The universal Black family has been assured that the 2019 ‘Year of Return’ celebration in Ghana has been planned with all Africans in mind, no matter which part of the world they are.
“President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo, in launching the ‘Year of Return’ programme at the American Press Club in Washington last September, had in mind a celebration to which all diaspora Africans be they English, French, Portuguese or Spanish, are being encouraged to attend,” says Mrs Catherine Abelema Afeku, Ghana’s Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture.
She gave an assurance during a courtesy call on her at her office in Accra by Dr Jamila Hamidu, a Ghanaian lecturer at the University of Bordeaux, France. The lecturer had used the occasion to make an appeal to the government of Ghana not to exclude Africans in the French Caribbean in the year-long celebration.
The year 2019 marks 400 years of the historical documentation of enslaved people of African descent.
It is 400 years since the first ship with enslaved Africans landed on the shores of the United States of America (USA) and Ghana, through its Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture has launched the ‘Year of Return’, spearheaded by the Ghana Tourism Authority, to mobilise the entire Black race to mark the year.
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Making her appeal through the Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister, Dr Hamidu reminded the world that the Atlantic slave trade was not a linear affair between English speaking West Africa and English speaking New World.
“Quite a lot of slaves were taken from the shores of the Gold Coast, namely Elmina and Cape Coast, as well as parts of the North, particularly Salaga, into countries collectively referred to as French Antilles or French Caribbean, including Martinique and Guadeloupe,” she said.
Replying to the appeal, Mrs Afeku assured Africans living everywhere that the Government of Ghana was well aware of the size and spread of the diaspora African phenomenon.
“We are aware, for instance, that Portuguese vessels carried an estimated 5.8 million Africans into slavery. British ships carried about 2.8 million slaves altogether and an estimated 1.4 million Africans were loaded onto French ships during the course of the transatlantic trade, and the 185 voyages made by Spanish vessels carrying some 61,000 slaves from the continent, not to talk of the America-bound voyages,” she said.
Mrs Afeku was at pains to point out the wrong perception that it was only the English colonies that suffered from slavery.
“The presidential declaration in Washington is for all sons and daughters of African descent,” she said, giving an assurance that “Ghana, through the Tourism Ministry is ready to receive its people from the diaspora.”
Dr Jamila Hamidu
Dr Hamidu is the events coordinator and policy analyst for an international project which exists to advocate more recognition by Continental Africa for their kith and kin in the French Caribbean.
As part of their advocacy, the group put together a number of specialists and historians for a colloquium in Accra last November 8 to draw attention to the Ghana-French Antilles connection.
Sharing her experiences that confirm the ancestry of the Africans in the Antilles, Dr Hamidu mentioned names, social and religious practices in places such as Martinique, and said: “Many Africans will be surprised to know that in those French Caribbean countries, there are names such as Quartey, and other Ghanaian names some of which have been Frenchified in the same way as some of our names in Ghana have been Anglicised.
“You’d be surprised at the cultural and religious practices.
They practice ancestral worship and pray to their gods the way we do here — river, tree or mountain gods; the pouring of libation.
The only difference is that theirs have been mixed up with Catholic practices.
In their social life, their tales are Ananse stories.
“So from those practices you can see that there are the linkages with Africa.
What convinces me as an academic is that these same practices are popular among the Africans in Brazil, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba, Saint Lucia among others.
“So you see there are linkages with the West African shores both the Yoruba diaspora and the Akan diaspora,” she said.
From her perspective, therefore, the 400-year celebration must be occasion for uniting the African family, saying, “We’ve actually reached the point whereby we can assert who we are by understanding our history.”