Day 1 – Marhaba: African Family Reunion
Several coaches in the morning left Accra for the 1hr journey to Golden Beach resort in Prampram for the first Marhaba festival African reunion celebrations. Prampram traditionally known as Gbugbla – meaning perseverance, is the capital of the Ningo-Prampram district that is made up of 4 divisions. The head table seated the Paramount chief of Prampram traditional area – Nene Tetteh Wakah III alongside Queen Mother, Worrier Queen, Chief fisherman, Stool Fathers, dignitaries and an entourage. All dressed in fine attire representing the rich culture of Ghana.
Madame Bella Ahu president of GHATOF opened the floor welcoming the Diaspora back with open arms.
The first enactment of the day took place at the shoreline with Ghanaian locals and distinguished guests pulling of a rope to anchor a canoe that consisted of returnees. Libation was poured with local drink Kasapreku and the priest called upon the ancestors to honour their homecoming. A symbolic gesture of returning home and being received.
Naming Ceremony: We were introduced to 6 different categories pertained to the naming system of Prampram.
1) The chronological names (Fominyatoo bie)
2) Day born (Ligbi bie)
3) Family name (Weku bie)
4) Names of twins
5) Fetish names
6) Reincarnation names
Traditionally a child is named after the eighth day after birth, before sunrise and publicly presented to the families, friends. With items like corn wine, local drinks and minerals to perform the naming rituals.
Growing up in the UK I lived with the name Esther (aka Sister E) but my traditionally Ga name is Naa Dzamah.
The family naming system is important, because if you become lost and you mention your name, you will be bought home, because your name represents your home area and home clan. A symbolic return home naming ceremony for the Diasporas was enacted with the pouring of libation and ancestral prays whilst each person was presented with a bead bracelet to mark the occasion.
It was a great pleasure to hear from the Diaspora returnees whose messages were real and came from the heart. A lady now an elder repatriated to Ghana 20yrs ago, built her home and as an educator volunteered her services. She reiterated the need to give respect to the land you are in when you come from outside.
“When we come back home do not treat us as a foreigner – we are family, no different, not obroni, money bags. We come with our heart, welcome us generously – There’s no place like home”.
The feelings were mutual for many but especially emotionally expressed by Brother Yaw Owusu Akyeaw founding member of Bureau of African Diaspora Affairs (BADA) “millions left only a few returned”.
Interlude: The Marhaba song composed, produced and performed by Richmond Osabu Lozo.(Marhaba is a phrase used in the Hausa dialect as a form of welcoming). We gathered together – as a celebration dance, feeling the spirit of the song as it resonated with so many people.
Marhaba, welcome home
There is no place like home, no place like home
Finding yourself at where you belong
Its so refreshing and so amazing
You have been away for too long, this is the right time to come back home, where you belong
Africa is calling you, mother Ghana is calling you
400 years of being away, you have been through the pace and we meet again o
My brothers, my sisters, my uncles and aunties, let us come together as one to build Africa to be number one.
At the end of the day we left with memories and full bellies. I was grateful that there was also delicious vegan food available by Vegan Pot – which I gracefully chopped on the long journey in traffic back to Accra.
Day 2: Welcome Home, Durbar of Chiefs, Drumming and Dancing
The Ghana Tourist Association (GTA) are the front runners for the Year of Return 2019 programmes and information). Based at The Accra Tourist Information Centre (ATIC) where Day 2 of Marhaba Festival took place. Procession by procession a Durbar of chiefs and their entourage graced us from all corners of Ghana. Within hours the forecourt was a ray of spectacular colour, energy, royalty and power consisting of school children, elders, chiefs, dignitaries, ministers, Government officials, distinguished and honourable guests.
Key note speeches addressed from the minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, GHATOF and the Officer of Diaspora Affairs about sustainable growth and development via employment, trade and integration. Important and meaningful speeches projected from Chiefs or House of Chief representatives were made from the Ga, Ashanti, Volta, North East and Greater Accra – about history and meaning of cloth, how unity is key, culture and tradition, land and resettlement. An extension to come home link with family and connect.
Chief Osman Issahaku Chackson (Greater Accra Mamprushi Chief) went deep and expressed his frustration about enslavement and the resistance of our African people who fought against the European invaders who attacked with guns. African communities were taken from the far end of the northern region, which is not mentioned and “historians need to rewrite history”. This message was so powerful that the Diaspora returnees, Rastafarian society members and other guests rose to their feet – hailing and even went to shake his hand.
Kwame Nitoto secretary of the Universal Pan African Diaspora Coalition of Ghana – gave a humble speech to represent the Diaspora which he began addressing the gathering in Twi and reminded everyone that: –
“history goes back more than 4000 years – with great Kings and Chiefs, a rich vibrant culture and history, we come from greatness – who we were prior to the European invasion”
*We are Africans who were enslaved – Who were my ancestors?”
”We return emotional, mental, spiritual, consciously and not just physically”
“We all should bring something positive go Ghana”
“Thankful to be here, made it home and survived”.
“me pa wo kyew”
Interludes of traditional drumming and dancing such as borborbor, damba, adowa, kpanlogo entertained us throughout, and of course the Marhaba welcome home song was performed in perfect harmony.
Day 3: Business 2 Business forum
Organised and facilitated by brother Yaw of BADA. The objective of the B2B forum was to connect investors from the Diaspora community with business products, services, projects, ideas and opportunities in Ghana.
A room full of selective powerful and influential business entrepreneurs presented their product and services. These included areas such as gold mining, cocoa production, agriculture, livestock, traditional herbs/medicine, natural beauty and film industry amongst made in Ghana products such as tiger nut powder. Impressive pitches consisted of new and long standing organisations of both men and women looking for investment to take their organisation to the next level. Whether it be funding for marketing, manufacturing or upscaling. Delicious samples of tiger nut blend, chocolate and natural juice were shared amongst the audience.
Lunch time – although there was banku and okra stew I declined as I didn’t want to sleep through the second half of the forum. But the Kontomire stew, rice & plantain was enough, washed down with some beetroot juice.
Profound presentations from guest speakers Al Hawkins and Paul Pumphrey from USA about triplication of wealth in Ghana by way of an airline with direct flights between West Africa and the Caribbean. Also combating the issue of bug control using organic natural pesticide that will in the long run sustain crops for mass produce. www.millmansystems.com
At the end of the presentations there was lots of networking, exchange of business cards and contacts. It was a pleasure to speak to members of Women in Business and Tourism.
The 3-day Marhaba Festival was a triumph which captured the essence of the Year of Return. A round of applause to the chairman of the Marhaba committee Mr Emmanuel Frimpong – Deputy Executive Director of Tourism Society of Ghana (TOSOGHA) who fused together all his connections, friends, frenemies, energy and commitment to make Marhaba 2019 festival a welcome home success. It was a pleasure to be part of a great team.
The feedback from the diaspora was that it was great not to hear long speeches from ministers, government officials and members of tourism foundations whose interests were more about what the Diaspora can bring regarding finance. But the realism from the chief’s speeches and interaction had more an impact as they related to their needs spirituality, emotional and consciously. Marhaba 2019 already was a high, so not sure how Marhaba 2020 will top this.
bless Sister E – Naa Dzamah