Feature Article of Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Columnist: King, Jerry

Ghana's Youth, Media And Cultural Prostitution

There is a marked and distinctive lack of films, documentaries and broadcasts of our history on our televisions and radios. Even common dramatic re-enactments of our immediate history (independence – today) are conspicuously absent on our televisions.

Most of what we see and hear of our history is the oft repeated 1960’s productions which are as bad as they are clichéd and are boring to a fault – no doubt made for generations past.

From the early 19th century till date, western nations have perfected the extensive use of cultural products like films and music for enormous economic gain and Asian countries are busily copying that formula, hence the explosion in Asian cinematic material across the globe. The Asian experiment produced its first global superstar in the iconic Bruce Lee and has gone on to produce countless film superstars to worldwide acclaim.

Today an Asian country, India accounts for the most films produced in any country year on year, beating the mighty Hollywood and the British film industry, two of the giants in motion picture production. The interesting thing about these films is their relentless portrayal of the history of those respective countries and cultures. The relevant question to ask here is: what accounts for our relative reticence in portraying our history and hence our culture to ourselves and our children which also could be used for purely economic gain?

Can it be inferred that were are ashamed of our culture or am I just an amateur pseudo-psychologist, displaying unashamedly, my profound ignorance? Countries have used the power of communication and later, motion picture to galvanize and mobilize the masses throughout most of modern human history. This has been used to instil national pride, to reinforce cultural values and heritage and most of all, to encourage diversity or to reinforce homogeneity.

Ghana’s television and radio landscape is utterly devoid of productions which fairly portray our historical and cultural heritage and instils pride in us as a people. Our televisions are rather filled with junk western programmes, mostly American, of decades past. Through constant exposure, we may begin to aspire to become Americans but would always be decades behind in our aspirations. It is not the purpose of this article to prove what has been proven time and again of the impact of communication on humans.

It is no wonder that our atmosphere is filled with all kinds of funny noises mistaken for foreign accents. Our news readers, radio presenters, sportsmen, journalists, presidential aspirants, and CEOs are guilty of this, all in the name of appearing civilized and cultured. Since when did our accents become unacceptable to the point that one must mimic a foreign accent to feel accepted and admired by our society?

Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, our first President, understood to a profound extent the poison that such behaviour contained and never allowed himself, not even once, to try to mimic the white man’s way of speaking. He spoke in that vibrant African tenor and spoke clearly so there could not be a mishearing or misunderstanding. He will forever remain an iconic black man.

There is a tremendous dearth of modern locally produced documentaries and resource material on such icons such as even Dr. Kwame Nkrumah himself, sports heroes such as Abedi Pele, Azumah Nelson, D.K. Poison, and the list goes on. Without these readily available, who are our young sports men and women, politicians and youth supposed to emulate? How can they build on what has been done if they do not even know what has already been achieved?

The maxim, “If you don’t know where you came from, how can you know where you’re going?” has been hammered into my consciousness from since I can remember and I’m sure readers can appreciate just how poignant this statement is. Ghanaian youth, myself included have a strange hybrid of American culture, British culture and Ghanaian culture. We inhabit in us three strong cultural influences which often leaves us not only dazed and confused about where we belong but it also forsakes us in a cultural no man’s land.

Countless articles have been written about all the ills in our society and the biggest accusing finger has been consistently pointed at the persistent lack of good leadership across the length and breadth of our society. I fear it is no exaggeration to say that the immediate past generation has totally failed us in their duty of inculcating our cultural values and heritage in us. But enough of accusing fingers.

Much has been blamed on the globalised nature of today’s world. The world is interconnected in ways we never dreamed about even a decade ago and people have been quick to blame this phenomenon for the remarkable loss of Ghanaian identity in today’s youth but that is just the pot calling the kettle black. Just a generation ago, most Ghanaians sported a jheri-curl afro, wore bell-bottomed trousers, and danced to popular American disco music in discotheques. Even then, they showed a propensity to mimic foreign culture and attitudes. The situation has not so much changed as has become worse.

Ghanaians, both ethnically and collectively have a beautiful history, a history that is the sum of our worth as human beings and our aspirations going forward into the future. It teaches various lessons which make our society what is today.

But as the adage goes “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”