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Opinions of Saturday, 23 October 2010

Columnist: Appiah-Adjei, Daniel

Reflections On National Festival Of Arts And Culture

ORAL VILLAGE IDEAS

BY

Daniel Appiah-Adjei

Reflections On National Festival Of Arts And Culture (NAFAC)

By His Grace, next month is November, 2010 and the National festival of Arts and Culture (NAFAC) is happening once again in Ghana. This time, in the Northern Region of Ghana and precisely Tamale. Oral Village Ideas would want to share with our august readers some reflections on this important festival.

BACKGROUND

The National Festival of Arts and Culture, (NAFAC) was institutionalised in 1961 by the late Dr. Alexander Atta Yaw Kyerematen, the founder and the first Director of the Ghana National Cultural Centre now the Centre For National Culture Kumasi. His concept was to bring All Artists/artistes together to perform and exhibit their works once every year.

With time, the Institute of Arts and Culture became involved and in 1966, the United States Embassy in Accra decided to sponsor the GHANA ARTS FESTIVAL which opened on 25th January, 1967. It was revisited in Accra as part of the second Ghana International Trade Fair in 1971. This biennial national festival was aimed at promoting unity and national orientation within Ghana’s cultural diversity. It was also geared towards the cementing of the cultural basis of the country’s development as a nation as well as providing a forum to appraise the work of the Ghanaian society and the celebration of its achievements.

The Festival at the national level is preceded by District and regional festivals. The purpose of the District and regional festivals is to promote grassroots participation to unearth new talents and inventions that will represent the regions at the National Festival and specifically among others;

• Create awareness and enthusiasm among the general public about our culture and the values that portray our ‘Ghanaianess’
• Showcase the natural peculiarities and economic endowments of the districts and regions photographic exhibitions, local technological inventions, and innovations etc to boost investments opportunities.
• Promote creative goods and services to boost our creativity and to develop and strengthen the creative arts industry for active participation in the global trade in creative goods and services and
• Open up the districts and regions for the promotion of cultural tourism to generate income and development.

NAFAC CELEBRATION AND THEMES

In 1973, the twelfth Regional festival of Arts in the Ashanti Region was adopted by the then Arts Council of Ghana as the 2nd National Festival of Arts in Kumasi under the theme:

• UNITY AND PURPOSE

The 1975 Festival in Accra from 21st October to 7th November served as the preparatory grounds for the 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC 77) in Lagos, Nigeria.

The 1978 edition of the festival in Tamale was aimed at blending the ancient and modern creations in our country’s culture hence, the festival became the National Festival of Arts and Culture under the Theme:

• TOWARD NATIONAL UNDERSTANDING

In 1980, the Brong Ahafo Region hosted the event at Sunyani under the theme:

• CULTURE FOR NATION BUILDING

In 1982, The Eastern Region hosted NAFAC at Koforidua with the Theme:

• TOWARDS CREATIVE NATIONAL CULTURE

From 1983 to 1991, there was a yawning break of the Festival until 1992 when NAFAC began again from Kumasi under the theme:

• NATIONAL UNITY IN CULTURAL DIVERSITY- THE FOUNDATION OF A PROUD AND PROGRESSIVE GHANA.

In 1996, NAFAC was celebrated at Cape Coast in the Central Region with the Theme: CULTURE, THE ENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT

In 1998, the Upper East Region hosted the Festival at Bolgatanga under the theme:

• THE CHALLENGES OF CULTURAL PRESERVATION, THE STRENGTHENING OF OUR NATIONAL IDENTITY IN THE NEXT MILLENIUM.

In 2000 at Ho, Volta Region, NAFAC was celebrated with the Theme:

• SUSTAINING A CULTURE OF PEACE, UNITY AND DEVELOPMENT IN A NEW MILLENIUM.

NAFAC 2002 which was hosted by the Western region was celebrated in 2003 at Sekondi/Takoradi under the theme:

• CULTURE, DEVELOPMENT AND THE GHANAIAN.

In November, 2006, NAFAC was celebrated instead of November, 2005 at Wa in the Upper West Region with the theme:

• CULTURE, A VEHICLE FOR WEALTH CREATION.

As part of the celebration of the Jubilee Year of Ghana’s Independence, NAFAC was celebrated in Kumasi in November, 2007 under the theme:

• 50 YEARS OF CULTURAL INTEGRATION AND NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT.

NAFAC 2010

This year’s National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFAC 2010) is slated for the Northern Region, Tamale, in November, 2010. According to the organisers and I quote; “Recognising the potential of the creative arts industry to create jobs for the youth this years Festival is under the theme:

• NAFAC; PROMOTING UNITY, TECHNOLOGY AND WEALTH CREATION FOR A BETTER GHANA: THE ROLE OF THE YOUTH IN NATION BUILDING.

SOME REGULAR PROGRAMMES DURING NAFAC

• OPENING CEREMONY
This is performed most often by the Head of State. The NAFAC exhibition is opened on the same day amidst drumming and dancing from celebrated artistes.
• Drama Nights
• Film Shows
• Colloquium
• Women’s Day
• Children’s Day
• Highlife Night
• Choral Night
• Gospel Music Night
• Traditional Beauty Pageant Night
• Traditional Food exhibition/Bazaar
• Regional Days (Pairing two Regions to showcase their cultural dexterity the same day )
• Photographic Exhibition
• Hall of Fame
• Traditional Drumming and Dancing Night
• Grand Durbar of Chiefs and Queen Mothers.
• Closing Ceremony also performed by the Head of State.

