Diasporian News of Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Source: The Journalist and Pauline/African Spectrum

GhanaFest Chicago 2014: Shatta Wale Storms Chicago

Chicago, Illinois: - Where there is a will, there is a way. Congratulations to Ghana National Council (GNC) and President Mr. Ebenezer Antwi -Nsiah, Vice-President Mr. Paa Kwasi Sam and their team of hardworking dedicated staff who amid all odds executed the festival in grand style. Once again, Washington Park located at 55th and Martin Luther King Dr., became a Ghanaian Village.

President Mr. Nsiah did not hesitate to lament his feelings. “This year’s Ghanafest has been a conscientious effort from members of the community.. We want to thank the State of Illinois, Ghanaians and patrons for helping keep the tradition ongoing. My team wants to shift from an organizational-themed event to a community one. By this, I mean incorporating a broad spectrum of ideas, ideals and implementations catered to preserving the Chicago tradition of Ghanafest. This is just the beginning. Ghanafest will be bigger come next year.”

The spectacle of Ghanafest however belonged to the various associations who marched around the park amidst cheering and praising. The event featured the essential parade of Kings and Queens, music, dance, drumming, exquisite aroma of African cuisine and varieties of artifacts. The extravaganza climaxed with a show-stomping performance by Dance Hall King Shatta Wale who flew all the way from Ghana to headline the festival.

According to Mr. Sam, the vice-president of the GNC, “We are overwhelmed with the response of this year’s Ghanafest. We thank the Gov. Quinn, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, sponsors, patrons, tourists and Ghanaians all over who made this possible. We had no resources. We had no funds. God has been the provider. We had so many calls to GNC about those inquiring whether Ghanafest was coming on or not. With all these travesties, the Ghanaian Spirit proved that people are willing to participate when there is a positive undertaking. This is just the beginning and we thank everyone.”

Past Ghanafests programs have featured dignitaries in the likes of former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, former Ghanaian President Mr. Jerry Rawlings, former Ghanaian Ambassadors, Messrs. Alan Kyerematen and Francis Poku, Minister Louis Farrakhan and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn who appeared briefly to wish Ghana and the festival well.

The event began at 10:00 am. The National Anthems of Ghana and the US signified the commencement. The tents allocating associations, vendors, sponsors, food courts and the grand stage were all set up. Children entertained, drummers drummed, storytellers recited their tales of folklore. Patrons, with the mind set that this is a once-a-year event mingled, laughed, connected and tried to belong on this day.

As the park filled with inquisitive onlookers, culinary-enthused aficionados in search of Ghanaian dishes made sure, no morsel of food was left on their plates. Many tourists, some of whom had traveled from afar took pictures and recorded footages on their smart devices. All the while, the colors coming from the assembling of hand-made giant umbrellas, beautiful and original Kente cloths, royal staffs, stools, swords and traditional weaponry produced the ambiance of the temporary Ghanaian Village and the skies. Ga-Mantse later spread Kpekple (traditional Ghanaian food) to mark the presence of our ancestors and the homage that we pay to them. DJs pounded on the music. Children roamed, ran and screamed. Drummers drummed. Traditional dancers danced. Vendors pitched their wares. The lines at the food stands ceased to subside. Once it was announced that Shatta was on the grounds, even some of the vendors left their stations and rushed to front of the stage. Some of the frenzied fans in the crowd had to be restrained and driven away from the stage.

Before he performed, Shatta Wale, in a show of solidarity, paid respect to his contemporary and soul mate Castro, the fallen colleague who is presumed to have drowned in a jet-ski accident. Once on the mic, Shatta ‘Whined his waist’ while insinuating that “Everybody like my thing” catapulting the crowd to a different level. He moved from side to side, back and forth, proving that he is indeed the perception and the latest entertainer that he has been portrayed to be. The SHATTA MOVEMENT was in full effect!

Once we leave the Motherland and voyage to the Diaspora or any place where that may be, some of us become first generation migrants. It is then part of our responsibilities to seek to maintain our heritage. We cannot change our destinies neither can we disguise who we are. Most of us adapt the system and tradition of our adopted homes. We get married; multiply thus yielding to second and third generations who no doubt continue our various legacies. In short, a planted seed keeps growing.

While others are certain and willing to abandon their heritage along the way due to diverse reasons, some of which may relate to faith, stress, religion, frustration, marriage, tree-hugging or lack of progress, there are those who will continue to preserve the culture. Where we make our living, it is our home. Other immigrants are proud of their culture and so should we. As long as there is migration to other lands, our young and old ones, irrespective of their situations back home, chance permitting through naturalization or the lottery system will continue to leave the shores of the Motherland. Migrants travel in search of ‘Gold’ ignoring advertently or inadvertently the fact the path to riches is tougher than the hide of an elephant.

Ghanafest offers something for everyone. On this day, many people in spite of their persuasions do come to honor and preserve our culture. With twelve Associations mostly formed among tribal lines, other organizations have no ethnic affiliations and are open to anyone who needs a sense of belonging.

As the umbrella organization of all Chicago Associations, GNC seeks to bridge the gap between Africans and African Americans some of whom are second and third generation people of African descent. As Ghanaians and Africans at large, one of our main goals is to maintain our culture wherever in the Diaspora. Identity is one of the few possessions that we have while living abroad.

This year’s Ghanafest with Mr. Nsiah at the helm as president proved the resilience and resource in Chicago’s Ghanaian community. The biggest Ghanaian event in the Diaspora must go on unabated. Congratulations to GNC and affiliates, sponsors, vendors, patrons and all that proved that Chicago is home of the trailblazers. Ghanafest is alive and kicking!