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Opinions of Thursday, 20 January 2011

Columnist: Appiah-Adjei, Daniel

Name Kumasi Cultural Centre After Dr Kyerematen

ORAL VILLAGE IDEAS

BY

DANIEL APPIAH-ADJEI



Name Kumasi Cultural Centre After Dr Kyerematen
Says Nana Brefo Boateng

‘Your days at the most cannot be very long, so use them to the best of your ability for the glory of God and the benefit of your generation’, (General William Booth)

Nana Brefo Boateng a former Director of the Centre for National Culture, Kumasi has urged “The powers there be” to name the cultural centre of Kumasi after Dr. Alexander Atta Yaw Kyerematen, the founder and the first Director of the cultural centre in Kumasi.

He said this during the Kwame Nkrumah Centenary Lectures organised by the Cultural Initiatives Support Programme, (CISP) under the auspices of the National Commission On Culture and Funded by the European Development Fund (EDF) on Wednesday, 30th September, 2009 at the Centre For National Culture Kumasi. This Lecture was chaired by Oheneba Adusei Poku, Akyempemhene.

It is with much pleasure therefore as the then Programmes Officer for the Cultural Initiatives Support Programme and a Deputy Director (on Leave) of Centre for National Culture, Kumasi and now a lecturer at the University of Ghana, Legon to recount how Dr. Alexander Atta Yaw Kyerematen selflessly sowed the cultural seed for us so that all and sundry will know and appreciate his efforts.

The Cultural Centre, Kumasi was built on the sacrifices of certain individuals. Most of the works carried out at the Centre particularly during the early parts of its establishment was accomplished through local voluntary donations and communal labour. Thus a careful look at the Centre’s achievements should not fail to give a convincing proof to everyone that, the result has been more than justified, the dreams and aspirations of the Centre’s Founding Fathers.

Dr. Alexander Atta Yaw Kyerematen

The above name is noted to be the brain behind the famous Cultural Centre in Kumasi. It is to him and his family so much does the Centre owe its very birth and growth. He became the Founder and the First Director of the Centre.

Born on the 29th April, 1916 and died in 1976 at the age of 60, Dr. Kyerematen as he was popularly known had his elementary education at The Government Boys’ School in Kumasi. He entered Adisadel College in Cape Coast in 1932 where he won a number of prizes in various subjects which included and most significantly the Dyce Sharp Essay Prize and the best Scholar in English language for two consecutive years (1935-1937).

When he finished Adisadel, he was recommended to train as a priest and got admission to the Trinity College in Accra from 1937 to 1939. Before ordination, however, Dr. Kyerematen took advantage of his good academic results from the Trinity College which won him the Oxford Scholarship to enter one of the most popular and powerful Universities at that time in the world; FOURA BAY COLLEGE in Freetown, Sierra Leone. After Foura Bay College, he proceeded to Durham University in 1946 and thence to Oxford University. It is said that whiles studying anthropology in the United kingdom around 1947-48 he, like many other Scholars after an encounter with a British Professor noticed his ignorance about his own Asante culture and traditions.

This ignited the mental idea of Dr. Kyerematen to return as soon as practicable to do something to promote the Asante Culture. He realised that there was an urgent need for the preservation of our rich cultural heritage not only writing but such important forms as Museums, Zoos, Archives, theatres, Craft Centres for indigenous Ghanaian craftsmen and women (for which he acquired a big land at Wamase, a suburb of Kumasi when he established the Asante Cultural Centre), Traditional Music and Dance groups, drama Groups and even a library where books about our arts and culture could be made readily available for aspiring Ghanaians who wanted to learn more about or research more into them.

The Mental Picture

By the time Dr. Kyerematen returned to Ghana in the early 50’s, he had drawn a comprehensive programme of activities aimed at putting life into the mental picture and getting its feet off the ground.

But as Ama Ata Aidoo, one of the veteran female writers in Ghana wrote in her well written play ‘The Dilemma Of A Ghost’ “The day of planning is different from the day of battle”, Dr. Kyerematen discovered to his utmost dismay that it is one thing having a beautiful mental picture of what one wants to achieve and another thing getting other people to support you by sharing your vision. Most of the friends and people he approached in Kumasi and other places to try and share his ideas with, sounded very friendly and outwardly sympathetic but nothing beyond that. As The Great Ampong of Ghanaian gospel music fame has recently composed a song with the theme ‘Wonya Akoko funu a wonya sereba, Wonya sereba a wonya akoko funu” (If you get a dead cock, you don’t get aluminium cooking utensil to cook and enjoy, and when you get an aluminium cooking utensil, you don’t get a dead cock), those who were genuinely willing to help were no better financially than himself. They all promised him everything but money; money to lay the first foundation on which his mental picture would come to fruition was very hard to come by. Things were really looking very gloomy as a matter of fact.