Indeed, NAFAC has been celebrated over the years in Ghana from one region to the other and in each celebration; various traditional groups (Arts and Craft Practitioners, Performing artistes etc) are invited to perform and showcase their products. A theme is also selected for the occasion. Don’t you think, as media men and women it is about time you helped us to catalogue the number of traditional musical groups so far invited to perform on the platform of NAFAC, their background artistic and cultural impact on the said NAFAC, their respective regions and how they benefit economically, socially and morally?

I think it is imperative to examine the themes selected for the occasions to verify their sustainability throughout the festivals. Their impact on the socio-economic and cultural development of this country.

Documentation
For some curious reasons the importance of collection of materials and documentation of the National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFAC) has not been considered for a very long time. As a consequence, some valuable materials have been lost through neglect, ignorance of the value of preservation and the inevitable denial of precious knowledge.
Any form of salvaging of the materials can be pursued to the homes of the practitioners, the production stores of broadcasting houses, various government departments, the National Commission On culture, the Centres For National Culture and some educational institutions.
Observing NAFAC for sometime, I have come to the realisation that as a country, we have not fully benefited from it looking at its original purpose and mission. NAFAC doesn’t seem to inspire lasting yearnings of the aspiration of the people. What are the imprints made by its celebration? Is it only a tradition where NAFAC moves from place to place?
Has National Orientation and Unity through culture shifted to the ‘creation of wealth’? Who are the main beneficiaries of NAFAC, the Musician, the Dancer, the Choreographer, the Dramatist, Set Designer, the Traditional Praise singer etc or the Businessmen, hoteliers and restaurant operators?.

It seems to me that the institutional interest in the development of Ghanaian culture through the organization of NAFAC every two years is accidental rather than arising from a well thought out policy. As a result there is no proper directional effort, scheme or plan to contain and support the scope of such an important activity that would help to tell the story of national development and growth of the arts and culture in the future.

Some of the questions that have always been bothering me are:
• Is NAFAC living up to expectation with all the beautiful themes the organizers choose? If it does why is culture still not recognised by the state as one of the tools for national development?
• Is the celebration of NAFAC cost effective?
• Why can’t NAFAC which is considered the most significant of all festivals and of National character in the country measure to ABOAKYER or OPEMSUO FESTIVALS?
• What Legacies have the celebration of NAFAC left for the traditional groups/Art and Craft practitioners and the Regions?

It is not enough to defend the celebration of NAFAC as being very important as far as our Arts and cultural development is concerned. The benefits when listed will be enormous but its celebration leaves much to be desired. Financial constraint is sometimes used as an excuse but bureaucratic manoeuvres have been found to be one of the bases of neglect and loss.

Indeed, there is a problem at hand. The problem of culture and National development. It must be noted with all sincerity that Ghanaians are very passionate about the celebration of NAFAC. NAFAC should not be left to decay or to destroy. It has come to stay and there is the need to find a lasting solution to its problems. This can be done through a well managed research.

Due to planning and lack of documentation, some festivals end up in serious conflicts. It pre-supposes that what festivals aim to achieve (unity, development, prosperity etc) is turned upside down for the opposite with chaos and confusion.

Recommendations

In our attempt to further improve the quality and to making NAFAC live up to expectation, I wish to conclude with the following suggestions which of course, do not exhaust the many brilliant ways to help in making NAFAC a more profitable Festival for National Development. We need to

• assess the themes for NAFAC (1992-2007), their relevance and impact on the socio-economic and cultural development in Ghana
• catalogue the speeches and pronouncements made by present and past Presidents and other Government Officials on Arts and culture during the celebration of NAFAC and analyse them for implementation.
• monitor and evaluate the deciding processes of inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes (short and medium-terms), and long-term (impact) for the sustainability of the Festival.
• Make recommendations on the proper methods for the celebration of NAFAC through the findings from the various researches.
• Document and preserve the National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFAC).
• Provide statistical data and other relevant information on Ghanaian Artistic and theatrical Development.
• Provide guides, catalogue and bibliographies to facilitate the use of NAFAC collections
• Maximize patronage to the Festival through effective publicity.
• Community arts-based projects, creativity and cultural expressions
• Rural communities, creativity and social inclusion.
• Youth culture, citizenship and political engagement
• Creative projects as a tool for social inclusion among indigenous cultures
• Street art and civic participation
• Creative projects and the prevention of juvenile crime and delinquency
• Creativity, social inclusion and the role of education.
• The internet and communities of creative interest
• Ageing, leisure and social inclusion
• Urban regeneration, city spaces and cultural participation
• Improve upon Advertisement and publicity of the Festival throughout the year of NAFAC celebration
• Establish a permanent Secretariat for NAFAC to help in soliciting for funding and other logistics

The cultural branding of Ghana is a process that will take time; however, I am proud to be part of the growing international understanding of Ghana and its cultural transformation.
I know Ghana is looking for a stronger and more positive image through programs like NAFAC that reach important markets.
Culture is a symbol of beauty, of love, romance, education and peace. Now, it will become a symbol of heroism: Ghana will be rescued by its cultures as it passes through its turbulent past and takes its place as a leader in West Africa and beyond.
By His Grace, I shall be back.