The arts are not always in a prominent place on the political agenda in Africa, Latin-America and Asia. Nevertheless, an increasing number of governments recognise the importance of culture in itself and in connection to social and economic development. Part eight in a series on cultural policy in non-Western countries.


September 2005 -

From its earliest days of independence, Ghana has kept culture high on the agenda. Primary focus was placed on promoting African culture to soothe the pain of the colonial past. Ghana’s famous first president Kwame Nkrumah, for example, introduced African political rituals into ceremonies of state. He established the Ghana Institute for Art and Culture in 1962 with the intention of stimulating appreciation of local art. But military coups and an economic crisis in the 1980s put a damper on artistic life.

During Jerry John Rawlings’ regime, the government tried to put an end to the massive exodus of artists. The National Culture Commission (NCC) was established in 1990 with the specific intention of breathing life back into the arts using foreign donations. The arts commission is an umbrella organisation covering not only the Museum and Monument council, the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park and the W.E.B. Dubois centre, but also special agencies for national languages and copyrights. The NCC runs the national art galleries and also bears responsibility for art education. Each of the capitals of the ten districts has a regional culture centre.

Rawlings strongly identifies with pan-Africanism. He initiated the Panafest, for example, a bi-annual cultural event that strives to unify the African people on the continent and in the Diaspora. The government recruited foreign investors for the renovation of monuments from the slave trade era, including Cape Coast Castle, the first African building to be included on UNESCO’s world heritage list. Thus 'heritage tourism’ has come to Ghana as well.

Late in 2004 the government launched its new culture policy that promotes unity in diversity and African values and standards, and also provides for the establishment of a culture fund.