Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

National Consciousness in Early Intellectual Work in the Gold Coast

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

National Consciousness in Early Intellectual Work in the Gold Coast

Article excerpt

Introduction

Before the arrival of Europeans on the shores of the Gold Coast (1), community life was organised and grounded on the principle of oneness and underpinned by a common sense of identity. Despite internal wrangling within and among states and kingdoms (2), principally for expansionist motives, the underlying force was unity of purpose and a strong national psych to defend and uphold the customs and culture of the land. Indeed, it could be argued that the sense of nationhood and identity during this period was clad in virginal purity. Contact with Europeans and the consequent advent of British colonial rule of the country set in motion the gradual truncation and distortion of the traditional way of life and the near-irreparable weakening of the time-honoured national psych. It is recognised that the establishment of colonial rule in the country did not only mean the loss of African sovereignty but also an attempt by the western powers to rob the people of their culture and national identity. (3)

To a greater degree, the African succumbed to colonial rule, though not without initial protests which was to later result in more direct nationalist agitations. Colonial rule came with its own cultural luggage which was expressed in such common forms as language, food, dressing, and marriage, which many African people were persuaded into adopting. The result was that much of the African way of life, dignity, and institutions petered into extinction. However, this cultural decadence was not to last forever. The effect of colonialism aroused of a new unifying consciousness among the African people, both educated and uneducated. (4) This consciousness metamorphosed into nationalist sentiments and ambitions aimed at resuscitating the once bright and enviable sense of purpose and cultural values that were sinking deeply into oblivion. The main objectives of the activities during this period were to protest against certain specific features or measures of the system (5) in an attempt to end all forms of discrimination against the people, and at the same time, create a strong sense of awareness of cultural and nationalistic values among the people. In the Gold Coast and other African regions, this was to a greater degree engineered by the intelligentsia who through the pen's might intellectually fought to foster national consciousness by conveying their dissatisfaction about the administration of the colony and the people's slavish imitation of western ways.

Consequently, Ghana's colonial experiences have elicited a groundswell of attention on nationalism, national consciousness, and regional integration. The yearning for transformation in the national consciousness of the traditional peoples and their social institutions was intensive and extensive that it continues to engender discourses within academic circles. In many of these discourses, scholars have been at pains to show how colonialism has tainted the traditional way of life of the people and have highlighted the need to assert ourselves as capable of managing our own affairs through a firm concept of national identity. Thus, national consciousness, as applied in this paper, is the demonstration of love and attention in exercising one's duties toward achieving the ultimate good in nation building. (6) It connotes the state of spiritual, physical, and mental awakening and awareness of the environment in which one lives and the feeling that binds him or her to it. To put it differently, national consciousness means identifying with the soul, spirit, and aspirations of the nation as the determiner and possessor of all destinies. (7)

The intellectual discourse on national consciousness has produced respectable amounts of literature. Writing in the early twentieth century, a period when colonial administration was being strengthened tirelessly in the Gold Coast and some regions across Africa, Attoh Ahuma, Casely Hayford, Kobina Sekyi, (8) and their contemporaries sought to conscientise the people in a bid to assert their freedom from colonial dominion. …

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