PANAFEST 2019 has perhaps been one of the biggest festivities during the Year of Return. One of the most anticipated events, the Grand Durbar of Chiefs and Queen Mothers was on Saturday 27th July at Cape Coast Sports Stadium. This year, with the theme, is “Beyond 400 Years: Reaching Across Continents into the Future.” The most fitting with this being declared the ‘Year of Return’. The festivities started last week with the wreath-laying ceremonies in Accra honouring W.E.B. DuBois, George Padmore and Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah as pioneers in the Pan African movement. On Friday’s program, there was a Traditional African Akwaaba Ceremony at Cape Coast Castle that included a historic boat ride to Elmina Castle/Dungeon.
Members from the African diaspora community gathered at Cape Coast Castle on Friday 26th July for a Traditional African Akwaaba Ceremony. They said prayers and honoured the ancestors with the pouring of libations. They all joined hands in a big circle as they paid homage to the ancestors who were taken away through the very doors of that building. It was through ‘the door of no return’, the place they were transported through to never again see the shores of Africa. It was now a historic symbolic journey they were going to take on a boat to Elmina where they would be welcomed through the doors. Accompanied by one of Ghana’s Naval Ships, they made that symbolic journey through the waters and were welcomed on the other side.
Before they boarded the boats, Rabbi Kohain, Executive Secretary of PANAFEST, made a moving speech about the importance of this journey and the value of the diaspora reconnecting with the continent. “We know that many of you have travelled a long journey to be here for this year’s PANAFEST & Emancipation Day. Most of us are the ascendants and descendants of those ancestors that were in the holes of these dungeons and were taken out of there through the door of no return. And put on ships and boats to be taken to new worlds that we were the creators of,” he said as everyone in the large circle held hands like one big family. It was an emotional journey. Although symbolic, all who participated felt the spirit on the ancestors as they crossed the waters to return through the doors at Elmina.
The following day, the Official Opening and Grand Durbar of Chiefs was a spectacle not to be missed. The richness of Ghana’s culture was displayed through the Royal Procession of Chiefs, Queen Mothers, Asafo groups and Masqueraders. The music, dancing and drumming were all part of the celebration as they made their way through town to the Cape Coast Sports Stadium. Some of the participants and performers included Ngoma Ensemble from Canada, Nakeeyat Dramani, winner of TV3’s Talented Kids 2019, and the Meseya Band with both Ghanaian and U.S. members.
Special Guest of Honour, President Nana Akufo-Addo made a Keynote address where he made sure to welcome people from the Caribbean who were in attendance. “I went on to visit, earlier this year, some countries in the Caribbean; Guyana, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Jamaica, to announce the Year of Return and I’m happy to see that several of you have accepted the invitation to be here to commemorate this anniversary with us.” He went on to speak of the importance of connecting with the global African family, “This is the opportunity to strengthen the bonds of solidarity between us and our kin overseas in the Americas and in the so-called new world…to have the opportunity to restate that the destiny of all black people is bound up with the destiny of Africa.”
An African American traveller named Jayla said it was a blessing to be at Panafest because she remembers coming to the events a child. “It’s just really amazing, I’m glad that [we] as Africans and African Americans are realizing the importance [of] how much this event means. Africans from all over the diaspora are coming back to where we belong, to where we all came from.”
Panafest activities continue until 2nd August when the festivities wrap up with the Ghana World Music Festival at the Fantasy Dome. More information on the schedule is on the website at www.panafestghana.org.
Written by Ivy Prosper