ANO, Accra, August, 2018
Museums created from imperialist impulses are beginning to rethink their remit, purpose and methodology. The same objects and garments housed in glass cases in the British Museum or in the vaults at the Humboldt, some centuries old, are brought out year after year at Afahye or festivals e.g. in Ghana, from the Homowo through to the Odwira to the Chale Wote, a contemporary festival set up in 2011, and used in performances and acts that engage multitudes either connected with the stories of those material goods, or witnesses to them.
The art forms present in these have been largely used for many centuries in the courts and kingdoms that make up what is now known as Ghana, but they are not relics of the past. Even though some of these are threadbare, worn by age and use, there is an honouring of their initial impetus lacking from the perfectly preserved objects in museums
This notion of the dynamic fluidity of time is often absent in museum spaces, fixed as they are on the singularity of one spatial story or telling. In the transmitters of culture within Ghana – the Afahye, or festivals – time is a fluid mechanism. How, then,can we retain the dynamism, inclusivity and participatory nature of these open cultural phenomena, while encompassing more contained, immersive transmissions of culture? How do we create a space – one that offers growth, insight, learning and transcendence through culture – for all, not just one privileged social class?
How do we write about, contextualise or house art that does not take on wholesale imported paradigms, such as Western theories and methodologies of description and interpretation, hermeneutics, phenomenology and so forth, without ignoring knowledge of them either? How do we begin to create cultural contexts, narratives and histories integral to the cultures they come from?