National Theatre honours Prof. Nketia with cultural performances

BY: Prince Acquah
Members of the National Drama Company performing a play to portray the life of the late Prof. J. H. Kwabena Nketia at the National Theatre in Accra
Members of the National Drama Company performing a play to portray the life of the late Prof. J. H. Kwabena Nketia at the National Theatre in Accra

A cocktail of cultural performances that included music, dance and drama proved a fitting tribute to the revered Emeritus Professor Joseph Hansen Kwabena Nketia, as the National Theatre of Ghana honoured the late pillar of African Studies in Accra last Friday.

The piece, dubbed Odomankoma Nhyehyée, and held on the eve of his burial, was a mix of performances which included a play with a touch of comedy, poetry, mime, appellations and tributes alongside traditional music and dance such as Kpanlogo, Adowa, Maya, Asafo, Kete and Agbadza to portray his multiple background.

The event featured the three resident groups of the National Theatre—namely the National Symphony Orchestra, the National Dance Company and drama group Abibigromma, the Dance Department of the University of Ghana (UG), the choir of UG, Three Idiots and Young Ashes, among others.

Also in attendance were prominent characters in the culture and arts industry, including the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mrs Barbara Oteng Gyasi, and some members of the general public.


Shortly after the show, the Executive Director of the National Theatre of Ghana, Mrs Amy Appiah Frimpong, told the Daily Graphic   that the performance was a celebration to tell Prof. Nketia’s story in a disciplinary manner.

 “We did the piece in honour of Prof. Nketia because he was a father of African Studies, and we were all students at his feet one time or the other.

He continued to mentor us at various stages in our careers, so we all came together in his memory,” she said.

She said the professor had a complex background because he did not leave out any culture in his studies and research, and that explained the wisdom behind the variety in culture of the stage performances they displayed.

“He touched many parts of the performing arts, and that's what we did. He travelled the country and he did a lot of research, especially on the music of all these cultures, and that's what we wanted to represent,” Mrs Appiah Frimpong said.

“I think that this was a labour of love from the people who cherished the work that the professor has done and it was done to honour him, and maybe for his anniversary we will do it again,” she added.


Emeritus Prof. Nketia was born on June 22, 1921 at Mampong Asante.

He was a composer, ethnomusicologist and  writer, with over 200 publications and more than 80 musical compositions to his credit.

 He won many awards and recognitions, including Cowell Award of the African Music Society, Companion of the Order of Star of Ghana, Grand Medal of the Government of Ghana (Civil Division), Ghana Book Award and ECRAG Special Honour Award (1987).

Other honours he received were the Ghana Gospel Music Special Award (2003), ACRAG Flagstar Award (1993), ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for his book on the Music of Africa, IMC-UNESCO Music Prize for Distinguished Service to Music and Prince Claus 1997 Award for Distinguished Service to Culture & Development.

Prof. Nketia was given a state burial on Saturday, May 4, 2019. A pre-burial service was held at the Forecourt of the State House in Accra.