General News of Wednesday, 3 September 1997

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The Vice President, Professor Atta Mills Declares PANAFEST '97 Open

Cape Coast, Aug 30, - The Vice-President, Professor J.E.A. Mills, today opened the third Pan African Historical Theatre Festival(PANAFEST '97) with a call on the peoples of African descent in the diaspora to enhance economic ties between them and Africa. He said the festival can provide yet another important bridge linking Africa to the wider international community not rpt not only in the arts but in the fields of science, technology, commerce and tourism. ''Our wealth as Africans is the solidarity which exists between us and the potential for creating a synergy which will advance the well-being of our people,'' he told a durbar of chiefs and people and delegations from various parts of the world at Victoria Park in Cape Coast. The ten-day festival is under the theme ''the re-emergence of African civilization and uniting the African family for development''. It is organized under the auspices of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the government of Ghana. Various groups from Denmark, the Netherlands, Cuba, Japan, Malaysia, India, Israel and many African countries are attending the festival. Prof. Mills described the festival as a homecoming event, a sharing, a remembrance of the past and a joyful celebration of the future. Prof. Mills recalled that when the late President, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, raised the flag of independent Ghana with its proud black star, it brought hope and pride not only to Ghanaians but to all the countries of sub-saharan Africa still under the yoke of colonialism and to members of the diaspora around the world. Since then, many African countries including Ghana have faced social, economic and political problems while Africans in the diaspora have regained the self-realization which slavery stripped from them so long ago. He said it was when Ghana began to rebuild her economy and restored her national pride that the country conceived the idea of PANAFEST as a festival which would bring together all the threads of history and culture which began in Ghana and which now extend to every corner of the world. He told the visitors that PANAFEST was initiated in Ghana because of her unique cultural and historic connections which are important to every person of African descent. Prof. Mills also recalled that through the gates of the Cape Coast and Elmina castles passed millions of souls torn from the motherland who took with them pain and anguish. ''But they also took with them the rhythm and warmth of Africa, our folktales, traditions and music, our strength in adversity and our blood''. Many years later, the thinkers, poets and visionaries of the diaspora such as Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. du Bois and George Padmore began to share ideas with the leaders of a growing number of African countries which were stirring to liberate themselves from colonialism. Prof. Mills said pan-Africanism became a reality and not just an intellectual concept. The vice-president told the visitors that the display of rich and colourful traditional culture is a living and vibrant manifestation of ''our people's heritage'', adding it is not a preserved and static relic of the past; it is dynamic and very much alive. Madam Stella Karumuna, chief of the education section of the OAU secretariat, in a message on behalf of the Secretary-general, expressed her gratitude to the government of Ghana for the warm reception accorded the OAU delegation and for hosting PANAFEST. She said in spite of foreign cultures on the continent, there was the need for Africans to preserve their rich culture, music and language. She also called on the peoples of Africa to embrace the cultures of tolerance, reconciliation and peace which she said are necessary for the progress of the African society. The Central regional minister, Mr Kojo Yankah, said the region is proud and honoured to be the focal point at this time in the history for the re-emergence of African civilization. This is not a coincidence, he said, noting that earlier contacts with Europe on the coastlands also ushered in a movement for the suppression of the history and culture and a degradation of ''our true identity''. The president of the Central Region House of Chiefs, Odeefuo Boa Amponsem III, said the chiefs and people in the region are committed to PANAFEST and its objectives and would strive to sustain it. He expressed the hope that by the help of the chiefs and people of the region, a suitable site would be acquired by government for the construction of an air strip in the Central region to facilitate easy movement of participants during the next PANAFEST. Professor Nana Arhin Brempong, chairman of the PANAFEST board of directors, asked Africans and people of African descent to unite. He said they have nothing to lose and that their failure to unite would lead to "poverty and misery". Long before the arrival of chiefs and the Vice-President, the Aflao Roman Catholic Girls Band, a 20-piece teenage brass ensemble from the Volta region, provided non-stop music for a free-style masquerade display. A 15-year-old boy, Kweku Yanoh, stunned the thousands of guests when he climbed a dangling 50-feet high bamboo pole stuck loosely in the centre of the park. At a point, the crowd was torn between watching the exploits of the brass band, the body movements of the masqueraders, the stunts of the pole climber or the fascinating display of a ball juggler who kept a football rolling all over his body for at least 30 minutes. The throbbing of heavy 'fontonfrom' drums echoed through the park as Nana Kwame Nkyi the Twelfth, Omanhene of Assin Apimanin, and his entourage filed onto the park ahead of some 33 chiefs of the Central Region House Chiefs. The Sandema war dance group from Upper East and other performers from Jamaica, India, and Cameroun also entertained the crowd. Some members of the Council of State, Ministers and senior government officials attended the opening ceremony.