Monday, September 14, 2009

The Photograph of Kwame Nkrumah in the Album

In a dusty, browning album belonging to my late father, I found the above photograph of the first President of Ghana, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. The album, covered in red psychedelic flowers houses my father's pictures from the mid-1960s up to 1973. The photos follow a natural fashion time-line and show how extremely tight -fitting trousers, beehives and mini-skirts gave way to unkempt bushy hair, bell-bottoms, afros and platform shoes. It's like Austin Powers meets Shaft all in Ghana. Interestingly, completely absent from the photos are any indications of the dire social and political turmoil that characterized Ghana during this period. There was the overthrow of President Nkrumah in 1966, the Busia era from 1968-1972 and then the military coup orchestrated by General IK Acheampong in 1972.

Somewhere in the middle of the album is the mysterious photo of Nkrumah. For a few years I have looked at the picture and have wondered:
  • Where did my father get the picture from?
  • Where and when was it taken?
  • Do the kente cloth in the background and the coat of arms on the front of the podium indicate that it was taken in Ghana?
  • What was the speech about and who were the audience?
So many questions, so few answers.

For the generations of Ghanaians born after the death of Nkrumah, we have learnt that he was an extraordinary man of vision. Not only did he possess great foresight but also charisma and intellect. He dream was not only for Ghana but extended to a Pan-African ideal of a united continent.

As we celebrate 100 years of the birth of Nkrumah next Monday, I have made a pledge to myself to find out as much as possible about the man. After all, most official historical accounts are free of the complexities surrounding Nkrumah's personality . Just like the photograph in the album, for me Kwame Nkrumah remains largely a complete enigma.

20 comments:

Nana Yaw Asiedu said...

Amazing, the wonderful words that may be woven on looking at a simple (timeless) picture. Lovely narrative. True that the official accounts of Nkrumah are not dramatic enough. Let's all dig and see what we find.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmmm- podium and backdrop reminds me of the setup used for Obama. Completely random, I know.

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

In order to get my own account of the man I purchased a book on him by David Rooney titled 'Kwame Nkrumah: Vision and Tragedy'. Reviewed it on my blog. this is interesting. The man is really an enigma...no one can know him completely. After reading the book (some parts of which i suspected the source) I drew my own conclusion and refuted the much touted idea that he was a communist. He was a Socialist, that much is clear, but not a communist.

posekyere said...

Interesting take, Abena.
Keep that picture in a safe place.
One day to inspire your grand children, you may need to use it to talk about the close family ties to the man to them. Lol
Your late father must have been one of the movers and shakers of the time.
Thanks for the great history lessons.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pc0WYX8IyI&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUc9Rx5xIZ4&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxUkYEzMCxE&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFTYYIwYH2s&feature=related

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLqF7ayUecs&feature=related

Kajsa Hallberg Adu said...

Laughed when I thought of Austin Powers in Ghana. Cool to see a "new" picture from your fathers album (it seems we just have a few Nkrumah photos online, the other day I tinted one purple to carve out some freshness) and very elegant to use it to explain your own ambivalence towards the man and myth. An interesting and very personal read.

Abena said...

@Nana Yaw: *Aww* Thanks, indeed..it is all about finding out for ourselves. Happy digging!

@Anonmymous 1: Very interesting observation! I wonder if it has something to do with the 'posture of a great man' or is it completely random....hmmmm...

@Nana F-A: Thanks for the book reference. Sounds very intriguing. Will definitely look out for the book. Will try Legon bookshop first since it is closest to me..

@Posekyere: *LOL* lying to grand-children, I like that! But isn't it interesting how history can completely be re-written from generation to generation. From what he always told us, my dad was one of the many young idealists of the time with a great appreciation for the Nkrumahist vision..

@Anonymous 2 & @Anonymous 3 (?): Many thanks for the youtube links! Have to check 'em out later...before I bring my work IT department down on me.

@Kajsa: *Thanks* Lol, Austin Powers without the frilly shirt of course! The purple tinted Nkrumah picture is absolutely amazing!

Edward of PathGhana said...

It's a pity, when I realize there isn't enough literature on Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. I learnt a great part of his documents were destroyed after the coup.

Abena said...

@Edward: That is interesting..I had no idea that many of his documents were destroyed. It is sad that we realise only in hindsight that this was a grave mistake..

Gameli Magnus Adzaho said...

We hear, and have some vague ideas, about many of the buzz words thrown around the man: nkrumahism, scientific socialism, pan-Africanism and the like. Now is the time for the young and old alike to delve more into Nkrumah's persona, pick out vital lessons and apply them to modern times. Truth is Nkrumah's relevance to Africa's advancement has gone beyond his era. Looks like he's going to be around for a very long time.

Abena said...

Well put Gameli, his relevance for Africa's advancement has indeed gone beyond his era .Of course the next thought is whether some of his other postulations may be irrelevant for the post-communist capitalistic world that we live in where socialism is generally viewed with suspicion (just ask Obama!). The way I see it some of his ideas remain timeless while others will have to be adapted for our time.

Mac-Jordan Holdbrookes said...

So-far, so-good. At least, a new photo of Kwame Nkrumah is unleashed online. Didn't get much of him for my post though. If you get more oldies, try and share some for sharing is caring..!! Nice post...!!

Abena said...

Thanks Mac-Jordan! I can totally relate; I have found myself literally lost for words when it comes to Nkrumah...But I have learnt alot from other bloggers plus pictures do say quite a bit.

Sankofa said...

I too would love to know more about the man behind the image. I feel it's sometimes difficult to separate legend from fact. This has been an interesting topic for us all.

Abena said...

Well said Sankofa. In fact, after all the talk on Ghanaian radio this week, I'm beginning to appreciate how difficult it is to separate the myth and legend from reality when it comes to Nkrumah. I'm also seeing how the later generations may be getting fed more of the hindsight 20/20 legend than the reality.

novisi said...

i have had little and very little doubt about the good that this man stood for ever since my primary school history lessons!

and now i'm even more convinced of how far he looked forward!

i remember as a kid i was told by my elders how they succeeded in stopping Nkrumah from opening the Hohoe govt hospital which he caused to be built and i wondered what sense was there in preventing the man who was president then from marking a development. now i look back with at the fading faces in my mind and i see clearly how petty and foolish a 'bravado' they had put up to impede Nkrumah!

the ideas of Nkrumah, especially his appreciation of science as a basic need for human development is monumental and makes his critics pale off into foolish pettiness!

Emmanuel.K.Bensah II said...

Oh Abena. Sorry I missed this post. Many many meetings coming up! You might want to try http://books.google.com to find out more on Nkrumah; you might find more on your father of blessed memory in the same way I have found out more about my grandfather. Have some pics of Nkrumah also from my Dad's album. Sadly they're in the Central region!:-(

Like me, a discovery of your father might give you a greater insight about Nkrumah? Whatdja think?

As for me, I think you know my stance: inveterate Pan-Africanist/Nkrumahist. Have you joined my "African Union" page on Facebook?

I liked your post, btw. Good stuff!

Abena said...

Hey EK, thanks for stopping by! Have been meaning to get myself to a bookshop to scope out the book Nana F-A reviewed on his blog sounds interesting.'Kwame Nkrumah: Vision and Tragedy' (2007) by David Rooney. Will definitely start there.
I think the pictures in the album in CR are well worth a trip down to CR...what do you think?

katty said...

I love to take some photograph because i usually travel too much,one day i saw a site called
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and it seemed very wonderful, and i am very exited, now i want to visit this beautiful country and take a lot of photos.