Joyce Aryee, 75, ever the role model

BY: Enimil Ashon
Reverend Joyce Rosalind Aryee
Reverend Joyce Rosalind Aryee

It is impossible to write about Joyce Aryee in the Daily Graphic. In this column I cannot go beyond 700-750 words. The number of boards on which she sits is, alone, enough to fill half the space. To add her academic, professional, religious and personal accomplishments in governance, leadership, public relations and management, that will require two pages!

Reverend Joyce Rosalind Aryee belongs in the class of those special people about whom you cannot write or talk about without borrowing some superlatives. For her, every assignment is a pursuit of excellence.

Her 75 years are summed up on the walls of the corridor to her office and in her living room. They are etched in framed awards, citations, thank you notes, testimonials, non-academic certificates, trophies, name them. The sheer number will take your breath away.

Details of her attainments are public knowledge. Just ask Google. 

In paying this special tribute to Joyce Aryee @ 75, I will declassify some details about her which are not in public domain; at least, not to young persons below 35.

Did you know, for example, that in the heady days of the 1980s when she served as PNDC Secretary (Minister) for both Information and Education, her physical identity was her signature low cropped natural haircut, shaved eyebrows beautifully lined with black. And, boy, wasn’t she eloquent! 

Arts and culture

As Secretary for Information, she placed the media of mass communication at the service of arts and culture. When you heard a radio or TV jingle advertising an impending major artistic event, that was Ms Joyce Aryee at work. She would place a call to GBC and plead with or cajole — never ordering — the Director General for “a little airtime” to publicise the next drama production or the flagship weekend Sankofa programme at the Arts Centre.

Saddened by the erosion of societal and cultural values, she decided, as Education Secretary, to introduce the Curriculum Enrichment Programme. Schools began to use the talking drum, instead of the bell, to announce “Change lesson, please”. From sections of the society, however, she was lashed for returning Ghana to primitivism.

But she had lovers, plenty; so loved that the announcement of her reshuffle to another portfolio was greeted with protests and tears from GNAT. First time ever.

Somewhere between her next assignment at the Electoral Commission and the country’s return to civilian rule, something happened to Joyce Aryee. She vanished from public view. On her return, a few years later, the sassiness was gone. Her priorities had changed, a Christian who carried her faith like a badge.

If she had (still has) any worry, it is that churches and Christian leaders are not emphasising enough “the totality of our salvation, leading new converts, especially the young ones, to believe that having a boy or girl friend is normal.”

Born again

This worry is born of experience. She herself got born again in 1964 in Sixth Form at Achimota School, but from lack of consistent discipleship and worldly pleasures, she fell, sliding back into worldliness.

Her solution has been a ministry dedicated to ensuring that Christians see themselves as “Salt of the Earth and Light of the World”. Thus was born her Salt and Light Ministry, offering sound counselling.

A less known aspect of the ministry is its offer of a shoulder to cry on. People call, often in tears. Aunty Joyce (that is how everyone calls her) gives them 100 per cent attention, literally weeping with the caller. Not satisfied that she has made an impact, she asks the caller, wherever they are, to jump into a car and drive into her waiting arms, a Counsellor with a Bible.

She has sung all her life, from Wesley Girls through Achimota to Legon. The strains of symphony melt the iron in this lady, totally consuming her.

This consummation led her into her association with Harmonious Chorale, of which she is the Executive Chair. There is no space to mention their Evening with Composers series, Easter and Christmas concerts and ‘Hymns and their Meanings’ Sundays on Sunny FM.

On the occasion of Joyce Aryee at 75, I sent a WhatsApp request to James Varrick Armaah, composer of Ghana’s third national anthem, ‘Oye’ and founder and conductor of Harmonious. Typically a man of few words, he wrote back: “I have always had it at the back of my head to be disciplined and excellent enough in a manner that reflects the nature of Mama Joyce”. (About Harmonious Chorale, more anon).

I have not found a dozen people for whom “Aunty Joyce” is not a role model.  Something drives this woman.