Help from Asanteman Council of Chiefs

After so many attempts to get financial support to begin the job had failed, Dr. Kyerematen took a bold step and approached the Asanteman Council of Chiefs to convince (lobby) Nananom of the immense benefits which the people of Asante could derive from the proposed Cultural Centre. God being so good all the time, he did have the audience with Nananom and for the first time since he started his campaign to establish the Cultural Centre some amount of money was realised through the selfless nature and gesture by which Members of the Asanteman Council of Chiefs showed. To prove their interest in the project, they decided to forgo their sitting allowances for that day towards the project. It was like a dream to see the old Asante spirit of oneness in times of difficulties and national crisis, spring to life so suddenly and so assuredly as heavy rains. The battle was half won and that night, the haggard-looking and weary Kyerematen had a long peaceful sleep which took the wife Mrs. Victoria Kyerematen a long time to wake him up.

It will be highly rhetorical to say that Dr. Kyerematen became deeply involved with all the activities in connection with the progress work of the Cultural Centre. His humility as a person came to light when he accepted the role to be the secretary and not the chairman of the Committee set up by the Asanteman council to plan and execute the project. He was responsible for organising and publicising meetings, keeping records in addition to the volume of paper work which he executed assiduously. What is perhaps most outstanding about him is his broad national and international outlook towards culture. To him, Culture is an art and since art is universal, he felt that everyone should be able to derive some benefit from the Centre regardless of race, creed or political affiliation...

Otumfuo Osei Agyemang PrempeII, the then Asantehene

It is on record that had it not been for the great support, inspiration and blessings received from the then Asantehene, Otumfuo Sir Osei Agyeman Prempeh II, the whole project and a vision of a Cultural Centre would perhaps have been lost and ended. In His personal capacity and His capacity as the President of the Asanteman Council he led the way for the commencement of the project. His remembrance stems from his unparallel devotion and interest in the establishment and progress of the Cultural Centre.

The late Otumfuo’s keen interest in the establishment of the Centre should not spring any surprise when it was fully recognised and accepted that, he was until his death indisputably the leading authority on Asante History and culture and a great architect of the restoration of the unity of the Asante people. To him, the idea of the establishment of Asante Cultural centre was among other factors, a welcome opportunity for him to strengthen the unity of the Asante people and to show them the legacy of some of the rich cultural heritage of the nation which their fathers had left them. It is gratifying to note that Otumfuo Himself on July 5th 1951 appointed a committee of six eminent Asante citizens with the following Terms of Reference:- To make recommendations to the council on the steps to be taken to establish a Centre, whose aims and objectives would include the preservation of Asante Culture, the fostering of social research and publication of a journal containing notes on Asante Customs and other matters of general interest. It was a wise decision for which not only the Asantes but the whole nation will always be thankful to the late Otumfuo and his Councillors.

27th October, 1956 will always be remembered as a great and significant day; for it was the day that people from all walks of life and all races gathered to witness the opening ceremony of the first phase of the Prempeh II Jubilee Museum by the late Otumfuo Osei Agyeman Prempeh II, Asantahene .Is it suggestive to the management of the Centre to celebrate this important day? The Museum was the first building to be put up by the Building Committee on the site.’ It was indeed a triumph of an idea- the fruition of a vision to provide home or shrine for practically the entire culture of a people’

Ghana National Cultural Centre

The project was named Asante Cultural Centre until 1963 when the 1st President of the Republic of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah on his official visit to Tamale stopped at the Asante Cultural Centre, sharing Dr. Kyerematen’s vision nationalised it with a new name Ghana National cultural centre. In 1990, A PNDC Government policy of decentralization changed the name once again to Centre For National Culture, Kumasi.

Indeed, for the first time in the History of Manhyia, the late Asantehene decided to celebrate his Akwasiae Festival in 1970 at the National Cultural Centre. This was an extra-ordinary decision for him to have exhibited a better proof of his devotion and his keen interest in the Centre. Due to the fact that Otumfuo was not very well around that time, much against his will, he called off the celebration. His royal Highness joined the other royals “in the village” soon thereafter. ‘The spirit was willing but the flesh was weak. Let us treasure his memory and his ideals forever and ever. That is why the Museum has been named after the Great King; PREMPEH, THE SECOND MUSEUM

Other Personalities and Organizations

Praying for the day that Nana Brefo Boateng’s humble appeal would be realised,
Other Personalities and Organisations would also be remembered.

