Hail to the Chiefs

A Durbar of Traditional Ghanaian Chiefs

Kennesaw State welcomes Ghanaian royalty at “Year of Ghana” Day festivities

Ghana’s rich cultural traditions — the vibrant colors of Kente cloth; the majesty of tribal chieftaincy; the rhythmic power of native drums; and the flavors of soulful West African cuisine — took center stage at Kennesaw State’s “Year of Ghana Day” festivities on Sept. 26.

A ceremonial procession of a half-dozen chiefs, called a Durbar, accompanied by a dancer performing a royal dance and a quartet of drummers kicked off the event.  Before it was over, the audience had witnessed a demonstration of the respect afforded chiefs in Ghanaian society and sampled Jollof (beef) rice, waakye, a rice and bean stew, and other popular dishes.  Two members of The KSU Tellers presented a new twist to the fabled Ghanain character Anansi the spider in a modern version of the folktale adapted by Charles Parrot, assistant professor of theater and performance studies.   

The event was one of a series of lectures, performances and exhibits scheduled throughout the academic year to immerse the campus in the year-long study of the West African nation of Ghana.  “The Year of Ghana” is the 29th annual country study undertaken at Kennesaw State.

“Ghana has an exceptionally rich culture and the “Year of Ghana” gives us the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of this very important democratic nation and its culture,” said Daniel Papp, after welcoming some 300 attendees in Twi, one of more than 100 Ghanaian languages.

Papp noted that Ghana is one of Kennesaw States’ oldest and most active international partnerships, through which more than 100 faculty and students have visited the country and 30 Ghanaian faculty members have been in residence at Kennesaw State.  In addition he said, several university colleges and programs have substantial relationships with Ghana.

“Year of Ghana” Day speakers and guests used the opportunity to educate the Kennesaw State community about how local organizations work to preserve cultural traditions like those on display at the event. 

Nana Adoma Twum, who represented the Ghanaian Traditional Rulers of Georgia, explained that the chief’s role in the community is far more than ceremonial.  “It is our role to protect the identity of Ghanaians – that which makes us Ghanaian and not Dutch, or French or Korean,” he said. “We sit on the stools of our ancestors as fathers and guiding figures for the Ghanaian community.”

An important part of the identity chiefs seek to protect is embodied in the culture, Chief Twum noted. “Culture is very important.  It is a way of life —  who we are; what we were; what we eat; and how we celebrate birth, marriage and death.There have been a lot of intrusions and attempts to destroy the culture. As chiefs, we help salvage and protect what is left. The institution of the chieftaincy is one aspect that is protecting Ghanaian culture.”

The lesson in the role of chiefs was not lost on Kennesaw State students attending the event. Grant Martin, a junior majoring in international affairs, said he recently learned of the existence of chieftaincy in Ghana and was pleased to witness a procession of chiefs first hand.

“The residency of chiefs in the United States struck me as evidence that Ghanaians are very much a global people that go out of their way to preserve the strong sense of community that is so significant to them culturally,” said Martin, who looks forward to attending as many “Year of Ghana” events as his  schedule allows.

The event also included remarks from Nana Gyentua Acheampong, Chief of the Ashanti, and Kofi Panford, head of The Ghana Council of Georgia, a local community partner to Kennesaw State during the “Year of Ghana.” The council is made up of representatives of all the Ghanaian ethnic groups or tribes living in Georgia.

Panford, who announced that the Council is working to facilitate the opening of a Ghanaian embassy in Georgia, urged Kennesaw State students to take advantage of all the “Year of Ghana” offered to learn more about the country. 

Sophomore Annabelle Shivers, an early childhood major, attended the event to fulfill a requirement for her Education 2120 class but left excited about what she learned about Ghanaian culture.

“I loved that the high chief came and spoke, along with the princess,” Shivers said.“I thought it was truly fascinating when [Nana Twum] talked about how [Ghanaians] believed in God before Mohammad or Jesus came. … The room fell silent, because I think most were taken aback and had to think about it. … I think we all need to look at other cultures, so we can understand that no one way is right, and there are many ways to experience life."

--Sabbaye McGriff