-Chancellor appealed to both local and international organisers that going forward, PANAFEST celebrations should be recognised as a movement and not only as an occasion in order to find new narratives to the definition of ‘Africa and African Diaspora’ through a common goal to promote development.
Colombians have Africans at Heart
Expressing her joy to participate in this historic celebration, the Colombian Ambassador to Ghana, Her Excellency Claudia Turbay Quintero, commended the founders of PANAFEST for crafting such a conceptualised event with the focus to connecting Africa and the African Diaspora. She said, “I have been able to attend three editions, and each one of them has brought significant reflections about the African identity, the experience of having been enslaved, the path to freedom, the pride of being an African and African descendant,” Madam Turbay Quintero stated. She said the people of Colombia have Africans at heart and affectionately feel close to the continent and wish to contribute to the achievements African Unity to strengthen the path towards a brighter future.
The Executive Director of PANAFEST Foundation, Rabbi Kohain Nathanya Halevi, commended UCC and the Centre for African and International Studies for continued collaboration, organisation and hosting of this historical event. He indicated, “This year marks the 27th year and 13th edition of PANAFEST, and it is special because it coincides with the ‘Year of Return’s’ commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the first arrival in Point Comfort/James Town, Virginia of enslaved Africans to the shores of what became and is now the United State of America.” Mr. Nathanya Halevi explained that at every edition of PANAFEST, a colloquium was held as one of the important and vital components of the festival’s observance so as to call on their scholars, intellectuals, students and activists to discuss, analyse and reach consensus on resolutions concerning critical issues and challenges that the Africans people at home and in the Diaspora face. Emphasising on unity, he said that the time has come to use the strength and resilience to chart a new course for the destiny of Africa and Africans. “The new course can only be realised when we renew our minds from the paradigm of old enslaved and colonial references to a new innovative African centred reality. The start is with the mindset,” Rabbi remarked.
In a message, the Minister for Inner City and Zongo Development, Ghana, Dr. Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, said he considered the event as an intellectual discourse that would cause development. He urged participants to contribute their quota in the discussions. Citing one of the papers in the colloquium, Hon. Abdul-Hamid said, “We should try and petronise these papers because we need a proper dialogue that will help us to identify who we are and to help us tap into the future for ourselves.”
Re-uniting Africa and Diaspora
Stressing on re-uniting Africa and Diaspora, the Director, Centre for African and International Studies (CAIS-UCC), Dr. Alex J. Wilson, hinted that Ghana has played a major role in the advocacy and policy-making to encourage African-descended peoples in the Diaspora to return to Africa and reunite with their brothers and sisters at ‘home.’ He said, “Our participation is fundamentally driven by our conviction to play major roles in Diaspora affairs, especially, in the calls for uniting Africans at home and their brethren in the Diasporas.” Dr. Wilson also indicated that though Kormantse has been left out in the activities of PANAFEST and Emancipation Day, it would be given attention this time because records on slave trade describe the Kormantines as a strong and hardworking people who often rebelled against their slave masters for freedom. He added that CAIS-UCC has also found it necessary as part of the celebration to organise an exhibition of the Centre’s activities with Kormantse at heart.
In attendance were the Registrar, UCC, Mr. John Kofi Nyan, Prof. Esi Sutherland-Addy, Rev. Dr. James L. Miles (Sr.), Prof. Kofi Agorsah, lecturers, students, brothers and sisters from Africa and African Diaspora.