Rev. Dr. Anyani Boadum
Society basically requires apologies to mitigate the impact of the indiscretion by its citizens, and so for many, an apology from the ace actor Ekow Smith-Asante to the people of Asankrangwa and Sefwi Wiawso who he described as uneducated; “who do not know jack about lighting, sound, good acting and other things and they are not ready to know”; in his infamous comments on Radio, should serve the purpose.
Unfortunately, an apology in this instance may not be sufficient remedy for such goof by the actor, without a commensurate change of attitude undergirded by education.
Apologies are meant to express remorse; and whether genuine or otherwise, when it is rendered it presumes the culprit, having admitted guilt and repented would in addition, have learnt the right demeanor.
Ekow Smith-Asante must be made aware of what Arts and Culture portend to a people and mankind in general, and the impact of words.
Acting as a profession may come with great benefits; however, it goes with both reputation and responsibility. And those who aren’t sure about their communication skills off the set, – particularly, in America and Europe – often employ publicity managers to handle public relations including interviews for them. That is how far the industry has come.
I expect Ekow who is doing his Masters degree in Communications Studies at the University of Ghana to appreciate the effective use of image and stories. When he said “the target market for those ‘inferior’ movies of “Kumawood” are people in Asankrangwa, Sefwi Wiawso, ‘Yaw Wiawso’ and other places “who do not know jack about lighting, sound, good acting and other things and they are not ready to know”; was he being oblivious to the fact that Agya Koo movies out-sell most Ghanaian films in America, Germany, Holland, and other places outside the country. Why is it so?
Ghanaian residents in these places are knowledgeable about whatever Ekow Smith-Asante thinks an enlightened premier movie audience should know about.
What then, were his reasons for inferring that the people from Asankrangwa and Sefwi Wiawso in the Western Region are uneducated, unenlightened, (nkurasefo) culturally backward; lacking exposure. Did they sound remote? Could it also be his way of slanting and looking down upon the minority tribes in the country?
The way we define art has the power to define our culture. As a people, Arts affect us at the deepest level of the soul. It shapes our thoughts; moves our emotions and enlarges our imaginations, and these are all revealed by our sense of appreciation. So, if we are not at each other’s throats in the country, it could, perhaps, be attributable to our penchant for laughter which normally comes from good comedy; which expresses the philosophy; “live and let live”.
Globally, before Hollywood began to churn out the block-busters for the world audience, we had Charlie Chaplain. Again, while the 007- James Bond series made efforts to captivate its audiences with all kinds of fascinating gadgets, “Mr Bean” was holding his own on the screens too.
We as a nation are barely losing what I describe as our fascination with how frailties in life are overcome through jokes. How could a whole nation be captivated by friendship between Santo, Judas, Bob Okala or Super O.D.? It is all because through their good sense of humor we are motivated and offered stress free rest after work.
So rather than casting those aspersions, Ekow and those who think like him must be educated to become more professional in their outlook. If they have something better to offer, they must know that the provision of “better” alternatives should make Ghanaians better people to each other.
The music we listen to, the films we watch, the comedy that makes us laugh – are tools of development with enormous power over our minds. They express and shape our beliefs and values.
If the practitioners in the arts and culture think segments of the population are lagging behind in development, culturally or otherwise, they have the tools for stimulating growth in those areas. Rather than ostracizing and denigrating them through name calling, they must constitute a special audience; or different market that must be focused on.
Interestingly, Asankrangwa where I come from and our immediate neighbours-Sefwi Wiawso are not in any way unaware or averse to “urban” arts. There are no arts and cultural substances beyond their understanding and appreciation. We may recall that in the 1970’s, there was the national inter-schools band competition which was won by Generation “X” from Asankrangwa Secondary School, in the Western Region.
Those competitions evolved almost into a movement which engendered a kind of cultural vehicle that launched a colossal “culturalization” among the country’s youth back then.
Universally, the classical understanding is that the arts are powerful means of communication; of unveiling something significant about the existing reality. In other words it is a means of representing truth; or portraying profound realities about human condition. On that score, the movie industry has an incontestable advantage, amongst the rest of the media, in bearing such impression.
This is what Ekow Smith-Asante et al should seek to achieve.
The nation’s yearning for improvement in its arts and culture is across board. To obtain the full benefits inherent in the creative arts, the demand for upgrade and promotion cannot be limited to “Kumawood”.
Let us admit that the quality of most of the scripts being presented in our local movies – cast in both local languages and in English are rudimentary, to say the least.
If the “Kumawood” movies are based on ‘witchcraft’; it could also be said of most of the rest of the movies as outright “cut and paste” western stuff.
By seeking to improve our Arts and Culture let us with sober minds, work hard to reach greater heights while unifying the nation and accelerating its development through the creative arts.
The writer is a native of Asankrangwa.