CROSSROADS: The Badagry festival
BY IKAEL TAFARI
EZRAH AHARONE is a brilliant scholar
and the author of Pawned Sovereignty: Sharpened Black Perspectives On Americanisation,
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
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
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.