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Opinions of Sunday, 1 December 2019

Columnist: Razak El-Alawa

Amankwa-Ampofo, a cultural icon honoured by the state

I first got to know Charles Amankwa-Ampofo sometime in 1980 when he led his young cultural group, Kyirem, to perform at a state function.

The audience was dazzled by the performance of the Kyirem Cultural Group, most of whom were in the basic school, but appeared to be very talented.

I was then a young press secretary at the Office the President during the administration of the Third Republic’s only president, Dr Hilla Limann.

After the show, which might have taken place at the lawns of the Castle, which was then the seat of government, I approached Amankwa-Ampofo to congratulate him and to shake hands with members of the Kyirem Group.

After this, I took an interest in the group and made sure they performed at state functions.

Upon my return to Ghana in 1996, I bumped into good old Amankwa-Ampofo at GBC, where he was permanently engaged in handling a number of programmes for the national station and involved in or hosting popular ones such as Key Soap Concert Party, Agoro, a popular TV Quiz cultural programme, and writing scripts for the Obra Drama Group.

Big man

I was happy for Amankwa-Ampofo. He had become “a big man” at GBC, later rising to become the Chief Controller of Programmes and Head of the Akan Section of GBC.

This was a far cry from the period of 1973 to 1983, when I first got to know him and he was only an artiste living on allowances he earned for the programmes he produced for GBC.

Recently, I met Amankwa-Ampofo again at the International Press Centre. I asked him whether he was still at GBC. He told me he retired in 2013 after 40 years of service.

I congratulated him.

When I asked him about the Kyirem Cultural Group, he told me those young boys and girls had grown up, with most of them being on their own. He said they had a common platform on Facebook on which they exchanged and shared ideas.

When he told me he was trying to put together another group, I thought he should grant me an interview at a later date, since he has a story to tell the world.

I was happy the no-holds-barred interview came out successfully during which I was reminded he was honoured with a state award in 2008 by President John Agyekum Kufuor, the Grand Medal (Media), for his contribution to the development of the media in Ghana.

Beginnings

Amankwa-Ampofo was born in Accra in 1953 to John Arthur Ampofo from Antoa in the Ashanti Region and Rebecca Odi Johnson of Obosomase, Akuapem, in the Eastern Region.

I was curious to know how his parents met, an Asante man and an Akuapem woman.

“My father was based in Accra and was a tailor, but he was doing business in palm wine. He used to come to Obosomase for his supplies which he took to Accra. It was in the course of his visits to Obosomase that he met my mother. They fell in love and he married her and took her to Accra,” he told me.

Amankw-Ampofo had his education, both primary and middle, at the Presbyterian school at Obosomase.

When he completed his Middle School, he relocated to Accra to join his father. He was not a stranger to Accra, though, since he used to spend the holidays in the capital.

Amankwa-Ampofo passed the Common Entrance in 1968 and gained admission to Presbyterian Boys Secondary School (Presec) at Odumasi Krobo but unfortunately his father told him he couldn’t afford the fees.

Multi-talented

Right from that time Amankwa-Ampofo proved how multi-talented he was in drama and culture. He started showing interest in programmes at GBC, while he did some private studies for his GCE.

By this time he was very fluent in English, Twi and Ga and could write very well in these languages. In 1970 he was attracted to Atta Mensah’s Adabraka Drama Troupe, performing in many of their showcases in Ga.

Soon he began to write Ga scripts not only for the group but also for the Ga programme Oblahii Ke Oblayee Abee (Time with the Youth in Ga) for Radio One, then produced by Afodu Fletchyann.

Around 1974, Amankwa-Ampofo turned his multi – talented mind to other areas at Broadcasting House (GBC), especially to an Akan Programme Yen Ara Nkonkonko, then handled by Kofi Amisah.

According to Amankwa-Ampofo, Atodu Fletchyann, Kofi Amisah and Amamoo Ankrah (later to move to Sekondi) were the three professionals, who greatly inspired the young Akuapem boy who spoke pure Akuapem and pure Ga to write plays on all topics in both languages and listeners had cause to ask for more.

Catapult

It was the Adabraka Drama Troupe that catapulted Charles into television stardom.

It came as no surprise when on the founding of the Obra TV Theatre Troupe in 1981 he was invited by Nana Bosompra to be a full founder member.

In the ensuing years, he was OBRA’s scriptwriter and also acted in many plays.

New vistas were opened for Amankwa-Ampofo when the then Director–General of GBC, Kwame Karkari, saw the potential in the young artiste when he worked for GBC (1973 – 83) and offered him full employment, going on to offer 40 years of meritorious service to the national broadcaster.

GBC sponsored Charles at the Radio Training School (1988), followed by Advanced Radio Production (BBC sponsored). He was also trained in Public Speaking at the

Radio Training School, while he attended the Radio Serial Drama Script Writing Course sponsored by the Johns Hopkins University in 1994, among several others.

Among the awards he won in his glittering career were the ECRAG “Best Juvenile Group of Youth and Students (1978),” ECRAG “Talent of the year (1984) and ECRAG Play of the Year (1996) with “Not This Time”.

Charles travelled widely, taking his Kyirem Cultural Group to World Youth Festivals in Cuba (1978), Bulgaria (1979) and Moscow (Russia) in 1985. He also travelled to Canada with the Obra Group that included Ajoa Smart and Grace Omaboe in 1999 at the invitation of the Ghanaian Community in Canada.

He still has a lot to do with GBC even in retirement.

Writer’s E-mail: elzakmediaconsult@yahoo.com/Mob. 0275 193140