A queen mother in the Ashanti region of Ghana was recently in the media to express displeasure at the monumental misrepresentation of the Ghanaian culture, traditions, customs, and believe systems in Ghanaian movies produced by Ghanaian filmmakers.
By way of projecting our Ghanaian culture and identity, lots of royal or chieftaincy movies have been produced by some Ghanaian filmmakers, but, their setting and general orientations in those movies are largely alien to the very Ghanaians; not to talk of foreigners.
Let’s consider the parameters one after the other:
You watch these royal/chieftaincy Ghanaian movies and you see characters – both males and females, costumed with small-pieces of clothes or wrappers covering their waste and breast (the female characters) with the male characters walking bare-chested.
Study of history tells us that those type of costumes or if you like dresses were won by our forefathers during pre-colonial era when westernization had not come to Ghana or Africa. Indeed, before the Europeans came to Africa, Africans were not walking start naked.
The costuming in those movies dictates that the story must be set in the past but because our filmmakers don’t understand the art of filmmaking, they make the setting of their movies appear as though they are mirroring today’s Ghana.
Which village or tribe in Ghana today has its females dress in small-pieces of clothes or wrappers? Which village or tribe in today’s Ghana, has its men walk bare-chested from morning till evening? Even our fore-brothers did not live bare-chested from morning till evening before the westerners came to Africa.
For the facts, Africans wore fabrics even before the westerners came here in the guise of missionaries. One silly thing in those movies which nettles me are the cockeyed paintings on the foreheads, cheeks, stomachs, navels, arms and legs of the actors.
PRINCE/PRINCESS FOLLOWED BY MAIDS/GUARDS
You watch these movies and you see a Prince or Princess being surrounded, escorted or led by maidservants and guards everywhere he/she goes. Sometimes, you see as many as seven (7) maids, following a Prince or Princess—ironically, walking into a modern super market in a brand new Jeep or some big car…
The germane questions are; which Prince or Princess in Ghana goes about in town or walks in the palace with maids and guards following him or her? Is it the daughter or son of the Asantehene? Yaa-Naa? Ga-mantse? Amoatia Ofori Panyin? Or Torgbi Afedzi?
All these royal movies produced by our filmmakers pillory our royal culture to foreigners. They portray no realism to foreigners. Even Prince and Princesses of our ancient days were not followed by maids and guards each time they moved about, not to talk of this 21st century. So where from that orientation in our movies?
And the fact that you see the Prince or Princess walking into Melcom means, we are talking about 21st century.
THE COMPETING BEAUTY OF MAIDSERVANTS
In order not to contest with the beauty of the Queen as well as the Princess, our traditional elders in their sapience always kept maidservants who are naturally not physically appealing (call it ugly if you like) in the palace.
The idea was that, no female’s beauty in the society or community must compete with the Queen or the Princess. That orientation was a way of making the beauty of the queen and the princess sovereign in the community.
You watch these royal movies and you see a maidservant as beautiful as or even far beautiful and well decorated just as the Princess. You see maidservants wearing; eye lashes, lipstick, wig, beads, earrings and the like.
If you visit the palace of the Asantehene today, you won’t meet such maids there. Certainly, such maidservants are not those of today’s Ghana or yesterday! So which tribes’ maidservants in Ghana do our filmmakers depict in those movies?
SPREADING OF FLOWERS/WOOLEN
Then comes the spreading of flowers on the lotus feet and at times the lay of long woolen carpets for the King, Queen, Princess or Prince to walk on. Which King, Queen, Princess or Prince in Ghana is given such treatments?
In Ghana, not even the most esteemed monarchy – Asantehene of the Ashanti kingdom is given such royal treats or opulence. In case these filmmakers think they are being creative, I wish to tell them that they are only misinforming foreigners! Or are our filmmakers conjuring another Ghana with its own culture, traditions, costumes and values?
I once watched a Ghanaian movie in which an angry chief burst out with a line before his elders; “God dame it! Fuck you men! Fuck you all”
If the custodians (chiefs) of our linguistics are now turning into ‘Burger-chiefs’ and ‘Negro-kings,’ why won’t the youth of today slang out LAFA – locally acquired foreign accent? Our royals don’t speak like that.
Our filmmakers are only misleading and misinforming foreigners about who we are! Funny enough, the whites who were once here, even know our culture, values, heritage and traditions far more than we think, because, they came here to rule us.
Some of the settings and orientations we show to them in our movies should have been set in the 17’s, 18’s and 19’s centuries. Those were the very days they (Europeans) were with us. I am very sure some of them will scoff us when they see the settings in our current movies.
Producing a movie, by setting the story in the past is allowed in every movie industry the world over. The professional thing to do is to get an antiquarian to provide all past items – costumes, props, locations, etc for shooting.
On that score, I congratulate Mr. Kwaw Ansah for his “Good old day’s” project. Our young filmmakers should learn setting in movies from him. Until then……MOTWUM!!