The Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Barbara Oteng Gyasi, says Ghana’s quest is to use the Pan African Historical Theatre Festival (PANAFEST) to rise above and beyond the shadows of slavery to celebrate the African spirit of resilience.
She said the Ministry together with the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) and the PANAFEST Foundation are committed to creating the awareness that Ghana is still a place to return to.
“Our role as a new generation is to leave the past behind and surge forward into creating a better future that will be a haven of freedom, equality, love, and security for the next generation,” she said.
Mrs Gyasi made this observation at the launch of PANAFEST 2021, via zoom, on the theme ‘Securing the African Family: Our Soul, Our Health, Our Wealth.’
She said the importance of PANAFEST was to create a vital and relevant platform for members of the African family to engage each other in forthright conversation.
She said real brotherhood and unity were catalysts for economic advancement through effective collaboration at national and international levels, saying, “as Africans, we are one people and must not allow our differences to affect our unification.
“We must as a continent take whatever we have and everything we can offer to make for a united Africa.”
The sector Minister said: “As we launch the 2021 edition of PANAFEST, we are today honouring our heroes like Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Dr Edward Burghart Du Bois and other great ancestors who have built on the Pan-African ideals.”
She said the ‘Year of Return’ 2019, was celebrated to cumulate the resilience of all the victims of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and the next decade, 2020 – 2030 would see the rolling out of the ‘Beyond the Return’ Programme to further strengthen the bonding with our Kith and Kin in the diaspora.”
Professor Esi Sutherland, Chairperson of the International Board of Trustees, PANAFEST Foundation, after due reflection on PANAFEST 2019, said PANAFEST 2021 was planned to bring the African Family together this time, to review the dynamics of The Return or the Sankofa Principle and explore it as an impetus for the future.
The idea was to generate a review of the true value of collectively reviewing the past with an agenda for creating visions of the future we would all like to see.
She said PANAFEST 2021 was designed as a stimulating, creative space for recollecting and sharing the multiple facets of the African experience of the pandemic and of racist Western hegemony.
“Reclaiming our right to weave our own narrative, the festival will not stop at the profound tragedy of the experience, but will also celebrate the courage, resilience, and innovation demonstrated by our front liners, scientists, health workers, inventors, artistes and community activists, and careers.”
According to her, PANAFEST 2021 was designed to establish a build-up starting in August 2020 to provide platforms of dialogue and expression in all forms of artistic expression, which speak to the raging interrogation of the state of African life in the global context.
“It is expected that activities at the festival will demonstrate beyond doubt that the African Family needs to re-assess and secure and own its own history but also set itself up to be vigilant.”
Prof. Sutherland said activities for the festival include “The Return Journey – a symbolic boat ride from the Cape Coast slave dungeons to Elmina, the Akwaaba Ceremony, and Reverential Night.
There will also be a grand durbar and opening ceremony, and the Pan African Colloquium, an Inter-Faith Dialogue, Expo Bazaar, performances from locals and guests and workshops for artistes as well as exhibitions.
“The 2021 edition of PANAFEST will seek to respond to important imperatives which have been raised such as building up participation by different communities of Ghanaian creatives and by the Ghanaian public in general,” she added.
She assured that the PANAFEST Foundation was geared up to see the constraints imposed by the COVID 19 pandemic as an opportunity to better deploy technology in innovative ways to break the barriers and rather intensify and diversify the experience of the festival.
Mr. Akwesi Agyemang, Chief Executive Officer GTA, assured that the GTA would continue to support the PANAFEST and all its partners even in these difficult times of COVID-19 pandemic.
He said one thing that came out was the resilience of the African spirit and its beliefs moving from 2019 to 2020, there were lessons that were learnt and to be taken to 2021.
“We would be worthy partners and we believe all the programmes that have been put in place will be a follow up to the historic 2019 ‘Year of Return.’