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AFRICAN CROSSROADS: The Badagry festival
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AFRICAN CROSSROADS: The Badagry festival


The article below, by Ikael Tafari is a brilliant example of creative ways that we can connect to Africa.

AFRICAN CROSSROADS: The Badagry festival



EZRAH AHARONE is a brilliant scholar and the author of Pawned Sovereignty: Sharpened Black Perspectives On Americanisation, Africa, War And Reparations.


In a recent article, Aharone notes the current upsurge of top-level visits to Africa by leading Asian countries. Chinese President Hu Jintao was in Nigeria in April to sign a US$4 billion deal to develop the sleeping African giant's oilfields and infrastructures. Weeks later, the Prime Minister of Japan Junichiro Koizumi took an imposing 121-member delegation comprising political and business leaders to Ghana. Shortly after the Japanese left, a South Korean delegation arrived to seal a multi-million-dollar infrastructure contract with the Ghanaians.


Aharone poses the crucial question: What do Asian leaders know about Africa that black leaders don't? Answer: That the African continent is the richest in natural resources, on which the industrialised nations are dependent! Certainly, however hard we search the pages of history, we cannot find another example of a formerly enslaved people so bedazzled by their erstwhile captors that they are blind to the superior wealth of their own ancestral homeland. And this disconnect between the human and economic resources of the black people in the West and Africa's abundant human and natural resources, perpetuates a cycle of poverty and powerlessness which has bound and fettered Blacks on both sides of the Atlantic in many different guises since the slave era.


And all the while, Europeans, North Americans and now Asians consolidate their considerable investments in the Mother Continent, holding on for dear life in full awareness that their military and economic power grew out of African soil and is sustained by it. Instead of being obsessed with phobias of Nigerian scams, our business persons should take a page out of their book, positioning themselves to be an integral part of the production, management, refining and global distribution of Africa's teeming resources.


But to do this, our leaders must come to grips with the geo-political basis on which economic power around the globe is determined, and close the gap between the two huge halves of a divided African people – those at home and those abroad.


The Government of Ghana has launched a crucial initiative in this direction. As the centrepiece of their 50th anniversary of nationhood next year, Ghana has conceived its "Joseph Project", aimed – along the lines of the biblical story – at the reconciliation of African descendants in the Diaspora with their family on the continent. Joseph, we may recall, having been sold by his brothers into slavery, in the end redeemed them – foreshadowing the Christ.


This journey into uncharted regions of the black collective psyche in search of strategies for wholeness, forgiveness and reparations may not be a cure-all for African problems, but it is essential if we are to exorcise the demons of our history.


And it is in this spirit that the Badagry Cultural Heritage Festival was conceptualised – to clarify the image of the ancient city of Badagry both as a major slave port in West Africa and a cradle of black civilisation in Nigeria. The Lagos-based festival, blending cultural heritage with tourism, is organised to commemorate UNESCO's August 23 International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.


By the 16th century, some 5 000 slaves were leaving Badagry annually and this figure doubled in the next century. Indeed, for every ten slaves that left West Africa, probably no fewer than three departed from Badagry – their first and last port of call. History records that the ancestors of a large number of African descendants in present-day Barbados were taken from Badagry's shores. Most interestingly, the original homestead of these Barbadians, located about 60 kilometres from the ancient slave port, is said to be a province called Ilaro!


The purpose of the Badagry Heritage Festival is not to glorify the obnoxious trade but to re-unite black families here and over there, promoting peace and understanding among the children of Africa. And, through the Commission for Pan-African Affairs, His Majesty De Wheno Aholu Menu Toyi 1, Akran of Badagry has invited Barbados this year to participate.


Only as Barbadians play an increasing role in such African festivals and come face to face with their past, will they – like the Sankofa bird – be able to travel into the future with healing in their wings.