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The Pan African Historical Festival in Ghana-Honoring Black History

SANKOFA (Reaching Back)

PANAFEST and the Ghanaian State

PANAFEST is an international event which, as has happened since the middle of the 20th Century, makes Ghana a motivational force for African People. Since 1992, the festival has attracted participation by official delegations, individuals and groups from African, Caribbean and South American countries as well as groups and individuals from Europe and the United States. The Government of Ghana has considered this a major national initiative and appreciates the agencies, communities, civil society organizations and corporate bodies which have mobilized resources to complement government efforts over the years. The Government of Ghana has also been deeply appreciative of   all sister governments for their participation and the African Union for lending its auspices to this unique cultural manifestation.

This year’s PANAFEST aptly coincides with Ghana’s launch of the “Year of Return, Ghana 2019” in its quest to encourage African Americans and the black diaspora to return to the country where their ancestors were once kidnapped for enslavement.

The Government of Ghana supports the PANAFEST Foundation as the lead agency of the Festival coordinating the Local Planning Committee.

The Impetus and Objectives of PANAFEST

The Pan African Historical Theatre Project now known as PANAFEST was mooted by the late Efua Sutherland in the mid-1980s as a cultural vehicle for bringing Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora together around the issues raised by slavery which remain suppressed. PANAFEST addresses the most traumatic interruption that ever occurred in the natural evolution of African societies which among other traumas, profoundly eroded the self- confidence and freedom for self-determination of a whole people. These constitute an impediment to the progress of Africans and must be laid to rest. Ghana’s coast line is dotted with large, now silent memorials to over 500 years of this most turbulent era in Africa’s history The festival consciously makes them a site for confronting the effects of enslavement, purging the pain of Diaspora, acknowledging the residual effects of the trade on the Continent and re-uniting to forge a positive future in the contemporary global environment.

The Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum

Alongside the healing processes, PANAFEST celebrates the strengths and resilience of African culture and achievements of Africans in spite of the transatlantic slave trade and its aftermath. It is designed to help Africans to reconnect with their strengths and thus inspired to eternal vigilance, rededicate themselves to fully assuming the reigns of their own destiny in recognition of the lessons of history.

There are today, urgent developments making this proudly Ghanaian initiative a vital and relevant platform which provides members of the African Family with the opportunity to engage with each other in forthright communication. Among these are negatives such as human trafficking from the continent, the brain drain, marginalization of Africans in a global knowledge economy, the renewed surge of external pursuit of African natural resources and the slowness of African Unification. There are also positive factors including enabling global conventions and coalitions and African initiatives to establish transnational businesses.

The value to community initiatives, take advantage of technologies and mobilize the strength of Africans around the globe.

Foundation of PANAFEST Activities and the 2019 Edition.


PANAFEST is founded on the premises that the arts, particularly theatre,  are powerful tools of communication and healing and that a people need to create new expressions and commemorations and platforms for dialogue to provide the inspiration for mobilizing energies for moving on to greater heights. To this end, the 2019 edition will, as has been done since the institution of Emancipation day, be celebrated as PANAFEST /Emancipation. In addition to the festival vision Re-Uniting the African Family it has the specific theme:  “BEYOND 400 YEARS; REACHING ACROSS CONTINENTS INTO THE FUTURE” It takes place from July 25 – August 2, 2019.

The festival through the Grand Durbars in Cape Coast and Assin Manso will feature unique atonement rituals. The now deeply meaningful and popular Reverential Night will take place at Cape Coast Castle culminating in the reading of the Emancipation Declaration. The 2019 colloquium of the festival will feature discussions on the World Decade on People of African Descent as well as the role of faith communities in the African Diaspora. It will also feature Africans making an impact in shaping world culture through the built environment and advanced technology.  The festival will also feature special artistic manifestations which address the theme and spirit of the festival.

  The Build up to PANAFEST /Emancipation 2019

From one edition to the other, it is necessary to re-iterate the main message of the festival and deepen the recognition by the Ghanaian public of its relevance to their lives. Those artistes and cultural organizations, educational institutions and the media which have made efforts to highlight the message for and enhanced the participation of the people of Ghana in the festival over time are very much appreciated. There is however a lot more to be done in this respect.

Artist(es) invited to participate in the festival , entertainment event managers as well as  leaders of educational institutions and media  houses  are urged to incorporate the themes listed below in all  their programmes (including artistic ones such as music selections /event for broadcast) in the run up to the festival :

  • Highlight important moments in the history of African peoples including our own societies.
  • Examine ways of surmounting the issue of slavery and its consequences.
  • Celebrate and, where necessary, interrogate the knowledge systems and culture of African people.
  • Manifest and document Pan African Culture.
  • Shed light on innovative and creative Africans.
  • Address the 60th Anniversary of Ghana’s independence and review of Ghana’s perceived leadership role among African Peoples around the world.


About Fred kyeremeh

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