Do you know that a nation without culture is like a man without soul? And a man without soul is as good as a still-born baby? And a still-born baby is that entity which could not take in the first breath of life at birth? That first breath of life is the soul which is part of the Almighty Creator Himself, without which, no human being can survive?
Perhaps the Holy Bible will help to better illustrate the point I am trying to make here. Just open the Bible, (King James Version) and see Genesis Chapter 2: 7. It reads: “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul.”
On Sunday, 20th January, 2008, the MTN 26th Africa Cup of Nations, dubbed Ghana 2008 kicked off in the capital city of Accra. The tournament would be running in four cities, namely Accra, Kumasi, Sekondi and Tamale until 10th February, 2008. The object of this piece is to try to review the Grand Opening Ceremony of the event, where Ghanaian culture was planted like a flourishing rose flower in the centre of the earth for humanity to behold, relish and cherish. It was fantastic and “extraordinaire” as the French will say. Analogically, that cultural pageantry which heralded the event was the breath of life infused into the veins of the games like the living soul to make Ghana CAN 2008 a living tournament.
First of all, Ghana and for that matter Africa must be proud that there are citizens of the continent whose creativity is beyond imagination. For the person or group of persons who sat down, or stood up or were in motion and through attunement and meditation, received inspiration from the Supreme Creator and were able to transform their visualisation into the realisation of what was displayed at the newly refurbished Ohene Djan Stadium for over 4 billion people to witness globally, merit acclamation. In fact, one would have wished that at the end of the show, at least the directors and coordinators of the entire episode should have come to the centre of the stadium to receive thunderous and endless applauses and ovations. They did fantastically well! Bravo for all performers and their directors.
I do not know them per se. But I learned that some of the cultural gurus in whose fertile wombs the baby was nurtured and given birth to included, Prof. F.Nii Yartey, Prof. Anku, Prof. Martin Owusu, Prof. Kofi Ansah and many, many others. May Jesus bless them all. Be it known to them that their reward is guaranteed in heaven! But those of them who want their pay instantly may have to kick the bucket any way. I permit myself to bestow the title of Professor upon all those who participated in that historical opening ceremony. And if anybody dares subpoena me before any lawful court of the land, because of professorship saga, I shall soberly plead for clemency, leniency and mercy. Period! I don’t want any palaver!
For the benefit of non-Ghanaians, who enjoyed the beauty of the cultural pageantry but might not have grasped the actual import of the denouement of the drama, here is the gist of what transpired that day. In the first place, it is important to know that there are ten administrative regions in Ghana. And every region is endowed with unique magnificent cultural heritage in terms music, dances, songs, festivals, cuisines, drumming and artifacts. There is no cultural or religious discrimination in Ghana. Therefore, any time there is an event of national dimension, Traditional Priests, Christian Priests and Muslim Priests are all invited to say prayers to God for the success of the event. Whether they call God, or Mawu or Nyankupong or Allah, He or She is the same Supreme Creator of all.
So, too, whenever, a national event is taking place in the country and cultural performance is organised, dances and songs from all the ten regions of the country are staged. For example, when the National Orientation Sensitisation Programme was organised by the Ministry of Information and National Orientation where the Five Pillars were officially launched in August last year at the Accra International Conference Centre, little kids from all the ten regions of the country performed cultural dances of their respective regions. This is what has made Ghana a unique land of cultural diversity in unity.
Thus, the mammoth cultural pageantry performed at the Ghana CAN 2008 opening ceremony was the superb representation of Ghana’s culture from all the ten regions as well as a symbolic representation of all the 16 African countries participating in memorable tournament in the country.
First, the helicopter that flew Ghana National Flag across the stadium symbolises that we are all Ghanaians first before any other ethnic consideration. The colourful fireworks represents the modern form of our tradition gun salutes when a great national event is about to take off. The three majestic ladies draped in treasured kente, who sang the National Anthem depicts the trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit whose presence must be acknowledged before any national event.
The over an hundred traditional horn blowers who carried the sparkling elephant tusks colourfully ornamented, was the highest point of the creativity of the originators who conceptualised the ceremony. Up till now this author is wondering where they obtained all the numerous gigantic elephant tusks from. Unless they are some artificial plastic improvisation, I would imagine that there would no more be elephants in the Bole National Park at Bole in the Northern region or in other forest reserved in Ghana. The marvel is the creativity that went into the creation of that traditional musical instrument used by traditional horn blowers in Ghana. The symbol is what can be found in the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park in Accra.
The cultural significance of traditional horn blowing is that; in chiefs or kings palaces in Ghana, it heralds the beginning of an event of great importance. Horns are used to announce the take off of an event. Like the talking drums, horns serve as traditional communication tool to send messages across people in towns and villages. So, the hundred horn blowers at the opening ceremony were symbolically announcing to the Africa and the rest of the world that the 26th edition of the prestigious African Cup of Nations was about to kick off in Ghana, so the entire globe must be alert and ready to embrace the event. And the horn blowers emerged from the four corners of the stadium symbolising the four cardinal points of the earth, namely, East, West, South and North. And by providence, Ghana itself is positioned in centre of the earth. Again, symbolically, Ghana through the opening ceremony was radiating Light, Life and Love to all corners of the globe.
Another mind blowing aspect of the opening ceremony was the acrobatic display by the youth of Ghana. Besides various magical formations was the African Map with and Madagascar created by human beings with human bodies. The design was incredible when viewed on the television screen. As for various national dances performed, the least said the better. We witnessed dances ranging from Adowa, Atsiagbekor, Dambai , Kente, Borborbor, Kpanlogo just to mention but a few. They were performed with artistic finesse with fantastic colourful costumes to march. It was simply great!
The final cultural aspect the opening ceremony which cannot escape mention in this review was the parade of national flags of various countries taking part in the tournament. Many people did not notice this aspect of the ceremony. I remember when I pointed out the flags to spectators around where I was sitting near the Scoreboard at the stadium, they marveled. Again the creativity that went into the creation of those flags was beyond compare.
The national flags of the participating teams, including Ghana, Angola, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Egypt, Guinea, Mali, Morocco Namibia, Nigeria, Tunisia, South Africa, Senegal, Sudan and Zambia were transformed into colourful umbrellas, held with reverence in for the parade as it is done in the solemn procession for a grand durbar of Kings and Queen mothers in Ghana. The scene was soul moving indeed!.
If for nothing at all, Ghana has used her rich culture through the opening ceremony of the 26th Ghana CAN 2008 to project the beauty of African culture to the blue haven. I suggest that the Local Organising Committee (LOC) should adopt and adapt the opening ceremony on DVD and CD in any modern Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) as African Cultural Heritage for the cultural advancement of mankind to the glory of the CREATOR.