Academic journal article ARIEL

Pan-Africanism and Globalized Black Identity in the Poetry of Kofi Anyidoho and Kwadwo Opokwu-Agyemang

Academic journal article ARIEL

Pan-Africanism and Globalized Black Identity in the Poetry of Kofi Anyidoho and Kwadwo Opokwu-Agyemang

Article excerpt

The fact that most of contemporary African writing is immersed in the historical and the social constantly poses a challenge to reading and theorizing it. The boundary between text and context is often so thin or blurred that it becomes difficult to distance texts from their enabling situations. This convergence implies that any attempt at transferring values that are already taken for granted in Western traditions of critical practice will distort or misrepresent literary practices in this case. The situation is becoming increasingly complicated as various national literatures are acquiring distinctive idioms based on the unique ways that social and creative traditions negotiate their terms of engagement. The challenge that this poses to theorizing African literature is to appreciate the traditions that sustain specific literary efforts and appraise them accordingly. Ghanaian literary culture, an aspect of which is the object of this exploration, is very unique in the sense that it exhibits a considerable sense of historical awareness. This historicity testifies to its implication in the discourses that sustained the nationalist project in much of what used to be British-controlled West Africa in general and the former Gold Coast in particular. (1) Ghanaian writing exhibits a great deal of Pan-Africanist consciousness, a reality that has much to do with the nation's history and the conscious way that a Pan-Africanist outlook has been sustained within the Ghanaian intellectual tradition and public life.

Ghanaian writing has probably borne more of the African historical burden than any other national literary tradition in Africa and this is its unique input into the constitution of African writing: Ghanaian writers generally privilege realities that are central to defining the experiences of black people from the pre-colonial era to the present. It is no surprise, for instance, that three out of the four writers that Cristel Tempels studies in Literary Pan-Africanism are Ghanaian. Two major factors explain this orientation in Ghanaian writing. The first is that Ghana has many of the reminders of the traumatic experience of slavery, the single most important assault on the continent, which constantly inspire creative reflection on the experience. These are mainly forts and trade posts that European slave traders used:

  Ghana boasts the distinction of having sixty castles, forts, and
  lodges built along its three-hundred-mile coastline. The Portuguese
  were the first to protect their trading interests by building Sao
  Jorge da Mina, or St. George's castle, at Elmina in 1482; thereafter
  the Dutch, Swedes, Prussians, Danish, and British all competed for
  dominance, with many fortifications changing hands as one European
  power triumphed over another. With the abolition of the slave trade,
  these structures were often used as colonial administrative offices
  and prisons; after independence in 1957, some functioned as schools
  or military training academies; Christianborg castle in the capital,
  Accra, has served as Ghana's seat of government since 1876. (Richards
  622)

The monuments have become important for the development of a heritage tourism built around the experience of slavery. These historical sites attract diasporic Africans who are eager to trace their African roots and emotionally recapture the origins of the African diaspora. The second factor is that Ghanaians have particularly sustained the Pan-Africanist vision and this has come to be associated with the way the Ghanaian nation itself is imagined. Kwakwu Larbi Korang's Writing Ghana, Imagining Africa situates African modernity within a trans-national framework and demonstrates the sense in which the intellectual history of Ghana must proceed from acknowledging the foundation that a form of Pan-Africanism from the nineteenth century laid the foundation for the Ghanaian outlook on the African identity. The fact that Ghana was also the first African country to gain independence from the British naturally placed the responsibility of leading the rest of the continent on her. …

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