I describe PANAFEST as the perfect journey metaphor in the story of Africa. A journey metaphor that comes alive every other year and serves as a glue that binds all victims of the horrific transatlantic slave trade. In the spirit of Pan-Africanism, legendary Ghanaian culture activist, Efua Sutherland, moved to organize a festival that will rehash the spirit of Africanness and accelerate the recovery from slavery. No better way than to put African culture front and centre of this festival. This is what has been known since the early 90s as PANAFEST – the biggest cultural expo on the continent.

One of the common denominators among most African countries is slavery. The menace went a long way in making Africans sparse across the globe but the old adage, ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ stays relevant in this case. Although, displacement has caused a missing link in some family lines and left others in the dark about their heritage, the African spirit can never be broken. Every other year, the African spirit is soothed and rekindled in Ghana under the auspices of PANAFEST. Ghana becomes a meeting ground for Africans across the continent and in the diaspora, and official delegations who are able to dialogue about all things Africa.

With 2019 being dubbed the Year of Return by the government of Ghana, this year’s PANAFEST has accrued more significance. The momentum from the recent Full Circle Festival should seep into the PANAFEST movement, given that this edition coincides with 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first slaves in America. No better time to give ourselves a pat on the back for how far we have come despite the goliath of a setback we once faced. Indeed, PANAFEST presents the most opportune platform for all AU member states to show up as a family and glorify the African heritage, as well as lay a blueprint for a future that shows a united front.

Under the theme ‘Beyond 400 years: Reaching across continents into the future’, I expect a little more zest in the execution of activities during PANAFEST – singing, dancing, theatre, talks, symposia etc. The practice of remembering our struggle and using it as fuel to do better for our heritage is a tool Africa can implement for development.

PANAFEST takes place from 25th July – 2nd August 2019. I will share some more thoughts as we near the date of the festival.


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