We know that the history of the Cultural Centre will never be complete without mentioning the names of a few more personalities who played no small role in its set-up. They include among others The Hon. Mr. Justice S.O. Quarshie-Idun, Senior Judge at the Kumasi Supreme Court: - He was appointed Chairman of the Building Committee of the proposed Asante Cultural Centre after the death of the former Chairman, the Late Nana Kwasi Afrane III, Edwesohene, Nana Yao Sarpong II, Juabenhene, Mr. J.H.Gambrah, Mr. D.J Buahin, Mr. N. Abubeker, Mr. B.E. Dwira, Mr. C.F Amoo, Bafour Osei Akoto, a senior Linguist of the Asantehene, Professor A.W. Lawrence, Mrs. Mary Asimaku- Idun, Mr. J.S. Miller, Mr. W.A Boatin, Mrs. Peggy Appiah, Dr.. Ephraim. Amu, Professor A. Mawere Opoku, Dance Choreographer, Mr. A.Y Berkoe, Mr. J.O Pumpuni, J.C Roberts, J.K Frimpong, Mr. Kojo Affaini, Mr. Kwasi Berchie, J. Collingwoods William, M.A Mekano, Mr.S.K Danso, Mr. A.G Ampadu, Mr. Moses Boamah, Mr. G.K Appiah, Mr. A. K Amissah, Mr. J.K Antwi, Mr. R.N. Barfour-Awuah, Mr. Edward Donkor , Mr. James Owusu Madam Ama Kwaadu (Direct descendant of Okomfo Anokye), Dr. R.P Barfour who donated money on behalf of the University of Science and Technology now the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.(KNUST) for the construction of the Craftshop, Mrs.J.O Marles, Mrs. Rhoda Mead, Mr. A. Duku, Mr. J.H.K. Folson, Mr. R.O Amoako Atta, Nana Atakora Amaniampong II, the then Mamponghene, Dr. Dsane Seiby., Mr, Owusu Ansah , former Regional Minster of Ashanti, A.E Nkansa-Dwamena, Dr. Seth Cudjoe, Nana Kwaantwi BarimaII, Prof. E.V Asihene, L.K Idan, Kingsley Obeng, K. Danso-Manu, R.A. Frimpong and Miss Adelaide Amagatcher.

Donations

Among the firms/organizations and individuals who contributed money and rendered other services to the centre are Messrs A. Lang and Company (£2,000) towards the construction of the Zoo, The Lebanese Community, headed by Mr. A. Daniel built the Dwaberem, (Open- Air Theatre), the Swiss African Trading Company, headed by Mr. Hans Roth built the Independence Exhibition Hall, Messrs J. Monta and Sons and the University of Science and Technology were the providers of services on architecture and engineering consultants, Messrs A.D.C Hyland, W.Timpo, Dr. F.O Kwami, Dr. N.D. Sodzi, S.O. Larbi, Richard Stappleton, F.K.Akwaboa, C.W.Claur, C Mahadevan, A.G Ameyaw, S.Yanney, S.L. Quartey, S.Y Danso and John Logosu. Mr. Owen Barton Ministry of Education and Social welfare all donated to the establishment of the Centre through Dr. Alexander Atta Yaw Kyerematen.
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As if to say the Vote of Thanks for the good work done by all those who in diverse ways helped to make the Cultural Centre what it is now, I wish also to pay a huge tribute to some of the workers of the Cultural Centre who have crossed the river to the other side. May God give you eternal rest. Opanin Kwasi Penkwa, Opanin Kwabena Asare, Opanin Kobina Eduonu, Mr. Christopher Holm; Nana Obiri Yeboah, Mr. Yeboa Nyamekye, Saint Abdulai Alhassan, Mr. M.M Arthur, Bob Okyeadee, Mr. Gyima and Wofa Attah... God bless you and may He accept you into His Kingdom to continue the cultural work.

Directors

The Centre has chalked a lot of success through some of the Directors who got the chance to serve. Some began with Dr. A.A.Y Kyerematen and served for a very long time .Mr. W. Otchere-Darko should be mentioned for being one of the Assistant Secretaries during the first National Festival For Arts and Culture chaired by Dr. A.A.Y Kyerematen. Other Past Directors include: Dr. Osei Kofi, Nana Brefo Boateng, and Mr. Kwaku Owusu Akyiaw The present Director, Mr. S.F Adjei. May the Lord richly bless them.

I strongly believe that there were others who helped but could not find their names in the list of these prominent citizens of our nation, all I say is Ayekoo!. Join me, therefore to recite what Etienne De Grellet said:
‘I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it; for I shall not pass this way again’

Dr. Kyerematen deserves praise and honour, let us immortalise him...

By His Grace, I shall be back

dramaticdan2@hotmail.com