I had a long conversation with Solace Rose – Quartey this morning which got me thinking: we are in danger of losing our culture and identity and therefore our only chance to develop holistically as a nation.
Being an oral society, most of our historical information is transmitted from one generation to generation by word of mouth. We neither write our history nor our stories.We are in danger of raising a generation of young people who will have no clue of vital Ghanaian traditions and customs largely because they live in cities and have been raised by parents who also have lost touch with their roots or have failed to pass vital information on.
Religion, especially Christianity has been a tool that has been used to separate Africans from their wealth. We have been taught to despise our traditional medicine men who have the knowledge of what plants and herbs have healing capabilities.Our role as ´educated people’ is to research the properties these plants have and then to create products out of them.
( Research carried out which lasted 17 years about the Moringa Tree which details that its one of the most vitamin rich trees on earth)
I often feel as if the modern Ghanaian is an alien trapped between two worlds, for he neither has a knowledge of his traditions and customs nor does he understand the evolution of western ideas.
Every society evolves over time. Unfortunately, we do not have the opportunity of learning much about how the various Ghanaian ethnic groups have evolved and why they have certain practices.Our ‘lostness’ as young Africans has been exacerbated as we are swept into the tide of the dominance of the American pop culture through the influence of Hollywood.
A typical example for me is the taboos we had and upheld until about 30 years ago. It was forbidden for example to sing while bathing in certain areas. Many of these taboos had psychological undertones which were meant to protect the individual.Not singing while bathing was meant to protect women especially because the bathrooms were made from palm fronds.Not fishing on Tuesdays was meant to allow the fish to reproduce and preserve the coral ecosystem.Not going to the farm on Thursdays was meant to give the land a fallow period.
What we have today is a complete disregard for traditional laws and their products on one hand and a non- enforcement or non -existence of ´western` law.
I have come to the conclusion that taboos did more to protect our environment than the current laws do,seeing that we do not have a comprehensive waste management system.
There is a dearth of knowledge which we have lost and have to retrace if we are going to make a substantial impact on the world stage.A lack of understanding of our cultural norms have made us throw the baby out with the bath water.
We seem to have preference for every culture except our own largely also because the custodians of our culture have let us down many times.
We have a generation of self-serving and short-sighted political and traditional leaders who think nothing of the next generation who are selling our land and agreeing to policies that do not favor us.
What´s the solution?
We have to get out of our comfort zones and do what needs to be done. We need journalists who will trace the history of the various ethnic groups and localities. Photographers who will take mouth-watering photos of historical sites which will attract tourists. Event planners who will organize our festivals to attract international attention. Craftsmen who will make quality artifacts that people will buy as momentos.
There are many people who have buried talents and ideas that can transform Ghana. Too many people study textile design and end up working in banks because it offers a better salary.
We have a society that has placed too high a premium on a university education which cannot generate all the value our society requires. We need to restructure our society so that the mason or the mechanic can also get trained and compensated as much or even more than a university graduate.The farmer should be equal to the university professor. The fisherman should be equal to the IT specialist. After all, no IT specialist or banker wakes up and has their phone or laptop for breakfast.
We need the IT specialists to use the technology to help the farmer gain the best yield and transport his produce in an efficient manner.
We need the researcher to look into the properties of the Neem tree,the baobab tree, the Shea tree and the other treasures that God has blessed us with. This is how we will create jobs and wealth.