Full Circle Festival – At The Press Launch

I have never proclaimed to have all the answers to Ghana’s problems, but I do have ideas and if you humbly permit me I would like to share one with you. My fear however is how it will be received and the possible repercussions. Although I have since 1996 spoken out about Ghana’s many social ills, including the state of our tourism and creative arts sectors, lately it seems my opinions and views are taken as personal shade! And it saddens me. Anyone who visits the archives of New African Magazine for example will discover that for the 7 years whilst I was a regular columnist, a common and recurring theme in my writings was to highlight an issue in Ghana and offering my ideas.

So please kindly permit me to share an idea I have for the Full Circle Festival which was recently launched in Accra. I share this ideas simply because I think it will benefit Ghana and because after leaving the press launch, the only information I and many people left with was that Hollywood celebrities would be coming to Ghana in 2019, as part of the celebrations to mark the start of the transatlantic slave trade 400 years ago. Although a press conference, the media people and bloggers were kept in the dark as to what these celebrities would be doing for or as part of the Full Circle Festival; how it will benefit Ghana’s tourism, arts and culture; how the festival will be monitored in terms of the number of tourists who come to Ghana. I sat at that press conference and all I could think about was how Ghana could benefit from the relationship between these African-American celebrities and The Year of Return.

Ghana wants Diasporas to return home in 2019. The Full Circle Festival is a good vehicle with which to draw in tourists whilst improving tourist sites and the creative arts. Imagine this… in 2017 / 2018, the full programme for The Full Circle Festival is drawn up and worldwide advertising starts. The celebrities will be hyping it on their social media all year. By the time the launch takes place, a full programme line-up would be made available.

I sat in at the launch and was aching to hear activities such as:

January 2019: Family Day with Boris, Nicole and their kids. Co-hosted by Okyeame Kwame and his family.
Workshop by Blair Underwood on stage production.
Fundraising dinner for a school of performing by Jessie Williams etc.

February: Story telling with Rosario Dawson at Fort Dixcove / Fort Metal Cross.
Ghana Culture Day for children hosted by Abraham Attah and a Hollywood celeb etc.

March: Ghanaian naming ceremony hosted Akosua Busia.
Mountain climbing with Dolvett etc.

August: All roads lead to Assin Manso for Big Emancipation Day event. Interactive activities which sees visitors having the chance to engage with a number of Hollywood stars.
Round table discussion between Diasporas and relevant Ghanaaians as to how to successfully execute the return home agenda etc.

November: Stage play featuring Hollywood and Ghanaian cast. This stage play would then be taken international to market Ghana, just as the Lion King markets South Africa so beautifully.

Before I left the press conference, I had ideas for each month of 2019 that would see Ghana using the Hollywood celebrities in a practical way that would draw in both domestic and international tourists and have a positive impact on the creative arts industry. If an itinerary was published early enough, people would be able to save money and plan which month of 2019 they wanted to make the return home.

But I attended a press conference of a launch with no content. In the past, I would have asked questions at the press conference. This time however I had to think over it more than 100 times simply because I’m tired of something I have been doing for over 20 years now being interpreted as shade. Ghana had international visitors. I did not want to be the one to start any wahala by asking legitimate questions at a press conference. I am learning. Small small. So I sat quietly at the press conference.

But the ideas are still in my head and one of the reasons I started blogging was so I could have a space to share the many things on my mind. Some people have told me not to put my ideas out as they will be stolen. I say every second I have a fresh idea. People can steal. People can choose to contact me and say hey we wanna buy your idea. People can hire me to implement my ideas for them. I don’t mind because truly, I am the ideas woman and the ideas keep popping.

Look, if these high profile celebrities have shown interest in doing something with / for Ghana, it would be a wasted opportunity for them to come and simply go. I appreciate Ghana gained a great deal of attention on social media. I am not for one minute saying anything negative about the recent visit of celebrities to Ghana. I am simply suggesting that once they have shown the commitment, Ghana must find a practical way to use their services, to the benefit of Ghana’s tourism and creative arts. Visiting tourist sites and taking pictures will not grow our industry. How many tourists visited Ghana as a result of seeing live footage of former President Barack Obama in Ghana??? The idea of celebrities visiting automatically improving Ghana’s tourism and arts has not worked for us. It is perhaps time to think of alternative ways of using the relationship between Ghana and high profile celebrities.

2019 is The Year Of Return. Aside the Full Circle Festival, what other activities and events have been planned from January to December 2019 to entice visitors or returnees? How prepared is Ghana? According to Catherine AFeku, Hon. Minister Tourism, Arts and Culture “we need in excess of one million African Americans to respond and come to Ghana.” (https://citinewsroom.com/2019/01/02/ghana-4th-on-cnn-travels-list-of-places-to-visit-in-2019/?fbclid=IwAR1HVgCw8HUwi60W113nq7S2Yt6LEr2-uu-nb_a0wWlsvTEzhA4lsuWuZc8). Add to this “in excess of one million African Americans” those from Surinam, Jamaica, UK, etc. etc. etc. and Ghana should see millions of people trooping into the country in 2019. How prepared are we? Playing with 1 million as a minimum number of people expected, that would mean on average 83,000 African-Americans arriving in Ghana each month. Imagine if even a quarter of these, coincidentally decided to visit the same tourist site, on the same day, leaving Accra at the same time. Imagine over 20,000 people urinating on the road between Accra and Wli Falls, or Accra and Kumasi or Accra and Tamale.

Close to 100 high powered, wealthy people were in Ghana for the Full Circle Festival. And although many have enjoyed touching African soil, many more have left Ghana with more questions than answers as to what exactly there were doing here. They are not the only ones. Ghana has a wonderful opportunity to grow her tourism and creative arts by working with these high profile Hollywood names. Let us not waste the opportunity and be excited and satisfied to take pictures with our favourite stars. Ghana must grow beyond that.

This is not a personal shade against anyone. It is me doing what I have done for over 20 years… seeing a loophole and suggesting the opportunity it brings. How can our tourism, culture and arts grow if we are silenced? If we are all scared to bring out the ideas in our heads, ideas which could benefit Ghana, how will this lead to our progress?

Although I say otherwise, it is obvious that I do infact care about Ghana, very much. Hence the constant sharing of ideas. As I always say, my ideas may not be the answer, but I hope they lead to empowering discussions that bring the right answers. If I seem to be all over the place “talking”, please forgive me. I do so out of love for Ghana. I do so as a deeply concerned citizen and not a spectator.

But hey, these are just the reflections of an ordinary African woman.

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