Day 13 – Pan-Af Confab: try again?

last nite Blackout #16 and 17 occurred…

this morning ‘TD no more!’

this day marks two weeks since my arrival in Ghana and i have become increasingly aware of how i have become accustomed to life here…my dress has infused the traditional items i have bought here with my clothing from America; sporting a Afro-European style….my head is freshly shaven (releasing anything that would distinguish me from other Ghanaians) and my time in the sun has blessed my skin with a sheen and darkness that has me staring longer in the mirror at myself…i wear sandals more often- abandoning the cautionary advice to ‘always wear closed toe shoes’…

this morning i prepare for the Pan-African conference…it begins about two hours later, but i take this moment to speak with T – the Panafest volunteer whom i met a couple of days ago; who has become very interested in getting to know me…He reveals that his family often hosts Americans and his affinity for connecting with others of the African Diaspora…he has some family who are in the states as well…his dress and manners remind me of an ivy league collegiate…i also find out that he lives across the road from where my hotel is…we laugh about the proximity and yet earlier lack of interaction between us…i also converse with a reporter who used to be an assistant of the President of Ghana…

after more pomp and circumstance, the conferring begins with a keynote address by Prof. Nana Opoku-Agyemong…it is only the second time that i will have an extended interaction with a Ghanain woman – even though this is across a podium…
‘That which will not go away…the effects of the slave trade’ is my paraphrased version of her theme…An English lit professor, she eloquently unites historical perspectives with the oral narratives of people throughout West Africa to adress the legacies of our collective experience…i abstract this query from her lecture: what is our take on this supposed history that has been documented and written mostly by Europeans? and how does it reconcile with oral memories of our people?
memory is key to my work and to why i am here…to validate, affirm and bring to conscious the memories of our people that have been subverted, hidden and unexamined…these memories, in her work, have been illuminated through the oral narratives she has collected and continues to collect…these documented narratives seem to honor the memories that did not come to surface in the writings of Europeans who wrote about the middle passage…her work, for me, further illuminates the ‘coincidence of fate’ interlocking Africans on the continent with those of the continuum of the Diaspora as it seeks unmask the educational institution which, she believes, continues to systematically extract the ‘human element’ from validated historical books…’where is the feeling and emotion…where is the humanity’ she asks? for her, and i agree, it is in the oral accounts, in the songs that she brings to the foreground… i believe that added to this are the ancestral kinesthetic memories that continue to permeate present African people of the Diaspora; the purpose of my trip under the auspices of the Jerome foundation…in america we still feel the residue of lynching, shackles the aftertaste of salty ocean water… this is the ‘body connection’ to the ‘human element’ that she longs for in the past historical recounts of the enslavement of Africans inside the “triangular trade’…

there is much to take in between her and the second gentlemans impassioned speech…Dr. Kofi Sam speaks on Pan-African technology convergence…such potent and powerful information, he shares, but i can only write down few quotes:

“science is universal, technology is environmental”…

“Yes Africa is indeed suffering from AIDS: Acquired IMPORT DEPENDENCY SYSTEM”!

a much needed break occurs after the two speeches and questions/comments from the audience/participants..i use this moment to get Professor Nana’s and Dr. Kofi Sam’s email addresses… i then take leave with some others whom happen to be headed back towards the hotel…

i end up at Adisadel (go figure) but this time in the afternoon…and have a really incredible breakthrough conversation with a sister from Coite-d’voire who has recently re-located to Accra and a brother from the Volta region’; both are in Cape Coast interning with “G” [from another region in Ghana that i cannot recollect]- who owns a Travel agency business in Accra…they are also volunteering and supporting Panafest.. it is a breakthrough conversation because it feels so grounded, so human, so REAL and so simple…unlike any conversation i have had in America surrounding themes of Pan-Africanism. We were living the Pan-African community right there at that moment!

the day is FAR from over though…i relish the conversation and their new friendships i head back to the hotel and prepare for the candlelight vigil in the center of town which will lead to the Cape Coast DUNGEON where Pre-Emancipation ceremonies and presentations are to take place…

“We came from the water and to the water we shall return – TO HEAL”
i wrote that saying about 4 years ago…drawing upon a quote than an elder in my family had passed onto me…after the vigil and the ceremonies (which i will not detail or discuss) HEALING is the necessary element i had omitted from that saying…
i will mention a few elements from this nites proceedings:

the honoring of ONE AFRICA…i know little of this man, but he was truly revered in Ghana..i believe he originally came from New York or somewhere in the States and moved to Ghana to live, inspire, and give back…

the MANY songs, dances and speeches which DID NOT exhaust me or the many people as the countdown to midnite came closer…

the going into the MALE HOLDING AREA for a sacred anointing and cleansing ceremony…

the ROLL CALL OF THE ANCESTORS at midnite (the beginning of the inaugurated EMANCIPATION DAY)

the meditation, reconciliation and releasing that continued on throughout the nite til there was but only the staff to escort me out of the Cape Coast dungeon..

we came from the water and to the water we shall return TO HEAL…

D UNDERBELLY Home page

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Author: Barak adé Soleil

creative practitioner, independent consultant and curator. making dance, performance art and theatre. working within community.

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