By Bernard Akoi-Jackson
Trauma tends to persist if no deliberate avenue of therapy is sought. If a collective psyche has suffered constant disruption for so long, chronic amnesia tends to become the only means by which bodies seek healing or escape.
In seeking to write Ghanaian history, even Ghanaian historians are wont to locate their narratives within the time of the colonialist intrusion as a starting point. Such positions need a revision so as to set many records straight in dealing with the complexity that entails our collective and individual histories. It is true the colonized subject suffered atrocities. These atrocities were not confined only to the forts and castles, but extended across the philosophies that shaped systems for colonial education. These vestiges have prevailed. First, as a diverse people[s], we have only since March 1957, been collectively referred to as Ghanaians. Formidable identities have been forged in a bricolage that has involved a mixing and matching of ideas, ideologies and the imposition of abrasive policies, so that the entity called the “Ghanaian” (not the least ‘African’) becomes contested. Who is this “thing” called the “African?” Is [s]he[it] the same in Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa? Does [s]he[it] travel as a Sudanese to Europe only to return as an illegal-immigrant in a country that now is two nations? It is interesting that at the wake of European exploration of Africa in the fifteenth century, no such ideas as “immigration laws” existed in the imaginations of the global collective mind.
Even though my current yearning, I guess, is not nostalgic I want to deal, quite literally with the ‘ghosts’ of a largely turmoil[ed] and [mis]represented past, albeit in very poetic ways. The photographs I present were taken in the Elmina Castle, being one of the oldest forts representing the colonialist intrusion. Projected in an opposite space is the video “The Cleansing” (2012). This haunting image presents a sort of purification pseudo-ritual. Can this rite atone for the bleak past and evoke bright futures? If we are able to redeem a possible past, then maybe we will begin expanding our reach outward into that larger picture of an African collective consciousness and maybe, stumble upon the “African personality” that Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah sought to inspire in us through his life and work.
Bernard Akoi-Jackson is an artist and writer interrogating hybrid post-colonial African identities, through ephemeral make-shift memorials and performative rituals of the mundane. Using critical absurdity he becomes the proverbial jester or Esu moving between genres; dance, poetry, installation, photography and video to confront the complexities of his specific cultural moment. His work has been seen in Ghana, Nigeria, South-Africa, India, The UK, Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands. His writing tracks the development of contemporary Ghanaian and African visual art and culture. He is a member of Exit Frame Collective.